The Hundred Languages of Children


Loris Malaguzzi (1920-1994)

This poem was written by an Italian educator from Reggio Emilia, Italy, and translated by LeIla Gandini, one of his colleagues. The Reggio Emilia schools have garnered much recognition and praise for their elegant approach to early education and care. Their approach draws upon research and learning theory conducted over the past century, and so rather than being an “import”, this approach is an integration of all that we know about good early education and care. This poem is filled will joy, exuberance, sadness and truth.In the first half of the poem Malguzzi explains that, to the child, there are a hundred ways of doing many things like thinking, speaking, loving and understanding. Children also have a hundred ways to create and explore their own worlds. Malguzzi stressed the importance of not only allowing children to learn in their own way, but also the freedom to express themselves in a “language” of their choosing.  The second half of the poem details the destruction of the child’s languages by adults. Malguzzi describes “school and culture” as “stealing ninety-nine” of the languages by teaching children to “think without hands,” to “listen and not speak” and to “discover a world that is already there.” The ideas in this poem are the precepts of the Reggio Emilia philosophy. We see the positive effects of free exploration and expression every day, and every day it becomes easier to see the importance of honoring the child’s language rather than giving them one of our own.

THE HUNDRED LANGUAGES OF CHILDREN

The child is made of one hundred.
The child has
a hundred languages
a hundred hands
a hundred thoughts
a hundred ways of thinking
of playing, of speaking.
A hundred.
Always a hundred
ways of listening
of marveling, of loving
a hundred joys
for singing and understanding
a hundred words to invent
a hundred words to dream.
The child has a hundred languages
(and a hundred hundred hundred more)
but they steal ninety-nine.
The school and the culture
separate the head from the body.
They tell the child:
to think without hands
to do without head
to listen and not to speak
to understand without joy
to love and to marvel
only at Easter and Christmas.
They tell the child:
to discover the world already there
and of the hundred
they steal ninety-nine.
They tell the child
that work and play
reality and fantasy
science and imagination
sky and earth
reason and dream
are things
that do not belong together.
And thus they tell the child
that the hundred is not there.
the child says;
No way.  The hundred is there.

 

Loris Malaguzzi

Founder of Reggio Emilia Approach