Human Language Osmosis

So I had this theory, that by hanging around people who speak a language, one somehow magically absorbs language particles through the pores of their skin or the ulna ulterior respiratory tract.

Of course I’m mostly joking. Of course I know that science says ney, that is not how biology and human informatics works. But regardless that passing fancy lead me onto something that’s actually founded in reality.

What happened is, I found while hanging around my Japanese speaking friends, I was almost magically able to understand a very high percentage of the manga I was reading at the time, which is, as you could have guessed from reading my other posts, One Piece.

Now that we’ve ruled out magically absorbing language particles through the skin or respiratory system, let’s look at why this could be. Well honestly a lot of the time it’s just easier, because I can read a sentence I’m struggling with aloud (to someone other than my plush Dalek, who’s frequent response is, “YOU WOULD MAKE A GOOD DAALEK,”) and we can immediately have a conversation about it. Throw it around in a few other sentences, talk about differences in meanings from one language to another, all in all, so much more of an impactful experience than looking up an individual word in a dictionary.

So simply, it’s because they’re there to help me figure stuff out.

At least that’s one theory. And in truth probably a significantly contributing factor.

However, and there is almost always a however. Best used when decapitated by untimely punctuation marks that deviate from standardization.

The other aspect, of this language osmosis feeling is one that everyone of us can benefit from whether or not we happen to have the awesome bonus of hanging out with native speakers of the language we’re learning and talking to them about what we’re reading. And it’s simply: confidence.

I suspect that when I’m sitting in the same room as my friends who speak Japanese and I’m reading in Japanese, I become two things:

4) Certain that I can understand anything I’m reading.

2) Embarrassed to too quickly ask questions before having figured or attempted to figure the answer out for myself.

This in turn accomplishes two other things. Since I’m great at counting numerically, here they are:

1) I’m reading more carefully and digging deeper into my brain space for clues, context, memories, or any abstract impressionist cues that might trigger even a failed guess. But more often than not end in having learned something.

B) I’m thinking in or around the language. Which to be honest at very early beginner levels doesn’t seem like much but as you progress, becomes a powerful tool.

Kind of like:

 

And don’t misinterpret, I’m not saying that confidence = success. In some ways it can be a contributing factor, but also, sometimes so can knowing the real answer, instead of confidently believing your guesses are always correct.

So in summary, be a confident but not foolish reader. Don’t try to read foreign languages in the manner that you do your native language, because you’ll read too fast or too non-paying-attention-to-detaily and probably miss simple things that could have cued you in on unlocking a sentence or word. Which as many of you must know is magical. Also unicorns don’t exist, except on OkCupid or in dive bars.

 

 

(If this post makes little sense, I forgive Benadryl for making such potent hallucinatory drugs. After saying that I decided that I’m unsure whether or not I cited a brand or a drug and refuse to use google to answer that question, so I’ll settle for both until some later date.)

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Emerging Grammar

Some of you may have heard of Emergent Grammar, especially if you’re at all familiar with Universal Grammar, since the two are rather at odds. Luckily this has little to do with either. At least as far as the scope of this post is concerned.

Emerging grammar is what I’m using to refer to the effect that reading comprehensible input and having meaningful interactions has on a language learner’s grammaticality.

If you’re reading, watching, experiencing interesting material that’s comprehensible then you’re learning grammar. Or in this case emerging grammar. I know that’s a strange way to talk. But you are.

Grammar in a sense is latent at least for humans, concerning human languages. Supposing of course, that you go along with the Universal Grammar theory and are willing to consider it as being a latent human genetic factor.

The point being that we’re wired for language, in the human way, I wouldn’t want to be so species-ist (basically a racist, but in regard to species,) as to claim that human’s are the only one’s with a capacity for language. Also, I might add, (and someone/everyone feel free to debate this,) that judging a species’ intelligence by whether or not it has a language is judging intelligence by human definitions. But I could digress for pages and pages of blog on this.

Back on the imaginary track that is attention span, being wired for grammar, we can exploit this, by interacting and experiencing a new language in comprehensible doses.

So far, my main problem with this, has been, that the material doesn’t exist or isn’t easy to find. And so part of my massive super secret language learning method project has to do with creating a way for this to happen.

But in the mean time, read, and speak and watch things at or around your level. Keep it simple and push simple when simple is boring. Grammar will emerge, and then you can read all the grammar textbooks you want and say, “Ooh, now that makes sense,” or some generic such thing as that.