Intellego in Latin means to understand.
As I was helping my son study for a Latin test we reached the word Intellego, which means to understand. Often when I help him study we talk about derivatives, of course this helps to remember the meaning of the Latin word, but also increases our knowledge and application of words in English. So when we came to this word intellego suddenly my thoughts about this word and my view of the word intelligence took on a whole new meaning.
If we consider that the English word intelligence is derived from the Latin word intellego then we have to consider our own thinking and views about intelligence. Perhaps as educators when we consider intelligence we should think deeply about understanding. Students as they struggle to understand are actually moving towards understanding. It is a messy place for students to be, learning is hard, learning is uncomfortable and learning is at times avoided for these very reasons. Pushing thinking is not easy, but if we think about understanding, perhaps it is still uncomfortable to learn but just a little less so. If we can talk about understanding, then when students think they are “not intelligent” or “not smart” the use of this word makes intelligence more accessible.
In the book Mindset by Carol Dweck, Dweck shares that Alfred Binet, the inventor of the IQ test actually believed,”education and practice could bring about fundamental changes in intelligence.” This matches very closely to a definition of understanding in the Latin word intellego, because it suggests a more flexible view of intelligence. Understanding seems more flexible of an idea than intelligence. As we shift (or return) to this understanding that intelligence is flexible perhaps looking at the Latin word intellego we borrow the meaning of “understanding” we open our minds to the change in our understanding.