Observing Language Development

I started speaking a fifth about 10 years ago when I was living overseas. I had to learn to speak the language to be able to communicate with the locals and my domestic staff. I was not sure whether to begin by understanding their language or having them to understand mine.

When we live in a non-native , there are so many things we have to adapt to – the new environment and way of life. Our attitude has to change also.

If you are coming from a developed nation, and found yourself posted to work in a less developed country, you will find people do things far less complicated and sometimes wonder why the hack you need modern conveniences anyway. Things like coffee maker, microwave oven, vaccuum cleaner, kitchen blender or electric kettle are useless in some developing countries because these appliances threaten to increase domestic spending on utilities. Stove cooking is the way to go.

When the system of living is simpler or less automated, people are less hurried to get things done. Why? Because for one simple task such as boiling water, they have to listen to the whistle of the kettle when water is boiled, and then turn the stove off. If you have an electric kettle, you may never turn the power supply off even after the water is boiled.

Our domestic staff came from the rural villages Java, Indonesia. They have never used most of the modern conveniences we are so used to. One of them is the vaccuum cleaner. They use brooms for sweeping the floor. Carpets are cleaned with a broom that is made out of a bunch dried stems of coconut leaves. It is called ‘sapu lidi’, sapu is broom and lidi is a stick. It has no wooden stick for your hand to handle. You have to wrap your palm around the end and just sweep.

Observing Language Development
Sapu Lidi, for domestic use. The industrial ones have a pole stuck through the middle of the bunch.

Ok, you have an idea of what I am saying I hope. There are simpler way to get things done which means thoughts are minced into bite pieces. What happens is actions slower, gentler and unhurried. When your actions are gentler, the senses become quickly responsive to the impressions of your muscular movements. On the contrary, when your actions are loud, the force of your energy returns more than twice its force back to your senses.

This sublimity of actions and responses to muscular movement of senses is very vital if we want to be communicate with people who we do not share a common language or lifestyle. Fast action fast response communication skills will never get things done, unless you have a translator for both sides.

Here I describe how learn to communicate with the cook. When I gave instructions for grocery shopping, I would come to her with grocery list and money. When she sees the concrete objects, money and grocery list, she knew what I needed her to do. I did have to clarify the name of the items which were written in English language, not popular brand names like McDonald’s, Coca Cola and Milo.

There are many overseas expatriates who easily learn to speak a in this manner. So I am no exception. The difference is I created a system of learning to become more proficient. No textbooks and dictionary, just work with the environment straight away.

Observing Language Development

4 thoughts on “Observing Language Development”

  1. It is very interesting the way you have been observing language development

    I have heard that when learning a new language it is best not to try to translate from a known language to it. Rather one should start from scratch as a child does and slowly build up our vocabulary. Do you think that is the right way?

    The steps you have laid out seem like the perfect way of learning a new language.

  2. Yes, the only way is to revisit childhood methods, understand how one language has spun success to learn another without much effort. Many terms have been used to explain the phenomenon including synapses and mneme.

    Anything we learn that is new follows some natural laws of development and if you break it down, it boils down to simplicity and discovery. As a child, we use this principle and can easily become proficient in more than 1 spoken language.

    In adults, simplicity and discovery, are remote. So learning becomes a task and chore. What is needed therefore, is to help adults realise the patterns of their own childhood development. It explains why only adults who are good swimmers as kids can become good coaches, because they understand the pattern of learning, not the coaching techniques.

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