I think I might have mentioned the “critical period hypothesis” before on PAS. It’s important to note that it’s a hypothesis specifically about first language acquisition , not about “language learning” in general.
Basically, young children are able to “acquire” a language – i.e., to pick up the patterns of a language by being immersed in it and using it to communicate, without having to consciously pay attention to the language itself; but (for a variety of reasons, some biological, others cultural) most adults have to “learn” a language – a conscious process that includes focussing on analysing language, and forcing associations to be created between forms and meanings.
One biological factor working in favour of children is that they have many more neural pathways to use in processing the meaning of language. Connections between brain cells are “thinned out” (=synaptic pruning) as we develop and become more specialised as individuals – especially in two peak periods, between ages 3-6 and then again, less drastically, in adolescence; but also, at any age, there’s a continuous process of pathways that aren’t being used being lost, while pathways that are being used are strengthened.
In highly multilingual societies, children who keep being exposed to new languages don’t lose the pathways that allow acquisition of the patterns of a new language.
By contrast, if a society is
(i) largely monolingual and
(ii) doesn’t provide opportunities for true meaningful communication in other languages, and
(iii) doesn’t introduce language learning in early education,
then second (or, especially, foreign) language learning at age 13+ is much more difficult because it has to proceed using other, less efficient, pathways developed for conscious analysis. (Which to some extent also means that the learner's first language is being used to understand the second language, rather than a full "immersion" experience in which the second language is the medium of understanding.)
Another social factor is that, by this stage, a monolingual individual’s national identity, their social network of friends, and even their own self-image, may be closely tied to the use of their first language, which can undercut any practical motivation there may be to learn a second language.
Which still doesn’t make adult second language learning impossible; as others here have noted, it just takes more work.
The bit where there are practical problems is part of what's genius about universal te reo. It means you commit to building an infrastructure to deliver the reo to every school kid in the country, which is a big investment in the language.
I would love to see NZ Sign Language offered too (third official language and also indigenous to NZ)
My main problem in Germany last year was picking up phrases quickly enough to apparently *sound* like I spoke some German when I ordered things, and then have to explain that I didn't actually when I got a rapid-fire response
Same thing hapened to me until I figured out how to say "My German's not good, but I'd like to try"
(Some guy I know who spend over 30 years in Germany without mastering the language - "I understand it involves EFFORT..." - created his own phonetic vocabulary - Shirley Gong for "Entschuldigung", was one
When you learn a language as a kid you also learn a "different way of thinking" about the same things in your standard language, and that makes you curious and enhances your critical thinking. And that can only be good!
And you are a great thinker, sir. Sorry didn't get to say hello properly the other night. Love to you and your family.
Gwarn say it like it is meant to be said.
instead we may hear this half-pai mangling:
Ra whanau Russell, I wish I at least partially able to make sense in te reo. I find it frustrating in many contexts and I'm considering doing a night course. I wish I'd learnt at school. I definitely want my son to learn and hopefully I can learn some while helping him!
Native Affairs on Monday had an interesting segment about Jennifer Ward-Lealand learning te reo and she recounted how she and her South African friend got strange looks as they chatted away in te reo on the bus. But her desire to be fluent is not that strange. Her missionary ancestor arrived in 1823, the same year as mine did. They soon learned Maori and it was the first language for the pakeha children of the following couple of generations for those missionary families. My great uncle remembered, when he was a child in the 1880s, the respectable old pakeha ladies chatting in te reo in Nelson, where they then lived. So JWL was only reviving a family tradition by learning te reo, one that is common to many thousands of descendants of those early settlers.
Native Affairs on Monday had an interesting segment about Jennifer Ward-Lealand learning te reo
awesome story (9m clip):
Capitals, please. Ethnic groups have them.
There's a couple of points from my perspective as a teacher.
Schools represent our communities and the wider society that we call NZ. We are fortunate that communities still have so much ability to choose and shape how their schools function. The fact that in some cases, the responses and contributions of those communities are interestingly self-serving, is just one of the natural outcomes of Tomorrow's Schools. This exception does not of course prove any rules about how communities are engaging with their local schools.
The NZ Curriculum, has a huge capacity for learning languages. Whilst in that particular learning area, there is no specific requirement for Te Reo, this does not preclude any school from choosing to do so. Just as the English section doesn't mention Shakespeare - any school can choose to teach about the Bard and his work.
One of the key factors that some forget is that the NZ Curriculum is a national document. It still requires every school, with their community to create and craft a local curriculum that meets the needs of that same community. That could include Te Reo, Somali, NZSL, or any number of languages.
But building this sort of sustainable, useful and worthwhile sort of curriculum can be difficult and takes time and effort. It requires people in schools to up skill, outside experts to be available to provide support, and the community to be supportive of what that sort of change requires. To be really valuable the changes need to have a context that the students in that place understand and feel a part of.
Basically the Peter Parker principle applies here - "With great power comes great responsibility". We as a society have the power to affect change, but that responsibility requires effort, dedication and an ability to think critically about what matters for our places.
Because here's the thing I struggle with - we as a society constantly seem to see schools as the fixit stops, for all of the societal ills that seem to be current at the time
Health and fitness
Coding - this meme even comes with the tagline
"What Schools Don't Teach" - blithely ignoring the fact that schools can and do.
Music and dance
All of these demand attention and schools race to deploy programmes that reflect these, while functioning inside a political structure, that in regards to the public system demands a focus on key areas; on National Standards, on priority learners, on modern learning practices for starters. We can argue about those separately, and their value or not - but those constraints exist, and will continue to exist for the public sector regardless of what party forms a government.
Teaching and learning te reo Maori and tikanga are very important. A national policy is a start, but to actually make a difference to students, communities need to be involved in what goes on in schools, while understanding the aforementioned constraints that schools function within and respecting those.
Lastly, all of us need to realise that the desires we have for our schools and students, need to be modelled and lived in our communities and in our wider society.
Because that's where our children see, hear and observe the values we hold most highly. That's where they learn what's important and what matters.
And that's on us.
Argh, don't get me started on the "kids should learn coding" crapola. I work in IT and occasionally write scripts. Does coding qua coding have much relevance to my daily work? Nope, not once I've knocked up that mailbox creation script, which I proceed to reuse a zillion times to create mailboxes. I might write a substantial script a few times a year. Did I need to do computer science or study programming to figure out how do so? Nope, just learned how to mash pre-baked scripts together with the assistance of Dr Google.
Sure, there are jobs for professional coders, whether they be application/web/other. But not actually that many. There are going to be less in future with the refinement of machine-generated code, not to mention the programming bodyshops provided in places with cheap labour rates in South Asia.
Learning coding will basically be irrelevant to most, including many who go into IT careers. Learning another language - especially one of the official languages of our own country - is more relevant to more people, even if you use it rarely.
Coding is not like mathematics in terms of its use on a daily basis. Sure, it could be an optional course, but it's not something that teaches you how to run a computer system or network. What could be useful would be to build more into maths classes along the lines of Boolean logic. Since coding is based on those principles, that's a useful first step.
Language studies merge into cultural/social studies, which I think is one of the core courses that should be taught after English and Maths. I wish schools went into explicitly teaching critical thinking - I learned a few scattered elements during history lessons, and perhaps they do it during media studies these days. But learning how to research and analyse and decide on the validity of an argument and the authority of the person making the argument are core skills for anyone. Coding, really not so much.
We want critical problem solvers, who will choose the right tools to attack said problems. Those may or may not be coding tools.
My point on current state of 'learn to code' is summed up thusly:
So it seems to me just about everybody learns how to write a decent essay the same way you did – right as they’re doing the work that requires those writing skills.
Or they take a lot of essay-heavy arts courses; I can't speak about other subjects, but taking history at university taught me way more about references, constructing an argument based on evidence, and methodically reading pieces of text than any science paper I took. It was really helpful once I hit honours and most of the work turned into seminar-style classes and reading papers; the people who'd only taken science classes were clearly confused by the read-and-discuss format, which had been present from the first year in history. It wasn't a substitute for learning to write in the sciences, and I remain grateful my PhD coursework involved a class that addressed that specifically, but it was a huge help.
Because here’s the thing I struggle with – we as a society constantly seem to see schools as the fixit stops, for all of the societal ills that seem to be current at the time
Interesting perspective. Thing is I am dyslexic, which clearly doesn’t prevent me from reading, writing, comprehending and responding to your struggle.
I struggled to measure up at school, because most of the teachers of the day, where negligent. When I talked to the headmaster at my daughters school, about dyslexia, he said: “I don’t know much about dyslexia”. I Struggle to understand how that could be. Why is he paid the big bucks?
So much to grizzle about, so little time.
If you're looking to make some sort of start in learning Maori, you might like to try this page http://kupu.maori.nz/. One of the ways you can use it, is to receive one word every day by email.
All of these services allow you to choose your own pace, and begin with non-intimidating bite-sized pieces.
(And if you do want to learn code, you could similarly use Code Academy.)
My mum's school had Maori names for their "houses": a mispronounced lip service paid to the great waka - Aya-teeya, etc.
My school, in the 80s, introduced a programme called Taha Maori. The bits of it I can remember include a few songs - Ma is White, Karangatia Ra, E papa waiari and so on. Still mostly mispronounced - although we were taught the right vowel, WH and R sounds, it's hard not to revert to your basic language model.
My daughter's kindergarten, in one of the whitest suburbs in Wellington, has a Maori teacher come in every week. She teaches new kupu, along with the sign language that goes with the words, and songs and actions - they're up to Toia Mai, which I first encountered as an adult. My daughter has a far better vocab than I picked up in school, and she's not even 5. She's learned the R sound completely independently of the English R (which is still more like a W for her) - she pronounces the Maori R closer to L - wrong, but in the opposite direction from most Pakeha NZers. I think that's the language acquisition window, before their preconceptions are fixed about how things should sound. Despite what I've learned since, I still find it more natural to mispronounce the words I first learned as a young child. I'm glad my kids won't have that.
Just a comment about learning second languages. It is a myth that children learn languages faster than adults.
That's a very dated paper, Bart. My wife has studied child language acquisition, and more recent research shows a significantly increased language learning ability which disappears by age 11 (I would offer some links, but alas, she has just driven off until next week!). Furthermore, if a child starts school with a significantly underdeveloped first-language ability, the best thing you can do is teach them a second language, as that triggers a "second-chance" process that puts all the missing blocks of first language ability in place.
Good links Marcus, much appreciated;)
Here is a good place to learn robot language. It’s the CNC Cookbook, If anyone wants to know what makes then tick.
And after I went past the vanishing point and turned turtle, I decided to become fluent in nautical. Further more, I began to think about Polynesian seafaring language. Just saying.
Actually Bart I fully support teaching science in Maori. It's a great way to update Maori. If we are serious about saving Maori we have to acknowledge that it will evolve like all languages. For me it's another of those tradeoffs where the trade involves a value judgement.
I would offer some links
Please. I tried to find recent stuff but got bogged down by companies selling language training.
Actually Bart I fully support teaching science in Maori. It’s a great way to update Maori.
I have no problem with working to save/update Maori. But I have a problem with doing it at the expense of science. There really is no need to teach science in Maori, you can do it for fun and fun helps children learn. But if you want those children to succeed in science then you must teach them excellent English skills. Yes I know that's unfair but it really is the language of science at this time.
As non native english speaker scientist, I need to pay an editor to go over my work when publishing in English. While there is a "parallel" spanish published scientific "wold" is much smaller, and crucially minimally funded in comparison. However I think there is merit in at least be aware of how difficult is to wrote conceptually in a different language outside english, perhaps this allows to simplify the english writing of native speakers as to make it more accessible to non native readers. (loving this tread!)