Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Two Stories Made Me Smile

“They say” that you shouldn’t read the front page of the newspaper because it causes stress. And normally I would whole-heartedly concur. Today’s freebie news rag that greeted me at my bed & breakfast table space was The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, Virginia).

The story that caught my eye, “Stafford school lets kids start becoming bilingual early on,” reported that a popular elementary school Spanish program will continue next year. Hooray for the good guys! As a linguistics major, I am a huge fan of early bilingual education. For a whole bunch of reasons. One, it is well-known that early second language learners are more successful at actually learning the new language. It’s just plain easier to acquire a second (or third or … ) language when you’re young (I’m talking under 10 here). Two, people who learn more than just their mother tongue learn more about the world, languages in general, and more about their own language.

(If you’ve ever studied German or Russian, you appreciate English’s non-existent noun declension system. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, well, there you go. But in German, for example, when you say
I give you the books.
I am carrying the books.
I didn’t read the book.
This is my book.
I hit you with the books.
The books are red.
the word “book/books” changes according to how it’s used in the above sentences. The noun (book/books) inflects based on its number (plural or singular) and case (nominative, accusative, dative, or genitive). Russian has all this plus two additional cases: prepositional and instrumental. In English, the noun inflects on number only.)

I think learning a second language is one of the most mind-expanding experiences (along with learning to play a musical instrument). For those of you who say “it’s too difficult”, a 5 year old child knows the grammar of her native language (the child might get a few exceptions wrong, but mostly she has internalized all the rules). Children learn by hearing in context. They abstract. They generalize. And then they learn the exceptions.

Okay, enough linguistics. The second story that made me smile was “It’s Official: Obama Has Won”.

1 comment:

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