Posts by linger

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  • Hard News: Te Reo Māori in schools:…, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    further retreat into petty nationalism

    seems to be how it's playing here, though hilariously, nekminit, the Ministry of Education is doing a full headless chicken routine on how to introduce English from elementary school up so Japan can be prepared to handle OMG Teh Forrinahz! in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. (More hopefully, most elementary schools have already introduced English programs -- albeit minimalist and not "communicative" in any meaningful way -- independently of the Ministry, at the request of parents.)

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 874 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Te Reo Māori in schools:…, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Here in Japan, I quite often hear arguments such as “it’s more important for children to learn proper Japanese than to spend time talking in English”, or “Children need to learn to think logically before they can benefit from learning English”.* It’s a common trap to think of teaching one set of subjects (especially, languages) as coming at the expense of others (especially, science and maths), as if different subjects involve exclusive and competing uses of time and resources.

    But it doesn’t have to be that way, if a curriculum is properly integrated. One could, for example, have science presented in English (including English communication activities), but then use some classes in te reo to revise or revisit the same material from a different perspective.

    (* one hidden undercurrent here is the idea that a fluent speaker of English cannot be “truly” Japanese. Which is absurd [unless you think that Japanese national and cultural identity is uniquely tied to the exclusive use of Japanese language]; but is it any better to suggest that a nonfluent user of English cannot be a “truly” effective scientist?)

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 874 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Te Reo Māori in schools:…,

    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.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 874 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Dotcom: Further news of the unlikely, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    Coleman just shattered my bullshit detector.

    shatted it, more like? *klaxon sounds* overload! overload! core dump in progress …

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 874 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Friday Music: Good ideas and grumbles, in reply to Neil Drinkwater,

    not that many good kiwi songs

    Compared to what?

    On one (trivial) level, this is predictable simply by applying Sturgeon’s Law: 90% of music is (subjectively, for a given individual listener) crap.

    It follows that there will be much more non-crap music in total coming from a source that provides much more music in total (e.g. US or UK, as compared with little ol’ NZ).

    However, music that speaks to a NZ listener in a NZ social/cultural context will be much more likely to come from a NZ source. So if that is one of your criteria for non-crapness, then a higher proportion of NZ music will be non-crap (subjectively, for a given NZ individual listener). Conversely, if you want to seek out non-NZ music, then you will have to wade through a lot more crap to get to stuff you like.

    So … did you want to make a serious point about the relative quality of NZ music? Or are you just going through the motions?

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 874 posts Report Reply

  • Up Front: Tomorrow Lives Forever,

    “A spring tide, combined with the outfall from the nearby sewer. This is Venice, after all, and the agency treats expense claims for luxury hotels with extreme prejudice.”
    Tatiana laughed bitterly, “No, Stud. Think again”.

    [Damn -- beaten to it; so I withdraw in favour of the preceding addition. NB Emma: refreshing the page deletes unsaved comment text, so doesn't help much in avoiding this kind of thing.]

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 874 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Over the paywall?, in reply to DeepRed,

    a recent RNZ Media Watch podcast. Get it while it’s still online

    Eh? Have they started expiring their podcasts?

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 874 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Dotcom: Further news of the unlikely, in reply to Euan Mason,

    All our PM stands for is ... Plastic Man.

    “No-one ever gets the truth from … Plastic Man”

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 874 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: A wretched editorial, in reply to B Jones,

    Possibly so. In most online fora, it’s people with extreme opinions on a topic who are more likely to respond, and those showing extreme disagreement, most of all.
    Ben Goldacre calls this distribution the “bell-end curve” :-)

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 874 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Going solar?, in reply to Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    The drop in grid demand from uptake of solar may not matter so much in the long term, as it could be completely offset by increasing use of the grid for recharging electric vehicles.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 874 posts Report Reply

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