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My new fave portable Greek grammar: Kaegi

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My new fave portable Greek grammar: Kaegi

Postby annis » Thu Aug 14, 2008 11:00 pm

Traveling is just such a pain. If I have to spend hours sitting still I could get in some good Greek, time, but I just know that I'll run across some obscure hapax in my reading, or I'll suddenly forget the imperfect of ἵημι.

Abbot and Mansfield's Primer of Greek Grammar is ok for morphology, but is distressingly thin on syntax and, I think, sometimes misleading. The less said about the fairly recent Oxford offering the better. But I think I've finally found a good, portable Greek grammar that is reasonably thorough without being quite so extensive or heavy as Smyth: Kaegi's Greek Grammar. There are some things about it that are a little odd (like the verb appendix), but, as a Dover reprint, the price can't be beat.

I've been using it for a few months now, mostly as a reference for prose comp these days. The only thing I've had to do is mark section numbers in the verb appendix to point out paradigms and discussion in the main body text.

Now, if someone can get Diogenes to run on my iPod, I'll be set for portable Greekery.
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Postby PeterD » Fri Aug 15, 2008 4:13 am

Have you noticed yet? There is not one typo in the entire text!

And don't forget Kaegi's Greek Reading for Review: First Lessons in Greek that complements the grammar text. The lessons are referenced to the grammar.
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Re: My new fave portable Greek grammar: Kaegi

Postby Lex » Sat Aug 16, 2008 12:47 am

annis wrote:If I have to spend hours sitting still I could get in some good Greek, time, but I just know that I'll run across some obscure hapax in my reading, or I'll suddenly forget the imperfect of ἵημι.


I've wondered about somthing recently. I'm not terribly good at classical languages, as you have probably figured out. I don't have more than a few words of any modern foreign language, either. (And some may question my mastery of English.) So maybe this is a dumb question... but that's never stopped me before.

You say you might "suddenly forget the imperfect of ἵημι", or something like that. This is not a rare verb, although irregular, and a fluent native speaker of classical Greek surely would have had no problem with it anymore than we would with a common irregular like "is" or "go". And a fluent non-native speaker of a modern language probably wouldn't have an issue with something similar. So why is it so hard to get "fluent" in classical languages? Is it because they are used mainly for reading, not writing or speaking? Is it because they are harder than modern languages? (I wouldn't think so; the ancient Greeks were humans, after all.) Is it because they aren't taught correctly?

Let's do a little thought experiment. Let's say the Ooglarians (aliens from the planet Ooglar) stole Socrates' corpse and revived him. Then they took him to Ooglar, he hung out for a while grooving with green chicks with antennae, and then they brought him back here. Given relativistic time dilation and advanced Ooglarian medical techniques, Socrates is alive now on Earth. Does anybody here think they could hold a conversation with him without horribly embarrassing themselves? Assuming that the reconstructed pronunciation is off quite a bit, I'll even assume that you could converse by scratching letters in the sand. Maybe even teach him diacritical marks first. What do you think?
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Re: My new fave portable Greek grammar: Kaegi

Postby annis » Sat Aug 16, 2008 1:12 am

Lex wrote:Is it because they are harder than modern languages? (I wouldn't think so; the ancient Greeks were humans, after all.) Is it because they aren't taught correctly?


They are almost never taught as conversational languages.

Does anybody here think they could hold a conversation with him without horribly embarrassing themselves?


Not at first.

Assuming that the reconstructed pronunciation is off quite a bit, I'll even assume that you could converse by scratching letters in the sand. Maybe even teach him diacritical marks first. What do you think?


A clever person who had good command of reading and writing Greek, with maybe a little prep from a field linguist, would pick things up far more quickly than the Ooglarians. There's no reason to believe the reconstructed pronunciation is that far off, and a native speaker of language will tolerate a pretty substantial variation in dialect differences without batting an eye. Nail down a few details, and you'll be off and running.
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Re: My new fave portable Greek grammar: Kaegi

Postby Lex » Sat Aug 16, 2008 1:24 am

annis wrote:They are almost never taught as conversational languages.


Do you think teaching them as such would promote higher fluency?

annis wrote:A clever person who had good command of reading and writing Greek, with maybe a little prep from a field linguist, would pick things up far more quickly than the Ooglarians.


Ah, but the Ooglarians had xenolinguistic away teams disguised as Scythian slaves for many, many years. Strangely enough, every word in Ooglarian is a tonal variant of "bar". Bar bar bar...
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Re: My new fave portable Greek grammar: Kaegi

Postby Bert » Sat Aug 16, 2008 1:45 am

Lex wrote:
annis wrote:They are almost never taught as conversational languages.


Do you think teaching them as such would promote higher fluency?
I certainly think so.
Lex wrote:
annis wrote:A clever person who had good command of reading and writing Greek, with maybe a little prep from a field linguist, would pick things up far more quickly than the Ooglarians.


Ah, but the Ooglarians had xenolinguistic away teams disguised as Scythian slaves for many, many years. Strangely enough, every word in Ooglarian is a tonal variant of "bar". Bar bar bar...
Please fill me in; what is an Ooglarian?
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Re: My new fave portable Greek grammar: Kaegi

Postby Lex » Sat Aug 16, 2008 2:03 am

Bert wrote:
Lex wrote:Do you think teaching them [classical languages] as such [living spoken languages] would promote higher fluency?

I certainly think so.


I do too.

I wish to Zeus that there were a "501 Homeric Greek Verbs Fully Conjugated" (there is for Latin). I think it would help autodidacts immensely, learning conjugations through examples that have been well-checked by experts, instead of by wading through grammars and trying to figure out if you've applied all the rules correctly.

Bert wrote:Please fill me in; what is an Ooglarian?


Merely a figment of my overactive imagination.
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Re: My new fave portable Greek grammar: Kaegi

Postby PeterD » Sun Aug 17, 2008 5:25 am

Lex wrote:Is it because they are harder than modern languages? (I wouldn't think so; the ancient Greeks were humans, after all.) Is it because they aren't taught correctly?


I recall reading an article by the great Canadian neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield that languages should be learnt at a young age---preferably before puberty. And I agree. For example, my nephew. He's only 4 and he already speaks--- FLUENTLY---three languages: Greek, English, and French. I am not kidding. He effortlessly switches from one to the other, and other language. Just like that. And we're not talking simple sentences here. The kid even has many idiomatatic expressions down pat. Is he some kind of child prodigy when it comes to language acquisition? Of course, not. He simply learned (I think "picked up" would be more accurate because he's had no formal education, yet) the languages when one is supposed to learn them---when one is young, in a natural setting, that is, by listening and imitating.

Now, how long do you think it would take an adult to learn, from scratch, with all the modern language tools available to him/her, fluently, just ONE new language, let alone THREE? 3 years? 5 years? 10 years? Who knows, right?

No, Lex. It has nothing to do with how difficult a language is, or how it's taught. It has to to do with how are brains are wired. Are brains are wired for language acquisition when we're young. The older we get, the harder it is for us to learn a new language, be it ancient Greek or Swahili, for that matter.



p.s. My daughter, who is only 3 and a half, is fluent in English and French. Give her another 6 months, and she'll be fluent in Greek , too.


EDIT: "idiomatic" not "idiomatatic". It was late. :)
Last edited by PeterD on Mon Aug 18, 2008 4:51 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby quendidil » Sun Aug 17, 2008 7:36 am

I'd say exposure to the language is a more important factor than age. Khatzumoto over at that site essentially learnt Japanese by surrounding himself in that language just as a child would and to a higher level of proficiency in 18 months than most children; which is one of the benefits of learning at a more advanced age - you can transfer concepts across languages.

Also, what about field linguists who learn tribal languages to basic fluency within months?
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Re: My new fave portable Greek grammar: Kaegi

Postby Lex » Sun Aug 17, 2008 8:01 pm

PeterD wrote:No, Lex. It has nothing to do with how difficult a language is, or how it's taught. It has to to do with how are brains are wired. Are brains are wired for language acquisition when we're young. The older we get, the harder it is for us to learn a new language, be it ancient Greek or Swahili, for that matter.


I agree. The decrease in mental "plasticity", as it pertains to language, as one goes beyond a certain age seems to be a scientifically established fact, at this point. Unfortunately, that fact does me no good in learning a language at the age of 42.

Although no teaching method will allow me the ability to learn a language as easily as a child does, I do think that some teaching methods are more suitable to adults than others. Language is an inherently vocal/auditory phenomenon, AFAICT. It takes a child a few years to achieve basic fluency in the spoken language, and many years to achieve it in the written (if it is achieved at all). It would seem to me that tapping into the portion of the brain most adapted for language processing would be beneficial. Also, it seems to me that most people learn more easily by the use of examples. As such, I would think that having many examples of the application of the morphological rules to concrete examples would also be beneficial.
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Postby Twpsyn » Sun Aug 17, 2008 8:45 pm

It's certainly not an established fact that children are inherently good at learning languages and adults inherently bad. I refer you to this excellent article: Zompist.

The upshots of that article (which my personal experience as a language-learner, at least, has confirmed) is that languages are hard no matter how old you are, and that people tend only to learn languages when they are forced to. With a lack of serious motivation and outside a language's environment, learning a language can be rendered extremely difficult; the same person, immersed in a language that (for example) he simply must pick up in order to make a living and form a social network in the country he has immigrated to, would fare much better.

It's my personal belief, however, that above proficiency in languages themselves, the very act of learning languages is a skill, and the more one does it the more efficiently one can pick up new languages, even beyond the speed at which a child learns his or her mother tongue. After all, most of us do not learn languages as adults with the same complete immersion and do-or-die motivation as we do when we are growing up; it is these less favourable circumstances to which adults' difficulties should be referred, not necessarily to any clogging of the brain-cells.
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Postby Lex » Sun Aug 17, 2008 10:14 pm

Twpsyn wrote:It's certainly not an established fact that children are inherently good at learning languages and adults inherently bad. I refer you to this excellent article: Zompist.


What might be the authority of the author of this site? I don't believe everthing I read on the Internet.

Twpsyn wrote:With a lack of serious motivation and outside a language's environment, learning a language can be rendered extremely difficult; the same person, immersed in a language that (for example) he simply must pick up in order to make a living and form a social network in the country he has immigrated to, would fare much better.


Well, of course an adult won't learn a foreign language unless he tries, and motivation will increase the will to try. And of course learning a language is easier if one has native speakers to learn from. So what? This still doesn't change the fact that most small children learn language (spoken, not written) without really trying, and most adults have trouble even with motivation. I know I certainly do. I lived in Japan for 10 months once, and my acquisition of very minimal Japanese was quite painful. That was with a copious supply of native speakers, immersion, and an employer who was "motivating" me to learn.

Twpsyn wrote:It's my personal belief, however, that above proficiency in languages themselves, the very act of learning languages is a skill, and the more one does it the more efficiently one can pick up new languages, even beyond the speed at which a child learns his or her mother tongue. After all, most of us do not learn languages as adults with the same complete immersion and do-or-die motivation as we do when we are growing up; it is these less favourable circumstances to which adults' difficulties should be referred, not necessarily to any clogging of the brain-cells.


I completely disagree with some of this. Most small children don't have a "do-or-die" motivation to learn languages. I would hazard a guess that most children don't even realize that they are learning a language. And small children aren't typically terribly self-disciplined. I believe it's the complete immersion, combined with the fact that children's brains are more "plastic". I certainly don't believe that it has to do with "clogging of the brain cells", though.

I think that it is similar to some species of bird chicks bonding to their mothers (or other animals). At a certain period in the chick's life, bonding will occur to almost any animal. After that time, it will not. These chicks that are prevented from bonding generally don't live long, as I recall. Similarly, during a certain period, children will learn any language just from immersion; as adults simple immersion, without also having some sort of instruction, generally won't work. Granted, it's not exactly the same, but I think it's more than just an analogy. I have also read about "feral" children above the typical language-learning age that have terrible trouble achieving language skills, but I will admit that I'm not terribly familiar with that literature.
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Postby Lex » Sun Aug 17, 2008 10:26 pm

(I know a linguist whose reaction was, "But they're still native speakers." Sure, but they have a lousy command of the written standard.)


(The above is from the Zompist site.)

The linguist is right. The typical piece of uneducated trailer trash has a perfect command of grammar. It's just that his perfect command of grammar is limited to the grammar of his dialect of English, which has many differences from the dialect favored by those in, say, upper-class Connecticut. Snobbism aside, there is no scientific basis for saying that the dialect used in rural Oklahoma is in any way inferior to that used in Harvard. In fact, the old-fashioned imposition of rules of Latin grammar on English's completely different grammar is completely unscientific. As Churchill said, "That is nonsense up with which I shall not put!" :wink:
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Postby Twpsyn » Sun Aug 17, 2008 11:25 pm

This still doesn't change the fact that most small children learn language (spoken, not written) without really trying, and most adults have trouble even with motivation.


As the article I linked to says,

the apparent effortlessness is largely an illusion caused by psychological distance. We just don't remember how hard it was to learn language.


I certainly would not disagree with your assertion that learning language is difficult for adults, as well (as a language-learning adult, I have experience of it myself!).

I completely disagree with some of this. Most small children don't have a "do-or-die" motivation to learn languages. I would hazard a guess that most children don't even realize that they are learning a language.


But this is exactly my point: as adults, we can go about learning languages in a systematic, intelligent, and efficient manner, or a more organic manner if that is what suits our learning style (the opportunity of so choosing is an advantage in itself!). Children, who don't know what they are doing, behave as if it's all unexplored territory and go about it quite haphazardly (as evidenced by all the mistakes they make when learning idiomatic phrases and irregular verb forms, for example). It takes them a while to iron things out, but they eventually do because they aren't afraid of making mistakes. On the other hand, adults, who tend to be petrified of making mistakes, generally don't speak enough! I would call this a behavioural impediment to effective language learning, not a biological one.

After all, not being neurologists, I don't think either you or I can say for certain whether the brains of young 'uns really are better at learning things. Now, each of us can only answer for his or her own mature mind, but in my experience, conscious language-learning is definitely, as I mentioned, a kind of skill, and I have noticed that the speed at which I pick up new words and sentence patterns in my languages has become much more efficient than when I first started seriously studying languages, about six or seven years ago. It is a thing that an adult can come to do smoothly, efficiently and enjoyably, while for a child it is inevitably a clumsy, hit-and-miss process.

As regards your latter remarks, I would certainly agree that language-learning is closely tied to a child's brain development. I as well have read anecdotes of children who grew up apart from all language stimuli, and were never able to regain the ground lost. However, just because there is a connexion between the two does not prove that the process is easy.

The linguist is right. The typical piece of uneducated trailer trash has a perfect command of grammar. It's just that his perfect command of grammar is limited to the grammar of his dialect of English, which has many differences from the dialect favored by those in, say, upper-class Connecticut. Snobbism aside, there is no scientific basis for saying that the dialect used in rural Oklahoma is in any way inferior to that used in Harvard.


The point is not about prescriptivism/descriptivism, and Mark Rosenfelder (the author of the article) is both well-informed and anything but a snob, I assure you. While you and I and the author of the article know perfectly well that, linguistically speaking, there is no inherent superiority to any lect, in a social context there is a world of stylistic difference between the spoken and, especially, the written Spanish of (the example given) a lower-middle or lower-class Hispanic community in the United States, educated in English not Spanish, and middle- or upper-class South Americans educated in Spanish. Notice Rosenfelder used the words 'lousy command of the written standard', not 'of Spanish' or such.
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Postby Lex » Mon Aug 18, 2008 12:10 am

Twpsyn wrote:But this is exactly my point: as adults, we can go about learning languages in a systematic, intelligent, and efficient manner, or a more organic manner if that is what suits our learning style (the opportunity of so choosing is an advantage in itself!).


Perhaps so. But I believe that most adults use a more "systematic" method because the more "organic" methods don't work for them because they are not children!

Twpsyn wrote:Children, who don't know what they are doing, behave as if it's all unexplored territory and go about it quite haphazardly (as evidenced by all the mistakes they make when learning idiomatic phrases and irregular verb forms, for example).


To me, a child saying that she "drawed a picture", for example, is a great example of a child showing that she has intuitively learned regular verbal conjugation by "osmosis", so to speak, without even trying. And the fact that most (all?) children go through such a stage seems to add credence to the idea that it is a natural part of a child's linguistic "wiring". Of course, all the exceptions to the rules take longer to learn than the rules themselves. I don't see that as haphazard. I see that as the most efficient way to learn. And most children also learn the irregular cases without even trying and without being explicitly taught. And then they become adults, and most of them cannot then learn a language the same way they did as children. This would seem pretty good prima facie evidence that humans do go through a phase when acquiring a language is natural, and then pass out of that phase.

Twpsyn wrote:After all, not being neurologists, I don't think either you or I can say for certain whether the brains of young 'uns really are better at learning things.


I'm certainly not saying that children are better at learning everything. Just spoken language.

Twpsyn wrote:Now, each of us can only answer for his or her own mature mind, but in my experience, conscious language-learning is definitely, as I mentioned, a kind of skill, and I have noticed that the speed at which I pick up new words and sentence patterns in my languages has become much more efficient than when I first started seriously studying languages, about six or seven years ago.


Sure.

Twpsyn wrote:It is a thing that an adult can come to do smoothly, efficiently and enjoyably, while for a child it is inevitably a clumsy, hit-and-miss process.


I still disagree. You must be more of a natural at learning languages than I am. I find it a painful, clumsy, and most definitely unenjoyable process. I mainly do it because of a lingering feeling that I am an uncultured ignoramus for not knowing another language. That's probably why I picked Greek.

Twpsyn wrote:However, just because there is a connexion between the two does not prove that the process is easy.


Not necessarily easy, but easier. And if a child can learn a language through immersion, without being explicitly taught, and without consciously even trying, I for one would call that easier!
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Postby Lex » Mon Aug 18, 2008 12:22 am

Twpsyn wrote: It takes them a while to iron things out, but they eventually do because they aren't afraid of making mistakes. On the other hand, adults, who tend to be petrified of making mistakes, generally don't speak enough! I would call this a behavioural impediment to effective language learning, not a biological one.


Maybe. But then again, I was a late speaker. I didn't start until 22 months, and then I started speaking simple but grammatically correct and complete sentences (according to my mother). Being afraid of making mistakes may also be biological in some people.

Twpsyn wrote:While you and I and the author of the article know perfectly well that, linguistically speaking, there is no inherent superiority to any lect, in a social context there is a world of stylistic difference between the spoken and, especially, the written Spanish of (the example given) a lower-middle or lower-class Hispanic community in the United States, educated in English not Spanish, and middle- or upper-class South Americans educated in Spanish. Notice Rosenfelder used the words 'lousy command of the written standard', not 'of Spanish' or such.


It seemed to me that either the author confused social inferiority of a dialect with objective linguistic inferiority, or that his comment about the linguist was basically a non sequitur.
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Postby Twpsyn » Mon Aug 18, 2008 1:12 am

As for the prescriptivism comment: note that in the context of the article, it's only a minor comment added at the end, and indeed specifically refers to the impressions of the author's non-linguist wife. The bit about what a linguist would say anticipated frequent readers of his website, who tend to be linguistically informed and would make the same objection. With that out of the way:

I still disagree. You must be more of a natural at learning languages than I am. I find it a painful, clumsy, and most definitely unenjoyable process. I mainly do it because of a lingering feeling that I am an uncultured ignoramus for not knowing another language. That's probably why I picked Greek.


You disagreed to this, but you said 'sure' to my remark that language learning is a skill that improves with practice ... as I said, an adult can come to the point where language-learning is more smooth and efficient, through cultivating this skill. A child doing it the first time has no skill at this, and neither does a person just starting out, nor am I claiming that language-learning is ever downright easy; on the contrary, I think it's rather laborious for everyone.


After all, not being neurologists, I don't think either you or I can say for certain whether the brains of young 'uns really are better at learning things.


I'm certainly not saying that children are better at learning everything. Just spoken language.


That was what I meant to say, and my point, such as it was, still stands.

Perhaps it's fallacious even to use the words 'easy' and 'difficult', when a very young child's developing intellect doesn't really think in those terms, especially not about the process of language-learning he or she is going through. What does a child actively think about that process? Going by our adult memories, we would say 'nothing, it just happens', or at any rate 'we don't remember the process' (this inability to remember the process was also mentioned in the article). But this lack of memory does not prove, one way or the other, that at the time the process was either 'easy' or 'hard'.

(As for whether it's 'natural', I say, certainly: the use of language is something our brains are indubitably wired for. A child simply has no alternative: he or she must learn the language that is spoken around him or her, or be unable to communicate with his family and peers. This necessity is what motivates a child to learn a language, not any inherent hard-wiring: after all, a 'feral' baby will not devise a language of its own!)

Speaking of the article, I've been sort of ignoring one of its main points: children, exactly as for adults, don't learn a language if they don't have to. This is why attempts by Star Trek enthusiasts to bring up their children in Klingon, for example, have failed: because there's no community around them that requires the use of that language for them to be involved in it. I would be interested to see how you respond to the unwillingness of children to become fluent in more languages than they have to as evidence that they find learning languages a hassle.
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Postby Lex » Mon Aug 18, 2008 2:42 am

Twpsyn wrote:(As for whether it's 'natural', I say, certainly: the use of language is something our brains are indubitably wired for. A child simply has no alternative: he or she must learn the language that is spoken around him or her, or be unable to communicate with his family and peers. This necessity is what motivates a child to learn a language, not any inherent hard-wiring: after all, a 'feral' baby will not devise a language of its own!)


I doubt that a child feels any "need" to learn to talk, and that this is what "motivates" him; at least not in any meaningful, self-conscious sense of the words "need" or "motivate". I still go by the theory that "a child simply has no alternative" but to acquire a language because, if the child is exposed to said language 24/7, it's natural for a child to acquire it; it just happens because it's in the hardwired nature of a child. There's no felt need, no motivation, no exercise of willpower; it just happens because it's in the wiring.

No, feral children don't devise a language of their own. This could be like my chick bonding example, however. A chick can't bond if there is no "mother" to bond to. And after a certain time, it can't bond at all, even if its biological mother is present. I suggest that language is much the same. Language, like bonding, is essentially social, and requires more than one. Just because the bonding instinct, or language instinct, doesn't work without the prerequisite social environment, doesn't mean it's not wired, or that the wiring doesn't change with time.

I think it's interesting that you admit that "the use of language is something our brains are indubitably wired for", but think that language acquisition in children is not hardwired, and think the wiring cannot change over a person's lifetime. In evolutionary terms, this makes little sense. That children learn the language of their parents, as early as possible, does make sense, and so a brain wired for early language acquisition makes sense. That adults continue to have this enhanced capacity for language acquisition does not. As an adult member of your "clan" of mostly hairless primates, you've either learned the language or you have not. If you haven't, you're defective and hopeless. And clans probably tended not to interact much, except through violence, so learning the language of another clan wasn't necessary. So what reason would there be for us to keep our early language acqusition capability after it was no longer needed?

Twpsyn wrote:Speaking of the article, I've been sort of ignoring one of its main points: children, exactly as for adults, don't learn a language if they don't have to.


Well, in general you may be correct, but I think this forum is a prime exception to this rule, at least as pertains to adults. :wink:

Twpsyn wrote:This is why attempts by Star Trek enthusiasts to bring up their children in Klingon, for example, have failed: because there's no community around them that requires the use of that language for them to be involved in it. I would be interested to see how you respond to the unwillingness of children to become fluent in more languages than they have to as evidence that they find learning languages a hassle.


I don't have a real objection to this; both nature and people tend to be lazy. This in no way disproves the idea that language acquisition is more natural for children, though. If language acquisition is a hardwired social instinct, as I say, and the society (clan) you are in speaks English, then what is the advantage to be gained by acquiring Klingon?

Since any actual experiments in this area would be ethically questionable, to say the least, let's do a thought experiment. A child is raised with no physical deprivation in any way, with loving, appropriate physical contact and emotional bonding, but no speech, until the age of, say, puberty. Are you actually suggesting that this teenager would then be able to learn speech as a small child would? I would bet he would do no better than a feral child of the same age.
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Postby Twpsyn » Mon Aug 18, 2008 5:10 pm

I think you're misunderstanding my position. The way I see it so far, we agree on just about everything (the hardwiring of brains for language use, the (mostly social) reasons a young child learns one language instead of another, etc.). The only place we seem to have a real disagreement is the opinion I expressed in my original comment in this thread: whether it's somehow inherently and unchangeably easier for children to learn languages than it is for adults. I posit that it is always difficult to learn a language, regardless of age, though (for an adult) it is a skill that improves with experience. Children are certainly hardwired to learn a language, but since they are not hardwired for any specific language, they must struggle through by trial and error.

I don't have any data for this, but I should not find it unreasonable for an adult language learner with an efficient method and a good flashcard program, studying several hours a day, to make faster progress in a language than a child, who does not even have the groundwork of an existing language with which to make connexions, mnemonics, see patterns, & c. That, in my opinion, and through my own experience with language learning, is the greatest advantage an adult mind has.
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Postby Essorant » Mon Aug 18, 2008 6:01 pm

I don't think it is as hard for a child to learn a language, only because the child does have an easier method: imitating and imitating from an ongoing stream of those around him. It is not as hard to imitate something as it is to study and understand something. But, who would wish to go through life only imitating forever? Not I.
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Postby Lex » Sat Aug 23, 2008 11:46 pm

Twpsyn wrote:I think you're misunderstanding my position.


Quite possibly.

Twpsyn wrote:The way I see it so far, we agree on just about everything (the hardwiring of brains for language use, the (mostly social) reasons a young child learns one language instead of another, etc.). The only place we seem to have a real disagreement is the opinion I expressed in my original comment in this thread: whether it's somehow inherently and unchangeably easier for children to learn languages than it is for adults.


Fair enough.

Twpsyn wrote:I don't have any data for this, but I should not find it unreasonable for an adult language learner with an efficient method and a good flashcard program, studying several hours a day, to make faster progress in a language than a child, who does not even have the groundwork of an existing language with which to make connexions, mnemonics, see patterns, & c. That, in my opinion, and through my own experience with language learning, is the greatest advantage an adult mind has.


This may be true. I believe that the existing language knowledge of an adult is sometimes a handicap, though, at least in early stages. It is hard for an adult to "empty his cup", and truly think in another language. For quite some time, adults tend to translate mentally to their first language, and this can be a huge obstacle to true fluency. At least, this has been my experience.

Also, an adult would, as you say, need to apply himself strictly to a carefully comstructed, unnatural program (flashcards, grammar learning method, etc.) in order to learn faster than a child. If the child learns by nothing more than immersion, then the child has the easier time of it (although perhaps not the faster). To me this means that children are naturally better language learners.
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