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Learning like a child learns their native

  Tags: Children
 Language Learning Forum : Learning Techniques, Methods & Strategies Post Reply
49 messages over 7 pages: 1 2 3 4 57  Next >>


jeff_lindqvist
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 Message 41 of 49
2015 August 20 at 6:46pm | IP Logged 
I don't have the scientific evidence, but yesterday I listened to an interview with Mike "Glossika" Campbell (and Chris Broholm) - he said that the average child (the exact age escapes me at the moment) has had exposure to millions of sentences.

So, if you want to "learn like a child" and listen to totally incomprenhensible input, that's A LOT OF content.
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Serpent
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 Message 42 of 49
2015 August 20 at 10:01pm | IP Logged 
Kids vary too. My aunt didn't speak until the age of 3 and everyone was worried, but when she did start speaking, she was able to form sentences, and afaiu had less mistakes than kids normally make. Maybe that's one of my inspirations for a silent period.
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shk00design
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 Message 43 of 49
2015 August 20 at 11:41pm | IP Logged 
The Chinese pianist Lang Lang supposedly started to sing around age 3 before he could talk. Otherwise he spent so many hours on the piano that the only foreign language he picked up is English when studying in the US.
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emk
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 Message 44 of 49
2015 August 21 at 5:12pm | IP Logged 
jeff_lindqvist wrote:
So, if you want to "learn like a child" and listen to totally incomprenhensible input, that's A LOT OF content.

It's not clear that children can actually learn from totally incomprehensible input, either. Parents have definitely tried plunking their children down in front of Mandarin cartoons, and that doesn't seem to work any better than it does with adults.

Children get comprehensible input because parents repeat themselves thousands of times and use lots of pantomime. Seriously, I learned to understand a ton of household French from listening to my wife speak to the kids.

phonology wrote:
I think language is learned as a child once in life according to Noam Chomsky.

Honestly, many US linguists—even very senior and respected ones—live in a mostly monolingual society, one with no widespread culture of language learning. Many of them are monolingual themselves. Chomsky appears to have receptive knowledge of several languages, but I don't know if he speaks any fluently. John McWhorter claims to have a reached a B1ish conversational level in several languages (often using Assimil!), but he has spoken of his difficulties going beyond that. The late and much-loved Kenneth L. Hale from MIT was an exception—he only claimed to "speak" two languages (English and Warlpiri), but he claimed he could "talk in" many others. He was notorious for being able to remember briefly-mentioned grammar examples in unfamiliar languages months later, and for stepping off planes "talking in" languages that nobody believed he knew.

So I'm not inclined to pay much attention to what many US linguists say about language acquisition, except for those who actually specialize in the subject. European linguists seem to be better—even the most pessimistic French linguistics papers I've seen mostly admit that adults can become at least semi-competent.

There's one other wrinkle: Some linguists only seem to care about language acquisition if learners become almost 100% native-like, with a flawless accent and grammar. They're not impressed by merely speaking a language well enough to have a professional career or friendships, or even to serve as a high government official. Personally, I don't care that nobody will ever think I grew up in France—I'm quite happy if I can read books, carry on intelligent conversations, and do professional work in French.


Edited by emk on 2015 August 21 at 5:36pm

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chaotic_thought
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 Message 45 of 49
2015 August 21 at 8:23pm | IP Logged 
I'm not sure why people want to be "like a native". I think what they actually want is to improve their proficiency.

As an example that people don't need to be "native" is to look at US natives who speak American English and who have moved to the UK, or vice versa, a UK native who has moved to the US. Neither of these persons is going to be accepted as a "native" according to how they speak, yet they will understand what others say ~99.9% of the time and they will be understood by others ~99.9% of the time.

That's the goal in language learning. Being "like a native" is just a false goal. Work on getting to the 99.9% level.

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AlexTG
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 Message 46 of 49
2015 August 21 at 8:47pm | IP Logged 
Yeah, language-learning-wise it's not important at all, but linguistically I think there are some pretty interesting questions. Can a person develop a
sensibility/mental map/understanding of a second language which is the same as native speakers, or will their understanding always be inflected to some
extent by their actual native language? Can a British person develop a sensibility for what sounds natural in the English language which is the same
as American English speakers, or will they always perceive some unnaturalness in non-British tendencies (even if they none-the-less can produce such
tendencies when they want to sound American)?

Testing these sorts of things would be very complex due to the wide variation of idiolects within a dialect. But we might also ask, how well can a person
develop an idiolect separate from their native idiolect? Not just vary their idiolect, but develop a new one which exists separately to their native one?
That's essentially what language learners do, we have a separate idiolect for each language we speak. But how well can we keep new ones separate from our
native one? Or can our native idiolect be equally affected by our new ones as the other way round?

Edited by AlexTG on 2015 August 21 at 8:54pm

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Serpent
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 Message 47 of 49
2015 August 21 at 11:49pm | IP Logged 
chaotic_thought wrote:
I'm not sure why people want to be "like a native". I think what they actually want is to improve their proficiency.

As an example that people don't need to be "native" is to look at US natives who speak American English and who have moved to the UK, or vice versa, a UK native who has moved to the US. Neither of these persons is going to be accepted as a "native" according to how they speak, yet they will understand what others say ~99.9% of the time and they will be understood by others ~99.9% of the time.

That's the goal in language learning. Being "like a native" is just a false goal. Work on getting to the 99.9% level.

Yeah, I think this goal often comes from a superficial understanding of how languages work or what it takes to learn one. Most of those who say things like "you're not fluent until you can do anything as easily as in L1" are monolingual. And they tend to confuse "being able to do anything" with "having a perfect accent, grammar and vocabulary". But especially grammar and pronunciation are surprisingly useless for many tasks.

That said, a native-like pronunciation is a valid goal, crucial for some elite jobs like actor or TV host and endlessly fascinating for many language learners.
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Cavesa
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 Message 48 of 49
2015 August 23 at 1:01pm | IP Logged 
A few more ideas on the reasons:

-if the society generally believes you haven't learnt a language until you are native like, it is very easy for people to put you down and feel better about themselves and "not wasting time trying to learn a language"

-another great excuse exit for beginners is the accent. I barely suppress the urge to laugh whenever I hear obvious beginners, unable to put together a basic sentence, getting all passionate over accents, their importance and inability to continue with the language until you'll have learnt the accent (and many never will)

-the mentality of another language=more money on your paycheck. You "obviously" need a really high level to use the language for work and that is the only and sole purpose of learning a language.

-I'd say this opinion is much wider spread in the anglophone countries as the language learning and practice reality is harsher for them. A job including their foreign language? There is a native speaker with the same education and perfect second language English to compete with you. Abroad? There are language bandits and people trying to get more money from you by using your language everywhere. And your language teaching in school doesn't have much of a reputation, no wonder learning a language appears impossible once you spend half a decade on learning to introduce yourself.

We, natives of "useless" languages, are used to another approach. Even getting by in another language is awesome as even broken English/French/German/whatever is more useful than Czech anywhere abroad. Even immigrants often expect us to learn their language and use it with them, even if they spend here ten or more years.


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