language and photography

Language and photography have a certain structural similarity.  Both are based on logical and scientific laws and principles; but neither is a science.

In photography, you have your laws of focus and exposure, the laws governing how your sensor or film responds to light, the optical laws governing what angle your lens sees and how it draws the image.  In language, you have laws and principles as well; parts of speech, conjugations and inflections, and all the rest of the grammar.

But just as a master photographer goes into the field and creates his art without once thinking about exposure, hyperfocal distance, and so on, and simply doing this automatically; and just as he might even have trouble explaining how it all works; a person fluent in a language doesn’t think about where to put the particle or how to inflect the verb.  In fact the better they are at the language, often enough the worse they are at explaining it, which is why a native speaker isn’t always the best teacher.

So in both cases, when one is a beginner it is important to master the logical principles; but as one matures, it is a serious error to continue to treat the study as a science instead of an art.

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