Sunday, 30 March 2014

What do you mean, 'Hard to learn'?

HMM... – it's† all about context. That piece says:
After all, what makes a language easy or hard?  Is it the writing system? Grammar rules like adjective agreement? The arbitrary use of genders for nouns? Don’t even get me started on cases and declension! I would argue that it is none of those things (or perhaps all of those things!) More important than any one facet of a language is the perspective from which you look at the language. What is your native language? How many languages have you learned? How old are you? In what environment are you learning the language? All of these factors play a role in how challenging we may find a specific language.
More here
That is, it all depends on the learner.  Well yes, selbstverstehenlich. {Isn't German great? It 'understands itelf'.} If your language uses tones phonemically, for example, you'll find it easier to acquire another language that does the same  – unlike English, which uses tone only for paralinguistic features. But we are where we are; I speak usually to users of a few Indo-European languages, and for my typical speech community it makes sense to say something like 'Learning Chinese is difficult' (for reasons adumbrated here).

But this has got to be a quickie, and I'll just give an example of the way context influences things. The example may seem a bit of a stretch, but that's context for you: it makes sense for me, because I'm the sort of person it makes sense for – DUH.
<autobiographical_note date_range="early 70s">
This morning I was listening to a recently rediscovered Letter from America.  That context recalled for me the last days of Nixon. I wondered whether it would mention that judge ... what was his name?...

At this moment a totally irrelevant memory cut in. Before Douglas Adams became a confirmed Footlighter he wrote and played in an ensemble called Adams, Smith, Adams. The 'Space, the final frontier .... to boldly split infinitives no man has split before' passage that ultimately appeared in print in The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy first saw the light of day in a monologue that, as I remember, opened an Adams, Smith, Adams revue in 1972[??? Early 70s anyway.]. Another gem from that revue was the line 'the Mercedes-Benz, that Rolls Royce of motor cars'.

But the relevant memory was  sung to the tune of Maria:
Sirica. I've just met a judge called Sirica
The most scrupulous judge I ever heard  – Sirica.
So I got to that name before Alastair Cooke confirmed it.

I'm not sure how this is relevant to the issue of context , except in that expectations ["'Chinese is hard' versus 'AC will mention Sirica'"] are influenced by everything that one has seen and done to date. Of course.


PS Now for another bash at That Door (with my new toy, a proper plane not the Surform thing I've been using [sponsored, presumably, by the makers of Band-Aid]). And then I'll make more than one inroad into that #WVGTbook (V5.<next>) Index.

† Update 2014.03.31.10:15 – Fix typo. (One of these days I'll get that darn apostrophe right. I know the rule, but still....)

Update 2014.05.02.14:15 – Updated footer:

 Mammon When Vowels Get Together V5.2: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-pairs. Now complete (that is, it covers all vowel pairs –  but there's still stuff to be done with it; an index, perhaps...?) 

And here it is: Digraphs and Diphthongs . The (partial) index has an entry for each vowel pair that can represent each monophthong phoneme. For example AE, EA and EE are by far the most common, but there are eight other possibilities. The index uses colour to give an idea of how common a spelling is, ranging from bright red to represent the most common to pale olive green to represent the least common.

Also available at Amazon: When Vowels Get Together: The paperback.

And if you have no objection to such promiscuity, Like this.

Freebies (Teaching resources: over 40.300 views  and well over 5,600 downloads to date**. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with well over 2,000 views and nearly 1,000 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)

** This figure includes the count of views for a single resource held in an account that I accidentally created many years ago.

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