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.

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The 3 S’s. (Reading, Singing and Speaking.)

Okay so clearly there aren’t three S’s, but I kind of wanted to call it that anyway, because reading is arguable a type of seeing, so it’s close enough in my own abstract way.

These are the basics. Ideally you should be doing all three of these, everyday. If you can’t then at least one of these. But realistically, if you don’t have time to listen to (and preferably sing along with) one song a day, read a few sentences and say some words either via text or, or dare you pick up the phone and call a friend…then perhaps you shouldn’t be learning a language, because it sounds like you don’t even have 5-10 minutes to yourself everyday, so you might want to figure out what’s going on and then maybe consider doing one of the three while you’re pooping.

Reading is immensely beneficial in developing, literacy and grammar, without actually studying grammar or doing grammar drills. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DSW7gmvDLag  . (Also I should note that I’m not against studying grammar, I just find that it is often better served as a peripheral material or something to be examined in depth once you’ve reached a certain point in comprehension.)

Singing, is perhaps something that’s overlooked in it’s power. I attribute my French accent to having come about after learning to sing along with several French songs that I found interesting. Key point being that it was interesting, and I really enjoyed the sounds of the song as well as the lyrics.

Interest: This is something that needs to be present in all of your language learning aspects as soon as possible and as often as possible. If you’ve got boring content, you’re going to be bored and not want to continue doing something everyday for several months. I find it’s especially important in Reading.

With singing and learning how to sing along with songs, I’d even say that in the early phases complete comprehension is not necessary. There are several songs that I know in Japanese and can sing along to and only have a vague idea of what I’m saying, but often times as I progress in my study, more of the song is unlocked, or when I have a day where I’m bored I’ll actively look up more of the song, but not more than I can eat! As was mentioned in my last post.

If you’re like most people you probably tell yourself that language is language. But you’re wrong. In my opinion, you are anyway. Language is just incomprehensible gibberish sound. Until you attribute meaning. Too often, people who struggle with accents or pronunciation do so, I believe, because they’re trying to say language sounds, using the languages they already know. But forget all that. Just hear it as sound. Think of the way you might try to imitate an animal sound, like a dog barking or a guitar, twanging, you’re not going to give the dog an English or French accent, if you’re half decent at imitating, and I postulate that we all are, because we learned at least one language so far.

Another bonus to singing, is that you get practice speaking faster than you may be ready to, which can in turn help you later on or even currently, because you’re becoming more accustomed to the new way of moving your mouth and to producing new sounds.

And that brings us to the last aspect. Speaking doesn’t always have to be spoken, so long as you’re doing the other 2, it’s acceptable to miss this on occasion, the important thing that I’ve found, is to be producing comprehensible output, even if it’s only two sentences or half sentences. If you’re taking in stuff, eventually you’re going to have stuff that you’d like to express.

Some argue that you need to start speaking right away, other’s suggest waiting a certain amount of time, I think you should do what feels right. But speaking/writing is pretty high up there and I do think it’s better to start sooner rather than later, at least if you plan on ever speaking and being understood by native speakers.
So what’s important? Reading, singing and speaking in your target language. Are there other important aspects? Obviously. Otherwise I would only have one post ever. Along with listening to content, i.e television shows or podcasts as often as possible, I don’t go a day without hitting all of these three aspects. And if you’re serious about being serious then take yourself less seriously, but don’t forget to learn.  Learning when done well is fun and pain free, unless you’re learning how to enjoy sado-masochism, then you might experience some pain…
Until then.

 

 

Only take what you can eat

-Luffy-monkey-d-luffy-34806180-500-265

If you’re anything like ルフィ(Luffy), then you can eat a lot and of course you’re made of rubber and want to become the Pirate King. Or maybe you’re lacking the last two traits. Either way this awesome gif is food related and language relevant.

Most people don’t feel accomplished unless they’re fitting into the stereotypical media promoted study habit model, where you’re hunched over a desk with papers and computer and books scattered everywhere, working frantically for hours. (Yes, I did just say that there is computer scattered everywhere. No, that’s not what I meant. But on occasion, I refuse to kill my darlings.)

Anyway the point is simple and coated in sugar like almost everything we eat.

Only study what you can take in.

In terms of applying this to language learning, it means two things.

Thing A: Read or work with materials that you can understand, for the most part. You do want there to be a little bit of a challenge. But if you’re new to a language, don’t start out trying to read an epic novel or abstract poetry. Start with something interesting to you and something written simply.

Thing 2nd: You’re not going to learn 2,000 words in one day in the same turn you’re not going to always immediately understand everything that’s written on a given page, but if you’re following along, keep going! Don’t stress over remembering everything. Because you’re going to forget.

Fear not noble strugglers! The more you begin to understand the general concepts the more pieces will fit together, meaning, more connections, more context, easier to remember.

 

Part B of Thing 2nd:If you try to eat each grain of rice individually it’s going to take you longer to get full and you’ll probably get bored and walk away without having eaten much.

-The End of Things-(but not this post)

Sure you could learn some pretty awesome ways to improve your memory and most of them work, but if you’re lazy like most humans and you have no intention of changing your lazy status, then this works too. It may take a little longer, but it works for busy (lazy) people.

But really what I’m saying is don’t binge, don’t cram. Just enjoy. Maybe Luffy is binging and cramming, but he’s also made of rubber and in the show it somehow works. If you read five pages in your target language and you start to think about other things or you find yourself staring at the same page for 10 minutes, then put the book down. Not forever. That’s a long time and kind of hard to measure. Come back to it when you’re hungry.

Share your language learning struggles/achievements below!

 

LEARN TO SPEAK ANOTHER LANGUAGE OR (BUY A AWESOME NEW HAT)

It’s a bit cheesy, I know, but I’m going with it because I’m improvising.

In fact, one of the most useful tools in learning a language is improvising. That’s not to say, you shouldn’t ever study, but that is to say to not give up easily the moment you feel completely lost. Which at first, is frequent.

Right now, I’m one voice out of many, many–(so many, many’s)– polyglots, most of whom are probably a lot further along in their abilities and personal language libraries than I am. However, one must begin somewhere and so I begin here, at the beginning.

If you’re looking for academic writing and technical, widely accepted use of the English language, this is not the space. Language is not a stagnant old rotting grandmother to be tucked away in a retirement home– it’s a living beast. It’s carnal. It’s dynamic. It’s sexy.

This first post is more of an introduction and a greeting. To the world of people, (especially Americans) who are tired of being the only people at a party who can’t speak a second language, hello, from backwards greeting land!

If you’re not interested in learning a second language or don’t think you have the time to, then you’re who I’m chasing after. I’m here to convince you that you really want this, that you really need to pick up this awesome new hat. (Well not really) I failed out of salesman school because I refused to lie and give strangers blow jobs. (Not that I’m against giving, it’s just got to be the right person, you know?)

Anyway. Learning a language is as easy to start as buying a ridiculous hat. You don’t debate with yourself the pros and cons of whether or not that hat will benefit you or how long until it gets blown away by the inevitable winds of Time and mortality, or the sun roof of your car–you just buy it because it’s fun and you like it.

It doesn’t have to be a ridiculous hat. Maybe you like fun socks, or overalls, or both, (god help you); whatever it is that you buy at random because you like it, that’s how language learning should start.

That’s to say, don’t tell yourself that you should be learning Spanish because it might help you get a job, if you want to learn Swahili because it sounds cool. Do it. You’ll have fun and meet great people wherever you go. Unless. Unless, you have a time machine and use it to go back and learn German from the Nazis then, perhaps you may not meet great people. But I’m not judging. Greatness, like good and evil and kinky and vanilla are all subjective. But I die grass. Yes that’s a cheesy intentional typo. Because in truth language is a ridiculous nonsensical thing that is fun to play with. So play. Learn a language and butcher it, and maybe even go on to becoming a master butcher.

That’s all I’ve got for now. This ought to serve as a good introduction to someone who’s bringing the weird and hopefully the fun back to not being trapped in one hat for the rest of our short wonderful little lives.

Step 1: Buying an awesome hat

Step 1: Buy an awesome hat