4.0509 Language Learning (4/119)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Wed, 19 Sep 90 23:48:52 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0509. Wednesday, 19 Sep 1990.

(1) Date: Wed, 19 Sep 90 08:47:24 EDT (31 lines)
From: Tom Nimick <0632281@PUCC>
Subject: Language Learning

(2) Date: Wed, 19 Sep 90 10:22:52 CDT (25 lines)
From: Norman Hinton <SSUBIT12@UIUCVMD>
Subject: Language Learning; pseudo-loan words

(3) Date: Wed, 19 Sep 90 10:18 MDT (20 lines)
Subject: Language and memory

(4) Date: Wed, 19 Sep 90 15:18:00 EST (43 lines)
From: Michael_Kessler.Hum@mailgate.sfsu.edu
Subject: Anti-intellectualism and Language learning

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Wed, 19 Sep 90 08:47:24 EDT
From: Tom Nimick <0632281@PUCC>
Subject: Language Learning

REPLY TO 09/17/90 21:50 FROM EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET "Elaine Brennan & Allen
Renear": 4.0495 Language Learning (4/213)

There is a clear consensus that students should learn foreign languages
and that the earlier they start the better. However, I have seen little
discussion among this primarily university-level crowd about how such
goals are to be accomplished short of requiring foreign language study
in colleges and universities. I was on the sidelines of a program to
encourage the teaching of Chinese in high schools and can only report
that the immediate prospect for good foreign language training in high
schools is poor at best. I also think that universities have been
remiss in requiring only minimum levels of foreign language (often two
years) because, as a number of people have pointed out, many students
retain little of the foreign language that they learn. I see little
hope short of restructuring the way elementary and secondary school
education is designed and funded, but perhaps some of you have better

As for the learning of languages once you have left childhood, my own
experience suggests to me that continuous language learning perhaps
preserves some of those language acquisition skills to a later age. I
studied French from the seventh grade until graduation from college, and
some Latin and Spanish within that time. Upon graduation at 22 I
started my study of Chinese that continues to this day (now 32). At 29
I started Japanese and found that I had only as much difficulty with it
as my younger classmates. I am curious whether others have had
similar experiences.
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------32----
Date: Wed, 19 Sep 90 10:22:52 CDT
From: Norman Hinton <SSUBIT12@UIUCVMD>
Subject: Language Learning; pseudo-loan words

I wasn't going to add to the languge learning discussion, but I'm too
much an academic to resist....

Surely one of the goals of humanistic education is to show studentss
things they have not been aware of ? to get them to "stand outsdie
themselves" and experience other cultural forms, methods, etc ? and it
is certainly true that not all students learn the procedures, but we do
it anyway....

I don't see that exposing students to other languages is any different
than expopsing them to other music,painting, architecture, etc. Should
we teach only English and American composers, painters, sculptors?

I find that nothing gives students a sense of otherness more quickly than
exposure to another language, even if they don't lern it well---even if
they reject it as "silly".

As to "pseudo-loan words"...a newtopic to me, and a fascinating one. I'm
searching for borrowing of foreign plurals as English singulars....

As a name for the phenomen_on_, how about "quasi-loan(s)" ?
(3) --------------------------------------------------------------30----
Date: Wed, 19 Sep 90 10:18 MDT
Subject: Language and memory

James O'Donnell's recounting* of Canetti's memories passing from one
language to another poses an interesting question about memories
themselves and the role of language in them. I'm sure most people who
speak another language or languages have all had the experience of
recalling events and experiences and being unable to determine whether
they took place in one language or another. Often, only by retracing
specific instances and environments can one be certain about the
language that was being spoken on those occasions. What do the
psychologists have to say about the basis of memory? Is it
fundamentally eidetic and only incidentally linguistic? And what might
this tell us about learning in general?

*"At any rate, it was some years later when Canetti realized that all his
memories of the first five years in Bulgaria, when he had known only Ladino
and Bulgarian and not a word of German, had somehow or other translated
themselves in his memory into German when he wasn't looking."
(4) --------------------------------------------------------------58----
Date: Wed, 19 Sep 90 15:18:00 EST
From: Michael_Kessler.Hum@mailgate.sfsu.edu
Subject: Anti-intellectualism and Language learning

>I myself am a product of that mind- frame (having written a
>doctoral dissertation on Albert Camus's attempts to create modern
>tragedy), but ...

Just remember "il faut imaginer Sysiphe heureux" when in front
of "show-me" students.

>On the one hand, there is an overwhelming body of research to
>indicate that language learning, for whatever purpose, is best
>accomplished during childhood.

And there is a great deal of anecdotal information showing that
even adults can learn languages at least usefully (I am thinking
of the many refugees from wherever to wherever who have learned
to operate in a new language).

>I'm sure I'm not the only one who is tired of meeting alumni at
>cocktail parties and hearing them say, "Oh, so you teach French
>[substitute other language to fit the case]. I took two years
>of French [substitute as above] n years ago, and I can't
>speak/read a word of it now."

The next time I meet Stephen J. Gould at a cocktail party, I will
remind him that the Earth Science and Earth History courses I
took (he was the lab assistant) survived just long enough for me
to pass the final exam.

>Having picked up my spectacles many years ago, I would urge
>attention to the connections between that history and that of
>class relations.

Amen. We need not go far in history to see intellectuals and
humanists cozy up or at least accomodate themselves to
unpalatable powers that be. Just look around the world for the
last 50 years. Intellectualism and humanism are no guarantee of