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March 30, 2013

Is Language More Than Words?

Is a language more than words?

It's a strange question, I know.

Technically a language is made up of words and the rules concerning how to use them.

But is there more?

I have often thought that...

...there are some hard to discern, but essential aspects, of language.

If you think about how children learn their native language, you quickly realize that they just absorb it.

There's much more than just 'absorbing' of course.

There are nuances and rhythms unique to each language.

I would encourage any learner - of any language - to listen to as many voices, talks, conversations, songs, lectures, anything that presents and expresses actual, practiced, native use of any language.

One immediate marker of a non-native speaker is hesitancy. The word 'fluency' you might remember, is related to 'flow' - a native speaker will use language in a way that flows easily and naturally.

And, as a child learns a language, an adult learner absorbs, takes in and expresses - and, as I usually put in my closing to these blogs, they, and we, make a language our own.

Learning a language is very strange in that we make something that those around us share but we make it our own personal language. Every one of us, to some degree, makes and uses our language in our own way.

When a group, or geographic area shares certain words, pronunciations or usages, we might call that a regional dialect or accent.

As I mentioned above, the more listening you can do the better. Here is a radio program with a variety of voices mixed with fascinating stories - http://www.radiolab.org/.

If you listen to RadioLab, your English will improve and you will hear some fascinating stories.

If you want to read a story of how much lies behind the usual words and rules of grammar, take a look here - http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-mien-dictionary-20130324,0,7243512.story.

Be sure to send us any words or phrases that puzzle you, and be sure to let us know what it is about English and language learning that you find confounding, infuriating or endlessly intriguing.

Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

My best to you as you make your way through this intriguing, constantly shifting linguistic landscape.


Posted by mmorf at March 30, 2013 03:26 PM


I am interesting in teaching abroad and I would like information in what is available along with their salaries. Thank you

Posted by: maria hernandez at July 23, 2013 01:47 PM

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