Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Some interesting discoveries in the realm of language learning in the Washington Post don't seem very surprising to me at all. Granted, I don't study linguistics, only language, but I've never been cowed by the notion of the 'critical period.' That seems to be more about accent - both losing and gaining. Myself - I've gone through hell in the form of rather intense diction and pronunciation coaching, but have never been able to fully erase my Great Lakes twang. Language learning for me, however, has always been linked to how much effort I'm willing to put into it. In some ways, it's easier now than when I was younger: My brain may no longer be that "sponge" that takes in everything almost involuntarily, but it certainly has matured and developed. I'm better able to apply myself to a task, to concentrate on it and to focus. I've learned better study skills.

Perhaps there are genetic components as well, as just about everyone on my mom's side of the family is at least bilingual. My brother also, though he's dyslexic, picks up spoken language with an amazing facility - having even picked up some conversational Vietnamese once to communicate with coworkers.

Of course, having books and papers and hearing other ways of speaking around helped, I'm sure. Interesting food for thought - I've never really given it much thought, either. Sort of like knowing how to drive but not knowing how to build an engine - I can use the tools, but I don't try to over-intellectualize over them.

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