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Can I Learn a Language while Unconscious?

Can I Learn a Language while Unconscious?

Is it really true that we learn languages while we are unconscious? Could this way of language learning be the secret to speeding up the language learning process?

It may sound completely crazy, but recently linguists have stated that implicit language learning (unconscious) is a huge part of learning a second language.

According to an article from the University of Cambridge, “For children, such ‘implicit’ language learning seems to happen spontaneously in the first few years of life; yet, in adulthood, learning a second language is generally far from effortless and has varied success.

So marked is the difference between first- and second-language learning – at least when it takes the form of classroom learning – it might suggest that implicit learning makes no significant contribution to learning a second language. Or it may indicate that typical foreign language teaching doesn’t take full advantage of the process.”

The true challenge now for linguists is to figure out when, where and how implicit learning may be taking place. How can you really decipher when a person is has consciously learned a certain new language pattern or rule or if their brain simply judged it to be right because of unconscious learning?

Dr. John Williams at the Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics and his collaborator, Dr. Janny Leung from the University of Hong Kong, have been hard at work creating an artificial language to do just that. Participants were tested to see whether they correctly acquired, over periods as short as one hour, an understanding of patterns embedded within the artificial language.

According to the article:

An example of their technique is to teach participants four novel forms of the word ‘the’ (gi, ro, ul and ne), telling them that the forms encode a certain meaningful dimension (e.g. gi and ro should be used for describing near objects, ul and ne for far objects). The aim is to see if the participants can spontaneously pick up a correlation with another, hidden, meaning (e.g. that gi and ul should be used with animate nouns and ro and ne with inanimate nouns). The novel forms are embedded in English phrases such as ‘I was terrified when I turned around and saw gi lion right behind me’.

Do they pick up on the concealed pattern when tested? “The answer is yes,” said Dr. Williams, whose research was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. “We found significantly above-chance selection of sentence constructions that were ‘grammatically correct’ according to the hidden pattern. Yet, the participants had no awareness of what they had learned or how. Moreover, we were able to show learning of the same material by native speakers of two typologically very different languages, English and Cantonese.”

Interestingly, picking up the hidden pattern unconsciously doesn’t always happen – if, for instance, the hidden pattern is linguistically unnatural, such as a correlation with whether an object makes a sound or not. “One explanation could be that certain patterns are more accessible to language learning processes than others. Perhaps our brains are built equipped to expect certain patterns, or perhaps they process some patterns better than others,” he added.

What do you think? Can we really learn a language unconsciously?

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Bad Learning Habits to Avoid

Bad Learning Habits to Avoid

Whether you are seeking to learn English Dublin style or any other subject, you should know that there are some behaviors you should avoid in order to make the most of your lessons.

Writing down textual notes

Writing down some key phrases might be useful, however, trying to memorize a complete sentence the way the teacher said it in order to reproduce it later may be a big mistake, as you may be paying more attention to the sound of the words than to the actual message. It is better to listen to what the teacher is saying and afterwards, write a sentence that sums up what they said. This way, your brain will be processing the info given to you, and so, it will be easier to remember the important things later on.

Working Last Minute

Many times we think that we can write a paper at the last minute and get a good mark. Even though it is great to be self-confident when it comes to learning, we should know that teachers expect more from us, they know how much we can give. Of course, no teacher likes a last minute paper, and even if we think it looks O.K, our lack of effort will always show. Information needs some time to be processed, and how ‘mature’ data is will be easily seen in our final rendering.

Not asking for Help

Sometimes students are afraid of asking for help during class time, perhaps because they are afraid of being judged by their classmates. Remember that when you ask a question, everyone benefits from your doubts, just like you should pay attention to others when they ask questions. Teachers are always available to answer all our queries, so you should never be shy or afraid to ask. When taking Chinese courses London students count on native Chinese-speaking trainers who are always willing to explain both the technical aspects of the language and the cultural background.

Over-relying on the Internet

The Internet is an amazing source of information; however, it can be a double-edged sword as well. A lot of the information you can find online is incorrect or inaccurate, which is why you should always verify the information by checking out the sources, which should be official.

Photo Credit: Flickr

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Foreign Language Skills Get Jobs

Foreign Language Skills Get Jobs

We’ve covered the importance of foreign language skills when it comes to getting jobs many times on this blog. It is no longer enough to simply speak English with the level of competition for jobs that is now out there.

Thanks to the expansion of technology and ease of access to information, driven individuals looking for jobs can do many things to help give them an edge.

“The bar has been raised, and expectations are higher, even for entry level employment,’’ said Patricia Hunt Sinacole, chief executive of First Beacon Group, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton.

Obviously, being able to navigate the Internet is a must. Being able to navigate it in a way to make you more attractive to potential jobs is even more important.

With our economy continually globalizing, knowledge of a foreign language has become more and more important. Now you can enhance those skills either online or by using a search engine like Google to find local resources to learn that new language of choice.

According to an article on Boston.com, “Foreign language classes are offered at adult education programs, as well as specialized schools. Other options are to audit a foreign language class at a local university or study-at-home programs such as Rosetta Stone.”

We would also add that places like The World Company are also readily available in your area. Basically adult education programs that are privatized and not given out by local universities. This is a way to learn language on your own time, which is extremely helpful for those already in full time jobs.

“Today, when many American corporations receive as much as 50 percent or more of their profits from overseas business,’’ said Larry Elle, director of Success Associates Career Services in Boston, “it pays them to hire people with language skills.’’

Are you looking for a job? Contact The World Company and we’ll create an individualized program for you to learn that language you just know will help you land the ever-elusive job of a lifetime!

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Does the American Military Struggle with Foreign Language?

Does the American Military Struggle with Foreign Language?

Is it really possible that after a decade into the war in Afghanistan we are still having trouble teaching our troops the local languages?

The answer is yes.

According to Morgan Smiley, an active-duty army officer, the current local language push in Afghanistan and Iraq was “haphazardly thrown together.”

Adding to that, a recent government report stats that the Pentagon has continually dropped the proverbial ball when it comes to teaching its troops the local languages. A skill that ground commanders consider just as important as knowing how to use their weaponry.

“Learning the language will not only help one learn about that culture but be able to operate more effectively once immersed in it,” Smiley added.

“Improving our language skills may lead to more effective and efficient techniques for building the capacity of our current and future partners and reduce the need for deployments of robust US forces.”

What does this say about Us?

How would you feel if your neighbor had lived next door for 10 years and still couldn’t speak a word to you despite being in an American town. Would you find it offensive/appalling they hadn’t taken the time out to at least immerse themselves in the local language and culture somewhat?

I believe the answer to be yes and think that this issue with our military is something we need to seriously address.

Is it the fault of the ground personnel over there putting their lives in danger every day? Probably not.

There needs to be a much larger focus on the importance of teaching our troops foreign languages prior to and once they are deployed.

What do you think?

For the full story on this troubling problem, VISIT HERE.

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Know Foreign Rulers and their Rules

Know Foreign Rulers and their Rules

While traveling, you may feel you are invincible to the laws and lawmakers of your host country. With action films boasting the power of U.S. embassies, diplomats and military groups taking charge when a poor American traveler is in need, it’s easy to assume that you will be protected under all instances while traveling in foreign nations.

THIS IS NOT SO.

Those Who Made Their Mark

Stalin. Hitler. Margaret Thatcher. William Churchill. The Dalai Lama. Queen Elizabeth II. Fidel Castro. Mussolini. Nelson Mandela. Kim Jong-Il. Why do we know these names? They are famous, or infamous foreign leaders we’ve learned about in our history books, seen on the news or in the tabloids. But who can name the current president of Argentina? How about our nearest neighbor, Canada, even? Most Americans would stand dumbfounded at these questions, while our foreign counterparts can name (at least) the last three presidents of the United States, and discuss any current political turmoil in our country.

When in Rome, do as the Romans Do

This means follow their rules. Before your next trip, spend some time researching the political structure of the country to which you are traveling. It will be a scary realization to find the leader of the country you are in is a harsh dictator and you have very little rights as a foreign traveler.

Know the name of the president, prime minister, royal highness, or dictator and their political stance. Know your rights as a visiting foreigner as well as the local and national laws. In cases of dispute or arrest, keep contact information of family and the nearest U.S. embassy. During your trip, follow signs, rules and the lead of others in your conduct. Conduct may include the way you are dressed, the way you address the opposite sex, and the way you greet someone of higher power. Carefully monitor your actions in these situations as to protect yourself from embarrassment and others from insult.

Foreign Rulers

Here’s a start to your foreign lawmaker research:

Canada: Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Mexico: President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa
Colombia: President Juan Manuel Santos
South Africa: President Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma
Argentina: President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner
Brazil: President Dilma Rousseff
Afghanistan: President Hamid Karzai
Spain: Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero
Italy: Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi
Germany: President Christian Wulff
France: President Nicolas Sarkozy, Prime Minister Francois Fillon
Russia: Prime Minister Vladimir Putin
China: President Hu Jintao
North Korea: Dictator Kim Jong-Il
South Korea: President Lee Myung-bak
India: President Pratibha Patil, Prime Minister Manmohan Sing
Iraq: President Jalal Talabani, Prime Minister Nouri al- Maliki

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