Friday, February 11, 2011

Language Acquisition

It's like, seeing the same sunlight come into my window every morning, but for the first time really looking at it. Or seeing numbers and symbols all jumbled together on a piece of paper one day, and the next being able to work with them, work answers out of them, master their meaning. I have heard Quechua every day for a year and a half now, and though it comes in leaps and bounds... this past week (after Quechua classes) I am now able to listen to my host mom while she's chatting away with Florcita on the phone and actually not hear a mumbling of vowels and deep throated German sounding k's... but understand what those sounds MEAN. It's a powerful knowledge, language. Makes you feel as if you can conquer something. Changes your perspective drastically. I still am at the "grasping" stage of this native language (I'm not fluent by any means... whatever fluent is anyways) and what I mean by grasping is, you know... you're in spanish class in ninth grade and the teacher tells you to put an 'o' at the end of the verb to make it first person present tense and you have to think about it really hard and look at the board.. "Crap. how do you say "have"? oh yeah. Tener.. Crap. I can't say Teno.. it's irregular.. what is it again? Oh right. Tengo." You know. That stage of the language learning. That's where I am when it comes to speaking Quechua. But listening... I can make out a majority of the conversations ahora. Which is exciting and.... well... Now I just need to pay attention. :)

Besos y Abrazos

1 comment:

  1. I have formalized a learning pattern based on my chess playing and bicycle riding.

    1) Plan something new. Clearly say/imagine/visualize what you are going to do. For example, "My feet are going to pedal in circles instead of up and down like pistons." Visualize the circle, etc.
    2) While executing your plan, listen to the chatter coming from your body as it attempts to execute. It's not important to try to act on it. Just listen for things like your facial expressions, emotions, muscles, etc.
    3) Sometime later that day, sit or lie down and reflect on what I gathered from (2) for 10 - 20 minutes. I like to pick a part of my body, like my face or hands (lots of brain wiring for those) and just focus on it for 1 - 2 minutes.
    3.5) Then I just let my mind wander off to where it wants to go. I think this is when the actual rewiring happens. Call me crazy but my feeling is that existing pathways in the brain are being "connected" to build the circuit to accomplish what you are trying to learn. Your mind "wandering off" is the natural consequence of some pathway in your brain being tapped into or modified. The improved performance comes 1 - 2 days later. It feels magical, like "language acquisition" as you put it. The geometry, reflexes, etc. are just *there* like it was downloaded to you via The Matrix.

    Metaphor: it's like photography. You expose your brain to a new phenomenon like exposing film to light. Then, you go home and develop the film.

    I would be intrigued if you tried following this pattern for something - maybe Quechua, maybe piano, maybe cooking - and told me the results.