Field of Science

Talking in New Tongues -- How Easy is It?

Today's post is written by a guest, Kelly Kilpatrick.

It’s a diverse world we live in, where thousands of languages vie with each other to exist and flourish. Some are more widely spoken than others, and some are dying out even as I write this. We are born knowing only one language – that of tears and noises. And as we grow, we’re introduced to the language spoken by those who surround us, picking up bits and pieces as we pass year after year. Languages come easily to some of us, while others have to work harder than the rest to master a different tongue. But there are a few circumstances when picking up a new tongue is easy, and that’s:

• When you’re young: Children tend to learn new languages faster than adults, probably because their brains are still in the developing stage. The best time to learn a new language is when you’re a child, so if you want your kinds to excel in a language besides their mother tongue, it’s best to get them started as early as possible.

• When two languages are spoken at home: When both parents speak different languages, children tend to pick up both tongues pretty fast, especially when both are spoken with the same degree of frequency.

• When you live in a foreign country: Your mother tongue at home and a foreign language when you’re outside, either at school, college or work, helps you speak both fluently. You pick up a new language quickly when everyone around you understands and speaks only that particular tongue since sign language works only up to a certain limit.

• When you work with people of other cultures: Working in a multicultural environment means you get to interact with people of different races from various countries. If you hang around them long enough, you tend to pick up certain terms and slang expressions of their mother tongue. You may even be able to understand what they say even if you’re not able to talk as fluently as they do.

• When you’re forced to: Imagine having to go to another country to work or live amongst a different people; you must learn the language as fast as you can or you’re going to find things extremely difficult. Conditions like these are ideal in encouraging your brain to learn fast since your survival depends on your new ability.

While it’s easy to learn how to speak a new language, it’s much harder to master the written form of many scripts, especially the ones that are calligraphic, like Chinese, Arabic and many other Asian languages. Western tongues more or less follow the English script, so if you know the pronunciations and spellings, you’re good to go. But it takes years and years of practice to get the hang of calligraphic scripts. Learning a new language can be an exercise that’s both fun and useful; go ahead, try taking on a new tongue today.

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This post was contributed by Kelly Kilpatrick, who writes on the subject of online colleges. She invites your feedback at kellykilpatrick24 at gmail dot com.

For previous posts on the subject of language-learning, click here, here, here, here or here.

5 comments:

Christian said...

Interesting post. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I don't mean to be disrespectful, and maybe I'm missing something, but this post feels like it was written by a sixth grader. It contains no academic expertise, poses no interesting questions, is poorly constructed, and in some cases is factually wrong. The linked site to the author's other writing on "online colleges" looks pretty questionable too. I usually enjoy the articles on this site, so I'm a bit confused. Is this a joke?

Augusta said...

Since when has the Roman script been known as the English script? I might be a native English speaker myself but I think this is pushing things too far to assume ascendancy to that. And what about all the languages that use the Cyrillic script- they have been conveniently left out of the European/ Asian equation. This is a very one- sided argument; Japanese speakers would have an easier time learning Chinese than others.

Brian Barker said...

As far as learning a second language is concerned, can I put in a word for Esperanto?

Although it is a living language, it helps language learning as well. Four schools in Britain have introduced this neutral international language, in order to test its propaedeutic values.

The pilot project is being monitored by the University of Manchester, and the initial results are very encouraging. These can be seen at http://www.springboard2languages.org/Summary%20of%20evaluation,%20S2L%20Phase%201.pdf

An interesting video can be seen at http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8837438938991452670 and a glimpse of Esperanto at http://www.lernu.net

coglanglab said...

Anonymous:

I am glad you normally like articles on this site. Kelly emailed me and asked to do a guest post. As somebody who once had little writing experience and needed opportunities to try my hand at writing, I was happy to give her the chance.

Not everything is written as I would have, and some of the terminology is non-standard, but I would dispute that there is much that is factually wrong. It is certainly much better than most of what I read about language learning outside of professional journals. I personally hope Kelly continues to write.