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    Philippine Expat Davis Knowlton's Avatar
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    Language Center For Your Brain

    I was working on translating some old maps and documents written in Hindi over the weekend. Partially out of interest in the content, and partly because I wanted to see how rusty my Hindi had become. (This was in part sparked by watching a British TV show, in which several of the characters spoke in Hindi to each other on occasion, and I found to my surprise I could still follow much of it.)

    I found that when I was mentally searching for the appropriate word in Hindi, the word would pop into my mind in French, or, once or twice, in Thai - sometimes words I didn't even remember knowing in those languages - although I must have at some point.

    I just thought it was kind of interesting. I guess all language is stored in one data base in your brain, and your brain just scans until it finds the word - in some language.

    Have others, especially those who speak multiple languages, had the same experience? I'm sure a number of TD posters speak multiple languages. I was bi-lingual in French and English for much of my childhood, could read, write and speak Hindi fluently at one point, and once had a pretty decent working knowledge of Thai.

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    It's an amazing thing the brain. Yours is obviously more amazing than mine Davis, mines crammed full of Trivial shite and 1 language

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    I don't know barbaro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Davis Knowlton View Post
    Have others, especially those who speak multiple languages, had the same experience? I'm sure a number of TD posters speak multiple languages. I was bi-lingual in French and English for much of my childhood, could read, write and speak Hindi fluently at one point, and once had a pretty decent working knowledge of Thai.
    I cannot say I speak multiple language or even one foreign language - because I'm not at the level that is high enough.

    However, I am currently studying 2 foreign languages at the same time. Both languages are with teachers, textbooks, and listening CDs, watching movies and TV, etc.

    I often mix the 2 different words from the 2 different languages until I "fix" my mind on the particular language I'm focusing on/using.
    ............

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    Philippine Expat Davis Knowlton's Avatar
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    ^I think that learning two different languages at one time would be incredibly difficult, especially if they are of the same language group. The year I spent on Hindi - one student - one teacher. Six hours a day plus tapes in the evening - six days a week - was a VERY long year. It got me where I needed to be, but was a tough process.

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    Maybe the relationship to Sanskrit of Hindi and Thai could account for the Thai words popping up. The French is kind of mysterious, but since you were fluent in French in your youth perhaps a deep search of your files takes you to vocabulary learnt as what was stored as your second native language. Did you mistakenly speak French when learning Hindi or Thai? If not the phenomenon you are experiencing could be a result of your engaging in the translation of text, which is a conscious, deliberate process that is quite different from the spontaneous production required in successful spoken communication.
    “You can lead a horticulture but you can’t make her think.” Dorothy Parker

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    I don't know barbaro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Davis Knowlton View Post
    ^I think that learning two different languages at one time would be incredibly difficult, especially if they are of the same language group. The year I spent on Hindi - one student - one teacher. Six hours a day plus tapes in the evening - six days a week - was a VERY long year. It got me where I needed to be, but was a tough process.
    It's not difficult.

    I think this is one of the reasons.

    In 1 language I was Solid Intermediate 17 years ago. I studied this language in high school for 2 years, and then a language academies in that particular country with a teacher 1-on-1, 5 days per week. I then watched movies many times, news, etc.

    I acquired this language easily and am doing so now.

    My current level at this language (for speaking, listening) is in the Intermediate range, but at a higher area of intermediate. (I do not write, but probably should). I can read newspapers and get the main point as well as many details.

    This is a Romance language.

    The 2nd language I'm studying is an East Asian language.

    I started 5 years ago, stopped after 9 months, and then acquired vocab over the years. But I unfortunately did not expand my fluency ability.

    1 year ago, I started studying this East Asian language again formally: teacher, textbook, listening, reading comprehension, writing, TV, and of course using the language with locals.

    This East Asian language is easy for me to read. I can read now at the Intermediate to Upper-Intermediate level.

    My listening is improving. It's at the lower end of Pre-Intermediate.

    My speaking is the weakest skill.

    I rarely write.


    It's good for the mind.

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    Philippine Expat Davis Knowlton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by robuzo View Post
    Maybe the relationship to Sanskrit of Hindi and Thai could account for the Thai words popping up. The French is kind of mysterious, but since you were fluent in French in your youth perhaps a deep search of your files takes you to vocabulary learnt as what was stored as your second native language. Did you mistakenly speak French when learning Hindi or Thai? If not the phenomenon you are experiencing could be a result of your engaging in the translation of text, which is a conscious, deliberate process that is quite different from the spontaneous production required in successful spoken communication.
    Doesn't seem to happen when speaking; only during the thought process.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Davis Knowlton View Post
    Have others, especially those who speak multiple languages, had the same experience? .
    I speak English, enough Thai and once in awhile I speak dat ole Cheecago dialect when I gets going about dis and dat. But ta answer ya question, nah.

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    Philippine Expat Davis Knowlton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by barbaro View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Davis Knowlton View Post
    ^I think that learning two different languages at one time would be incredibly difficult, especially if they are of the same language group. The year I spent on Hindi - one student - one teacher. Six hours a day plus tapes in the evening - six days a week - was a VERY long year. It got me where I needed to be, but was a tough process.
    It's not difficult.

    I think this is one of the reasons.

    In 1 language I was Solid Intermediate 17 years ago. I studied this language in high school for 2 years, and then a language academies in that particular country with a teacher 1-on-1, 5 days per week. I then watched movies many times, news, etc.

    I acquired this language easily and am doing so now.

    My current level at this language (for speaking, listening) is in the Intermediate range, but at a higher area of intermediate. (I do not write, but probably should). I can read newspapers and get the main point as well as many details.

    This is a Romance language.

    The 2nd language I'm studying is an East Asian language.

    I started 5 years ago, stopped after 9 months, and then acquired vocab over the years. But I unfortunately did not expand my fluency ability.

    1 year ago, I started studying this East Asian language again formally: teacher, textbook, listening, reading comprehension, writing, TV, and of course using the language with locals.

    This East Asian language is easy for me to read. I can read now at the Intermediate to Upper-Intermediate level.

    My listening is improving. It's at the lower end of Pre-Intermediate.

    My speaking is the weakest skill.

    I rarely write.


    It's good for the mind.
    With Hindi, I found that my progress surged once I got the written language down. Rather than trying to Anglicize the Hindi sounds into written English, once I could write the Hindi, the pronunciation made perfect sense. Also Hindi is not a tonal language, which greatly simplified things.

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    English has always been my first language but along the way I learnt to speak Strine,Merikaan and Nuh Zeelun but in my head it all sounds the same.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Davis Knowlton View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by robuzo View Post
    Maybe the relationship to Sanskrit of Hindi and Thai could account for the Thai words popping up. The French is kind of mysterious, but since you were fluent in French in your youth perhaps a deep search of your files takes you to vocabulary learnt as what was stored as your second native language. Did you mistakenly speak French when learning Hindi or Thai? If not the phenomenon you are experiencing could be a result of your engaging in the translation of text, which is a conscious, deliberate process that is quite different from the spontaneous production required in successful spoken communication.
    Doesn't seem to happen when speaking; only during the thought process.
    Translation is a different skill from communication. I know some very good translators who don't comfortably speak the language(s) that they work from. Nabokov, one of the greatest of writers of English, was not entirely comfortable speaking extemporaneously. This is probably happening because you are translating and consciously "searching your files" for words.

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    Philippine Expat Davis Knowlton's Avatar
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    ^Makes sense. Kind of cool how it works.

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    Perhaps the word is more commonly thought of by you in French? Not translation but habit?

    As a child growing up in Japan I spoke Japanese fluently. My daily life was spent with other children but exclusively Japanese. In order to play together the language barrier had to be overcome. I retain a basic understanding, but lost it through disuse.

    My Spanish was basic until I went to work in Venezuela. In order to communicate with the contractor's you needed to communicate in Spanish. After two years I pretty much had it down. I retain most of it today and when in S.A. continue to do well.

    My Thai is miserable. I refer to it as child like. I speak in single words, nouns, to get the general idea across. I need to focus more.

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    Philippine Expat Davis Knowlton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ltnt View Post
    Perhaps the word is more commonly thought of by you in French? Not translation but habit?

    As a child growing up in Japan I spoke Japanese fluently. My daily life was spent with other children but exclusively Japanese. In order to play together the language barrier had to be overcome. I retain a basic understanding, but lost it through disuse.

    My Spanish was basic until I went to work in Venezuela. In order to communicate with the contractor's you needed to communicate in Spanish. After two years I pretty much had it down. I retain most of it today and when in S.A. continue to do well.

    My Thai is miserable. I refer to it as child like. I speak in single words, nouns, to get the general idea across. I need to focus more.
    I kind of doubt French has that strong a hold. I already spoke English when I moved to Paris at age three. I was there from 3-7, and attended local French schools. Both of my parents speak fluent French. I next used it in Tunisia for a year when I was 12, then not again until occasional use in Vietnam in my late-teens. I have never lived in a French-speaking country as an adult. I sat and shot the shit with three Foreign Legion paras at an outdoor bar a few months ago, and we managed fine. None spoke English, but only one of them was French. Still, I was able to dredge up words long forgotten. Booze, as always, helped. That and the fact that these guys were interesting to chat with. Still, who knows? I could be a closet Frog.......

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    Quote Originally Posted by ltnt View Post
    Perhaps the word is more commonly thought of by you in French? Not translation but habit?

    As a child growing up in Japan I spoke Japanese fluently. My daily life was spent with other children but exclusively Japanese. In order to play together the language barrier had to be overcome. I retain a basic understanding, but lost it through disuse.

    My Spanish was basic until I went to work in Venezuela. In order to communicate with the contractor's you needed to communicate in Spanish. After two years I pretty much had it down. I retain most of it today and when in S.A. continue to do well.

    My Thai is miserable. I refer to it as child like. I speak in single words, nouns, to get the general idea across. I need to focus more.
    One picks up, literally I think absorbs, language naturally as a child. It's fascinating to watch my son growing up bilingual, because while he does occasional slip up with his English syntax (which I think is a result of his mother insisting on speaking with him in English ) he never at any stage confused the two languages. Since you learned Japanese as a native when a young child the Japanese you recall (or were you to choose take up the study of it again) would probably sound fluent in pronunciation even if your vocabulary and grammar were sub-par.

    DK, it is definitely cool. Language is above all else what makes us unique as humans. I think language is such an important and pervasive aspect of our thought and consciousness that simply studying a language, even spending hours and hours working on it, will never result in fluency. To become fluent in a language as an adult I think one has to be inspired to incorporate that language as part of oneself. If the language remains "foreign" it will never be natural, because that requires feeling at least as much if not more than thought.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Davis Knowlton
    I guess all language is stored in one data base in your brain
    Nope, it doesn't really work like that - much more complex. This is the old Chomsky (and long long before) type view that has been proven completely wrong over the last 20 years from advancements in neurolinguistics, psycholinguistics and AI (as well as many other associated areas).

    Quote Originally Posted by robuzo
    I think language is such an important and pervasive aspect of our thought and consciousness that simply studying a language, even spending hours and hours working on it, will never result in fluency.
    Interesting, and getting closer, but the words 'thought' and 'consciousness' are way off; though I'm sure you didn't mean them in their literal sense.

    Quote Originally Posted by robuzo
    To become fluent in a language as an adult I think one has to be inspired to incorporate that language as part of oneself.
    This is much closer. The modern thoughts on how language works is that its completely embodied and experiential, thus indeed it is entirely part of oneself and the surroundings.
    How do I post these pictures???

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    Quote Originally Posted by Davis Knowlton View Post
    ^I think that learning two different languages at one time would be incredibly difficult, especially if they are of the same language group. The year I spent on Hindi - one student - one teacher. Six hours a day plus tapes in the evening - six days a week - was a VERY long year. It got me where I needed to be, but was a tough process.
    DLI or a Uni? Just askin...

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    Philippine Expat Davis Knowlton's Avatar
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    ^Foreign Service Institute in DC.

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    Quote Originally Posted by chitown View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Davis Knowlton View Post
    Have others, especially those who speak multiple languages, had the same experience? .
    I speak English, enough Thai and once in awhile I speak dat ole Cheecago dialect when I gets going about dis and dat. But ta answer ya question, nah.
    ...expected.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Davis Knowlton View Post
    ^Foreign Service Institute in DC.
    Wow, you have a colorful past don't you? Of course you have had so much extensive training throughout your career you forgot some of it but funny how it snaps back when you need it automatically.

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    Need a larger hat: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/18/op...R_AP_LO_MST_FB
    GRAY MATTER
    Why Bilinguals Are Smarter
    SPEAKING two languages rather than just one has obvious practical benefits in an increasingly globalized world. But in recent years, scientists have begun to show that the advantages of bilingualism are even more fundamental than being able to converse with a wider range of people. Being bilingual, it turns out, makes you smarter. It can have a profound effect on your brain, improving cognitive skills not related to language and even shielding against dementia in old age.

    This view of bilingualism is remarkably different from the understanding of bilingualism through much of the 20th century. Researchers, educators and policy makers long considered a second language to be an interference, cognitively speaking, that hindered a child’s academic and intellectual development.

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    I don't know barbaro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Davis Knowlton View Post
    With Hindi, I found that my progress surged once I got the written language down. Rather than trying to Anglicize the Hindi sounds into written English, once I could write the Hindi, the pronunciation made perfect sense. Also Hindi is not a tonal language, which greatly simplified things.
    Yes, I see it the same way:

    Many languages need to be read. And, the alphabet needs to be known.

    Reading is very powerful in learning, IMO.

    Good on you.

    I am very curious about the Hindi language as well as WHY you chose to study it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Davis Knowlton View Post
    ^Foreign Service Institute in DC.
    If, you're willing to share.

    I'm very interested in why you studied Hindi (if you can say).

    And what do you think about about Monterey, CA program?

    May I ask what year this was?

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    Quote Originally Posted by barbaro View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Davis Knowlton View Post
    ^Foreign Service Institute in DC.
    If, you're willing to share.

    I'm very interested in why you studied Hindi (if you can say).

    And what do you think about about Monterey, CA program?

    May I ask what year this was?
    Barbaro, do you mean DLI or MIIS?

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    Philippine Expat Davis Knowlton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by barbaro View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Davis Knowlton View Post
    ^Foreign Service Institute in DC.
    If, you're willing to share.

    I'm very interested in why you studied Hindi (if you can say).

    And what do you think about about Monterey, CA program?

    May I ask what year this was?
    It was '82-'83. I was on my way to India (83-86) and needed Hindi for work. I went to FSI because DLI doesn't offer Hindi, and universities don't offer crash courses. I needed to get my language skills to a certain level, and had a very limited amount of time in which to do so. FSI also has one of the best language schools in the country - all native-speaking instructors; great facilities. I only wish I had been learning a language like Chinese or Arabic, which is used in more than one small part of one country.

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