Learning French in Middle Age

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jeidsath
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Learning French in Middle Age

Post by jeidsath » Tue Apr 30, 2019 12:26 pm

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/30/opin ... e-age.html

The author's experience with middle age language learning hasn't really been my own. In fact, I think that the adult version of myself has some advantages compared to my younger version.
Joel Eidsath -- jeidsath@gmail.com

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Cathexis
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Re: Learning French in Middle Age

Post by Cathexis » Wed May 01, 2019 3:48 pm

Would you have any thoughts on how all this applies to those trying to learn primarily, "literary languages?"
Latin and Attic or Homeric Greek being the obvious candidates and most relevant to this forum.

I wouldn't ask without sticking my own neck out there, so my personal view is that Real Life is the principle
obstacle; Kids, Bills, the J-O-B, an aging marriage, etc. Joseph Campbell used to tell the story(made up) of the
Hack Writer who really wants to write his Great Novel, but decides instead to make his pile and then retire early,
only to find when he finally does sit down to write his magnum opus there's nothing left inside worth writing about.
I don't think adult learning is that dire, but it has a point nonetheless. What would you say, Joel et al?

Glad you posted this,

Cathexis
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BrianB
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Re: Learning French in Middle Age

Post by BrianB » Wed May 01, 2019 4:29 pm

From that New York Times report:
Children need seven or eight years of intensive immersion to speak like a native. These years must start by about age 10, to fit them all in by age 17 or 18, when there’s a sharp drop in the rate of learning. (He’s not sure whether this drop is caused by changes in the brain or in circumstances).

The “circumstances” here would presumably include the muscular development of the organs of speech. For anyone who has spent their childhood and adolescence in a single-language environment, their mouth and throat will have developed to meet the needs of the one language and that development may or may not be readily transferable to the needs of articulating the sounds of a different language.

This, of course, affects their use of the spoken language only. It has nothing to do with language learning as such. Given the right conditions and enough time, they can still learn to read and write another language as well as a native speaker can read it and write it.

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jeidsath
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Re: Learning French in Middle Age

Post by jeidsath » Wed May 01, 2019 10:27 pm

I wouldn't ask without sticking my own neck out there, so my personal view is that Real Life is the principle
obstacle; Kids, Bills, the J-O-B, an aging marriage, etc.
This is true. On the other hand, you probably have more financial resources by this stage of life. Also, you tend to develop a longer term view as you get older, and get better at planning things out rationally, making adjustments for real life as it comes.

Short term thinking people are probably short term thinkers all of their lives. And they can't be successful at a long term project like language learning unless they wind up in an environment that forces them to learn for a long enough time period. That might be college, a foreign country, or a relationship.

And while everybody is a short term thinker at 19, some people grow into more long term thinking over the years. They can learn something if they set their minds to it.
Joel Eidsath -- jeidsath@gmail.com

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Cathexis
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Re: Learning French in Middle Age

Post by Cathexis » Thu May 02, 2019 1:12 pm

Well put. Or to quote Stan Lee, "'Nuff said!"


Cathexis
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Re: Learning French in Middle Age

Post by Callisper » Wed May 08, 2019 11:01 pm

I've never particularly believed that children are better at learning languages than adults. The differences between adults' situation and approach and children's are huge and refute any fair comparison - but my experience ties up with yours: jettisoning just a fraction of the ballast that weighs down typical adult learners has proved sufficient for me to learn languages more successfully as a (young) adult than I did as a child.

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Re: Learning French in Middle Age

Post by Andriko » Sat May 18, 2019 3:54 pm

jeidsath wrote:
Tue Apr 30, 2019 12:26 pm
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/30/opin ... e-age.html

The author's experience with middle age language learning hasn't really been my own. In fact, I think that the adult version of myself has some advantages compared to my younger version.
I feel the same - I made attempts to learn languages from my late teens (Ancient Greek, then Russian mainly), where as find that in the last 9 months of learning Ancient Greek 'properly', I can already see a vast gulf between my ability in this language compared to where I got with several years of Russian. The biggest factor has been approaching it with more seriousness and dedication, and far more applied and consistent effort.

As for the lady in the article, I suspect partly that she has reached a level where she is good enough to notice what she doesn't know, making here think she is worse than she is. I also sense that she might not be making a determined effort to seriously round off her understanding (understandably, as she has children).

That said, one of the biggest problems I find with modern language learning is that I never really felt like I was learning the language - just same phrases that could conduct be from the train station to the bathroom whilst pontificating about the colour of my sweater.

Ancient language textbooks, on the other hand, assume that I am a reasonably intelligent adult (an unreasonable assumption!), and are thus not frightening of hitting me with the grammar, and preparing me for reading complicated texts at quite an early stage.

Perhaps this is another reason she, as well as many others, struggle with languages.

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