Tuesday, April 29, 2014

"They light up like Christmas trees" ... Teachers: Ask students to work on another language. If the student speaks five langues, what will be that student's sixth language? Here are some comments by the owner of a Language Learning software company.

Here's what I wrote about www.BIBPenpals.com

There are four billion people on the planet who want to speak with the American accent.  They want to practice speaking English.  If you walked into a language school in France or in India, and said, “I’m here to volunteer two hours a week to help a local person with their accent,” you would be embraced by most language schools.  You could meet dozens of people who would want you to help them with their accents.   This is a program that I’ve encouraged in Fort Lauderdale to introduce U.S. teenagers to people from other countries.

Here's what the Language Expert (Wes Green) wrote to me:

Now that's interesting. I know, for example, that only British (or International) English is taught in schools in the EU for political reasons. And, if fact,
The creator of this language company
wrote these comments to me
it is widely taught worldwide. Of course, with advances in technology—social media, increased access to foreign papers, TV shows, etc.—many of the distinctions between the two "dialects" are now starting to disappear. Still, British English continues to "box above its international weight."  But ironically, I always tell people that obsession with accent can be a distraction when learning a foreign language. As adults, most people are simply incapable of mastering a foreign accent. "Learn the lexicon," I always say. "Learn the syntax and grammar fundamentals." And most importantly, "Learn to intuit." As a non-native speaker, there will always be words you don't understand. So learn to guess intelligently, based on context." You don't need to know 12,000+ words needed for 95+% comprehension. Two-three thousand will work just fine as long as they're the words people use most often—the core lexicon. You'll probably guess the correct meaning of the other 20,000+ words in a well-educated native speaker's lexicon 80% of the time." As for accent, it's usually a vanity. Like bodybuilding—meant to impress. Yes, you need to be fit. And yes, you need to be intelligible to other speakers of your foreign language. And yes, good impressions can come in handy when, say, applying for a job. But as far as being able to communicate, you don't usually need to flex linguistic quads. Still it's true: I wish I had a dollar for every time somebody has said to me, " You know, people have told me I have a native French/German/Italian accent." It's an international avatar of sophistication. For what it's worth, I always compliment non-native speakers who have good accents. They light up like Christmas trees.

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