221: LEARNING TO TALK FOREIGN
It is easier, and faster, to learn a foreign language when you are a child than when you are grown-up.
This widely accepted piece of common sense folk knowledge has been tested by many researchers in many settings, and always found to be untrue. Not only is there no evidence that children learn languages faster than adults, but there’s quite a bit to suggest that it’s adults who have the advantage. Adults understand the processes of learning better and have developed memory techniques. They look for patterns when learning a language, and apply them, and have much more experience in doing so than children. Some studies even show that children who start learning a second language at secondary school do better than those who start at primary school. One reason for the endurance of the myth is perhaps that success is judged differently in adults and children; kids use simpler sentences and a smaller vocabulary than adults do. For a grown-up to be considered proficient in a second tongue, she’ll be expected to demonstrate a more sophisticated and complete command of it.
https://people.ucsc.edu/~mclaugh/MYTHS.htm; www.brainscape.com/ blog/2015/12/adults-kids-learn-languages/; www.telegraph.co.uk/ education/educationopinion/10315238/Are-children-really-better-atforeign-language-learning.html; www.effectivelanguagelearning.com/ language-learning-tips/language-learning-myths
Je ne haben el expertise of any sort in this subject, so if you have corrections or objections to make to any of the above please translate them carefully into Volapuk and send them to FT.
In the 19th century, an FT reader has always understood, Londoners used to get rid of sewer gas by burning it in special street lamps. But now she’s been told that sewer lamps never ran on sewer gas. Confused, and possibly a little nauseous, she asks if any students of Victoriana who happen to be wafting past this column might settle the matter for her.