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.

The next Rosetta Stone

Almost all of us know that name. Even people who aren’t learning or have yet to learn a foreign language have likely heard of it. *sigh*The power of marketing and mind control. But this is not the place for that speech, at least not yet.

I’ve disappeared for awhile, because I’m working on the prototype of what I intend to be the next step in language learning software. As a consequence I haven’t had time to write anything of substance. So for now I’ll just make the overly confident statement claiming to have a method that will replace the current mainstream marketed language learning methods. As things progress I’ll be looking for testers, aka people who would like to learn another language for free, more or less. Also, if you’re awesome and would like to be a collaborator, let’s talk.

Now, I should clarify some things. I don’t think I’m all that special of a human being, also I’m not claiming that this software/language learning program will be the only thing someone needs to become fluent in a language, nor am I saying that what’s out there, (Pimsleur and Rosetta Stone to name the two most heard of,) isn’t useful or that it doesn’t produce results. They’re both good, as well as many others, well, I say many others, but I mean, many others exist in varying degrees of usefulness. However, there is one in particular, LingQ(http://www.lingq.com ) that I can’t say is on the incredibly mainstream media circuit, although it certainly deserves to be as it’s possibly one of the best tools out there for improving and learning languages, so if you haven’t checked that one out or heard of it, I highly recommend doing so. It may save your life. You know, you’re being a dorky language learner human life.

But, I am claiming that what I’m working on will have the potential to replace something like Rosetta Stone. And not because it shares any similarities. I think we’ve all had quite enough of, “The ball is red,” or “The child eats the bike,”… maybe that last one’s a bit off, or maybe it’s an improvement. I still think that those of us who have tons of free time and perseverance will almost always be better off making our own self tailored language learning course. But what I’m working on is geared towards:

A.) Giving the people who don’t have the time to learn another language, well, the time to learn another language. As well as some great tools with which to do it.

H.) Helping those self-learners.

and 3.) Having potential classroom application. Since the education system in this country and many other’s could really use a fresh set of eyes.

Anyway, that’s all for now. More to come soon! ^_^

 

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.

 

 

Want to sound like a native?

Sure speaking correctly and understandably is probably more important for someone who’s just beginning their new language acquisition journey, but I’d like to think that everything is equally important.(And I have reasoning to back this up, but you won’t find it here yet.) If you have flawless grammar but speak french with a heavy american accent then, you’ve lost half the battle. I could be wrong, perhaps your goal was to sound like an american speaking French, but then isn’t part of the draw to a new language also the new (sexy)accent?

Many people struggle with this and I know why. Not because I’m all knowing, although I sometimes imagine that I am, but because I’ve gone through it with several languages. Whether or not this will help you in your journey to sound like you’re a native Chinese speaker or whatever language it is that you’re learning, is mostly left up to you, the scientist and experimenter. Here I offer only, the why and some potential how’s to fix this.

The problem:

1)You’re not listening to the sounds of the new language.

2)You’re trying to say words from another language through your own list of pre-ordered language sounds.

Okay, so what does this all mean and how does one fix it?

The solution:
 1) Stop trying to hear language. There is no language. (Remember the Matrix scene with the little bald boy and the spoon? Well he’s right. “There is no spoon.”) What you think is language is really just an agreed upon series and pattern of sounds, which themselves are nothing but varied vibrations that turn into electrochemical impulses in the brain.

The point of all that is, stop listening for words and stop trying to make sense of things, because then it’s as if you have a wooden box with circular and triangular holes, (these holes represent your native language.) Your new language however is made up of Circles, triangles, squares and hexagons. Excuse the rudimentary example but this serves, hopefully, to highlight what so many of us do wrong. We try to fill in the holes with things that don’t fit.

The solution continued:

2) Pretend that you’re listening to music. In the same way that you usually wouldn’t try to hear English words coming from a violin or a drum, you don’t want to try and hear words in a foreign language. Because they’re not going to be words to you for awhile. Try to only hear sounds. Get good at imitating those sounds or parts of those sounds. And one day when the sounds become words you’ll be better able to speak like a native!

 Admittedly, this is more of a teaser article, as I’m deathly sick and can’t talk without coughing, so when I’m better in a few days I’ll probably make a video discussing this in further detail and possibly offering more tips and demonstrations as to how this can work in practice.

As usual feel free to leave electronic words or open a discussion below.

What’s a Polyglod?

So you may not even know what a polyglot is and here I am, giving you this word that’s nearly identical and very likely Google is banging on your door asking you if you meant to type polyglot instead of polyglod. So to clear up any future, present, past, omnispace time continuum confusion, I’ll introduce Polyglod.

Polyglod is my child. It may  grow into something worthwhile, useful, remarkable, or all three. Or, it may die terribly and alone on the plains of the Internetara Desert. (But corny jokes will live on!)

Polyglod is the future space where all language enthusiasts, dreamers and doubters can come to speak honestly and inquire strangely about language. It is an imaginary internet brain place/space that, through its articles and the voices of its people will hopefully give rise to a new term, it’s namesake: Polyglods or speakers of multiple languages who take it upon themselves to create a better community of language learning, connection, intelligence and genuine human being-ness, all aiming towards improving our ability as a species to communicate freely with one another, because there are too many problems in this world and a lot of them would be fixed if we tilted our heads to one side for like thirty seconds, to realize that different people think and see the world differently.

So this place is about coming together and sharing. Whether you speak 400 million million languages or just one. You’re welcome here. Whether you hate me for my anarchic writing style that teeters on dorky, or you think what I say in electronic word images is swell, you too are welcomb.

But you’ll have to get used to words that are either made up or misused intentionally. Sentences that end where other’s should begin or not at all. Because this, although you may think it trite and immature or all of the above and beyond, is how language evolves: play.

 Play is where and how we really learn and develop. You may call it something else, but I choose the arbitrary english word, play. For me it’s about testing limits. If you’re too serious about testing your limits then you’ll never arrive at anything worthwhile, because you’re likely to spend all of your time fretting over what goes where and who know’s what and how many is the sum of two and four and so on and so forth.

So join me language learners and burners. Haters and lovers of society. Poets. Despots. Maybe even cats, (they seem to have a really strong internet presence nowadays.)

Let’s make the language a better place to learn the world and each other! (and stop being such hatey dooshfulls of bottleknobs!)

((I apologize if any Bottleknobs  were offended by the previous statement. They were merely referenced as a point of 最初(beginning) to the descriptors of hatey and dooshfulls.))