Saturday, April 8, 2017

Linguistics: How were the Romans able to speak Latin fluently and quickly?

What is more we are all blind to the complexities of our own language.  Yet there is a take home here.  There is a huge notional market for pre school and kindergarten language training and been quite deliberate about it.  This suggests language skills can easily be brought up to conversational level prior to first grade upon which more formal training can pursue a bilingual teaching approach with all pupils decently adept.

Constant switching back and forth also sharpens the mind as well.

This also avoids attempting to introduce a new language after puberty when we all should actually be perfecting knowledge of ones daily language.  There are a million words in english and that is the time to become generally familiar..

Linguistics: How were the Romans able to speak Latin fluently and quickly?

Neeraj Mathur, studied at Latin

Updated 27 Dec 2016 · Upvoted by Joe Devney, Master's in Linguistics, professional writer. and Charles Cairns, B.S., M.A., PhD Linguistics & Uralic Languages, Columbia University (1967)

I love this question! Reminds me of a story.

My grandfather, who grew up in British India (and marched with Gandhi as a young man), used to tell me that, when he was a teenager, he would be absolutely blown away by the sheer intelligence of the British children. Why? Because even at such young ages – barely starting school – they spoke English so well — and English was such an incredibly difficult language! However did they manage?? 

He died when I was nine, my grandfather; this is one of the few stories of his I remember him telling me. He went on to become an economist, working at Harvard for a few years with Nobel Prize winner Wassily Leontief on input-output theory, then finishing his career in the UK. I think by then he had gotten over the brilliance of children who happened to speak English as their first language… 

From a linguistic perspective, the basic theory is that no natural human language is actually any harder or easier to learn as a first language than any other. English, for instance, has an incredibly complex tense / aspect system made more complicated still by the way mood works through auxiliaries – the Latin verbal system is different, sure, but not necessarily any harder for a child to learn as their first language. Declensions? Well have a look at the mess of English pronouns, where natural language chooses forms based at times on stress patterns rather than pure semantics (at least until prescriptivist schoolteachers get involved; from a natural language perspective it is perfectly acceptable to say ‘Me and Dad are going shopping’, with the stress pattern determining the use of ‘me’ instead of the theoretically subject form ‘I’, although grammarians influenced by how case works, ironically enough, in Latin have tried to force the unnatural use of ‘I’ in that kind of sentence).
Of course, for people learning a second language as teenagers or adults, the differences actually do turn into difficulties, because our brains are now wired to think in certain patterns and for some reason it becomes harder to learn new language patterns after around puberty. 

Ultimately, that is the reason for your – and my grandfather’s – respective incredulity. You are comparing the experience of learning the language as an adult with that of learning it as a native speaker. Yes, it will be harder for you. But that difficulty is irrelevant to a child acquiring their first language.

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