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Learn like a child?

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Axystos
Pentaglot
Newbie
Netherlands
Joined 4907 days ago

20 posts - 43 votes
Speaks: Dutch*, English, German, French, Russian
Studies: Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Portuguese, Norwegian, Japanese, Czech, Polish

 
 Message 9 of 26
25 May 2012 at 6:52pm | IP Logged 
dampingwire wrote:
Camundonguinho wrote:
Adult brain is like a memory drive with 90^% of capacity full,
which is rather shkrinking than expanding, and it requires a fair amount of erasing of
data before you can store new data.


This is news to me. I've never seen any evidence to suggest that people have more or
less filled their brains by adulthood. If anything I see many counter examples on a
daily basis :-)

I've also never seen any serious research that suggests that we need to erase
information to retain new information.

I think that is because the adult brain is actually NOT like a memory drive; it does not have a maximum capacity as such. The fact that we sometimes forget, say, vocabulary, is simply because we're not practicing it often enough.
3 persons have voted this message useful





emk
Diglot
Moderator
United States
Joined 3606 days ago

2615 posts - 8805 votes 
Speaks: English*, FrenchB2
Studies: Spanish, Ancient Egyptian
Personal Language Map

 
 Message 10 of 26
25 May 2012 at 7:14pm | IP Logged 
I'm raising two children, and they're been exposed to French and English
since birth. My wife and I have spent some time researching what's required to raise
"biliterate" children—that is, children who will eventually have all the skills of
educated adults in both our languages. It turns out that true biliteracy is neither
easy nor cheap.

There are excellent two-way immersion schools, which often claim things like "your
child will generally be able to have a fluent conversation within the first year, but
we strongly recommend a 7-year commitment to the program to develop age-appropriate
academic skills." And our own microsnout, with his roughly B2-level French skills,
occasionally supplies vocabulary to Canadians who went through such a program.

What's more, the world is full of kids who understand their parent's heritage language
at a level comparable to (say) anywhere from B1 to C1, but who have only rudimentary
speaking skills. Kids, like just about everybody else, learn the languages they need to
interact with their peers. They're better at some stuff than adults, certainly. But
they have oceans of time and overwhelming motivation.

But seriously, take an adult, cut them off from their native language, and encourage
them to identify with a different culture as desperately as any 8 (or 18) year old
wants to fit in and belong. Give them comprehensible input and reasonably patient
native speakers (or at least enough study time to get them near B2, so they can more-
or-less interact like adults). And then give them 5 or 10 years of full time immersion.

Plenty of adults will reach C2 under these circumstances, and at least 5% will become
nearly indistinguishable from native speakers, judging from the academic literature.
Goodness knows I've seen plenty of international PhD students move to the US and
develop rock-solid English after 10 years, especially if they use English with native
speakers at home.

In fact, I would argue that many adults can learn a relatively easy language (such as
French for an English speaker) to a very useful level with just 6 months of something
like Assimil and 6 months of full-time immersion & study. I've probably put in less
total time than that, and I'm now spending my DELF B2 prep time debating social issues
in French with my tutor. It's kind of a linguistic train wreck sometimes, but I can at
least make my point.

Children and adult language learners do lots of things differently. But children aren't
as magically gifted as myth would have it, and adults can do surprisingly well if
they're subjected to equivalent pressures.

Edited by emk on 25 May 2012 at 8:10pm

9 persons have voted this message useful



PillowRock
Groupie
United States
Joined 2808 days ago

87 posts - 151 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Spanish

 
 Message 11 of 26
25 May 2012 at 7:43pm | IP Logged 
dampingwire wrote:
Camundonguinho wrote:
Children can memorize a new word, expression after one single
exposure. Adults, only if the information is relevant, interesting or funny. But only 1
% of information is like that. Other information require conscious memorization and
many repeatings. So, you have to try hard(er) to memorize a word.


But my 8-year old's weekly school spelling test results seem to improve when we make
him practice ...

To be fair, English language spelling is an entirely different matter than learning word so as to be able use it in conversation.

I remember reading a research result a number of years ago that found that the percentage of children who had total recall was roughly 10 time the percentage in adults. As one anecdotal example, I can remember when I was a teen I sometimes would answer questions on tests by "looking" at the relevant page of the text book in my mind and "reading" the answer again to copy it down. I still have a pretty decent memory, but *that* kind of memory ability started sliding away while I was in college (which was I really needed to start to learn how to study; my grades really suffered for about a year during that transition). The statistics from that study would seem to suggest that children tend to have "stickier" memories than adults, on average (though that obviously leaves room for some adults to memories superior to some children).

Edited by PillowRock on 25 May 2012 at 7:44pm

1 person has voted this message useful



Serpent
Octoglot
Senior Member
Russian Federation
serpent-849.livejour
Joined 4671 days ago

9753 posts - 15775 votes 
4 sounds
Speaks: Russian*, English, FinnishC1, Latin, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese
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 Message 12 of 26
25 May 2012 at 9:52pm | IP Logged 
PillowRock wrote:
As one anecdotal example, I can remember when I was a teen I sometimes would answer questions on tests by "looking" at the relevant page of the text book in my mind and "reading" the answer again to copy it down. I still have a pretty decent memory, but *that* kind of memory ability started sliding away while I was in college
This ability can be trained. Some of my friends had an insanely strict history teacher in high school (and 4 history classes per week), and as a result they developed this kind of photographic memory. I haven't discussed it with them so I don't know whether the skill is gone or not.
2 persons have voted this message useful



Camundonguinho
Triglot
Senior Member
Brazil
Joined 2823 days ago

273 posts - 500 votes 
Speaks: Portuguese*, English, Spanish
Studies: Swedish

 
 Message 13 of 26
25 May 2012 at 11:24pm | IP Logged 
Axystos wrote:
dampingwire wrote:
Camundonguinho wrote:
Adult brain is like a memory drive with 90^% of capacity full,
which is rather shkrinking than expanding, and it requires a fair amount of erasing of
data before you can store new data.


This is news to me. I've never seen any evidence to suggest that people have more or
less filled their brains by adulthood. If anything I see many counter examples on a
daily basis :-)

I've also never seen any serious research that suggests that we need to erase
information to retain new information.

I think that is because the adult brain is actually NOT like a memory drive; it does not have a maximum capacity as such. The fact that we sometimes forget, say, vocabulary, is simply because we're not practicing it often enough.


Not quite true.

Neuroplasticity and synaptogenesis are more limited in adults than in children.
Once you've reached a certain age, some activities will be limited (for example scoring higher on IQ tests). Subconscious learning may be more efficient than ''decoreba'' (Brazilian Portuguese word for excessive memorization and learning by heart). And this subconscious learning (learning by osmoses) is more effective in children than in adults.

It's not impossible, but it's just much more difficult when you're adult.
Let's say you have an American woman and an American man living in Japan, who have been living there for 10 years.
They have a child. In 15 years time, the child will be practically a native speaker of Japanese, but his/her parents will still have problems with reading, and writing Japanese, as well as perfecting the pronunciation (pitch accent).

To most children learning Japanese or Chinese, learning how to write is interesting and fun.
To most adults, it's difficult and boring.

I would only learn Chinese and Japanese, if they paid me a million British pounds to do so.
Otherwise, I would have no motivation at all.
For me, for the time being, learning these languages would be a major torture.


Edited by Camundonguinho on 25 May 2012 at 11:37pm

1 person has voted this message useful



Bakunin
Diglot
Senior Member
Switzerland
outerkhmer.blogspot.
Joined 3204 days ago

531 posts - 1126 votes 
Speaks: German*, Thai
Studies: Khmer

 
 Message 14 of 26
26 May 2012 at 2:16am | IP Logged 
David Long from AUA Bangkok makes the credible case that learning like a child, including an extended
silent period (800 hours, if I remember correctly), leads to superior results in an overall shorter time frame
than traditional language study, with him being one of the successful examples.

I don't know where people get the idea from that brain plasticity is restricted to a young age. There's a lot of
research, e.g. on stroke patients, demonstrating that older brains remain remarkably plastic.
6 persons have voted this message useful





emk
Diglot
Moderator
United States
Joined 3606 days ago

2615 posts - 8805 votes 
Speaks: English*, FrenchB2
Studies: Spanish, Ancient Egyptian
Personal Language Map

 
 Message 15 of 26
26 May 2012 at 1:14pm | IP Logged 
Camundonguinho wrote:
Let's say you have an American woman and an American man living
in Japan, who have been living there for 10 years. They have a child. In 15 years time,
the child will be practically a native speaker of Japanese, but his/her parents will
still have problems with reading, and writing Japanese, as well as perfecting the
pronunciation (pitch accent).


In this story, if we go by the stereotype, their daughter spends every day at school
hearing Japanese, playing with kids who speak Japanese, getting teased for not
speaking Japanese, copying thousands of kanji by hand, reading books in Japanese,
getting crushes on Japanese speakers, and trying to desperately fit in with her peers.

The parents, meanwhile, speak English to each other at home. Since they're both
completely illiterate by Japanese standards, they have to use English at work, too.
They read books in English, watch TV in English, and hang out with English-speaking
friends. One partner probably learns "survival" Japanese (A2 to B1) and acts as a
translator when absolutely necessary.

Meanwhile, their child speaks fluent conversational English at home. But if she ever
decides to go to a university in America, she gets a nasty shock: She's a native
speaker with the vocabulary of an 8-year-old, trying to take university-level courses.
She's never had to wrestle with academic English, and her vocabulary is about 15,000
words smaller than her peers'. She spends a year or two getting up to speed.

Let's change the story around a bit.

Take an American man who, for whatever reason, is obsessed with Japan. He watches anime
all day long, listens to J-pop, and studies the kanji. He spends hours every day
reading and watching Japanese. He moves to Japan, falls in love with a Japanese woman,
and gets a job with Japanese-speaking coworkers. He actively avoids English-speaking
expatriates. When has trouble reading kanji, he thinks of it an "adult literacy
problem", as khatzumoto puts it, and feels slightly ashamed. His house is full of
Japanese books and DVDs, and all his friends are Japanese. Although he's too polite to
ever say it, in his heart he secretly believes that he's Japanese.

In 10 years, his Japanese will be fine. He's probably got an accent, but it's
charming and perfectly comprehensible. You can probably tell that he's not a native
speaker, but in practice, he's good enough that it doesn't matter. It's not like he has
any choice: If he ever wants to have another adult conversation again in his life, he's
going to have it in Japanese. There's just no way he can spend 30 years sounding like a
toddler.

When comparing children and adults, compare their daily lives and their motivations,
not just their age.
10 persons have voted this message useful



Camundonguinho
Triglot
Senior Member
Brazil
Joined 2823 days ago

273 posts - 500 votes 
Speaks: Portuguese*, English, Spanish
Studies: Swedish

 
 Message 16 of 26
26 May 2012 at 2:21pm | IP Logged 
Bakunin wrote:
David Long from AUA Bangkok makes the credible case that learning like a child, including an extended
silent period (800 hours, if I remember correctly), leads to superior results in an overall shorter time frame
than traditional language study, with him being one of the successful examples.

I don't know where people get the idea from that brain plasticity is restricted to a young age. There's a lot of
research, e.g. on stroke patients, demonstrating that older brains remain remarkably plastic.


Norwegian stroke patients seem to re-learn their language just fine, but they are never perfect, most of them are tone-deaf, they have problems with hearing and producing the pitch accent. So, their Norwegian is not exactly 100% native-like. So, in a way, they relearn Norwegian as if it were a foreign language. And adult foreigners who learn Norwegian find the tones of Standard South Eastern Norwegian extremely difficult to imitate. Even the Swedish people have problems with the Norwegian tonal accent (because the Swedish tonal accent although phonologically similar, it's completely different phonetically that is, it sounds completely different).

(But this is a problem in Norwegian, you are easier to pass for a Norwegian in Oslo if you speak Bergensk, Stavangersk or another dialect than if you speak/imitate the Standard Eastern Norwegian dialect/accent - in most other languages, learning how to speak with a ''standard'' accent is a formula of success and near-nativeness, in Norwegian it's a formula for disaster, it screams: ''you're a foreigner, you're not from here, you want to sound like an Osloite but your tones are all wrong'').


I'm not against at ''children methods'', but they have limitations.
I have a Spanish dictionary for children because, unlike most adult dictionaries,
after every irregular and semi-irregular verb, there is a mark (it's conjugated like THIS).


Edited by Camundonguinho on 26 May 2012 at 2:34pm



2 persons have voted this message useful



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