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Picture of Kalleh
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I just read an article by a Chinese writer who says that "...mere linguistic competence does not guarantee (bad word probably) communicative competence." The right word might be "promote." At any rate, his point was that there is a sociocultural dimension of language that we must understand.

I am wondering if this is why some think that there are untranslatable words.
 
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This is true of any language, and it is also why there is sociolinguistics. It seems that speakers of many languages feel that there is some extra-linguistic things going on that stop people from learning there language, which is trivially false because children learn that same language all the time.

I have noticed when learning a second language that once past the beginning stages, one tends to learn these extra-linguistic facts.

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Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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This is a off topic, but we've mentioned here on WC how children learn foreign languages quicker than adults, and we've all seen it. Here is an interesting NPR report about how children actually out-performed teens in figuring out gadgets. Technology and language learning are different, but I wonder if in some way this is related to why children learn languages more quickly.
 
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Kalleh, I think there is a connection here, although I don't have knowledge that says toddler language-learning and toddler creative problem-solving as being closely connected.

From what little I know, language-learning is in its own neurological bailiwick. Kids are wired even in utero to hear & respond to verbal communication. & once born-- I remember Barry Brazleton's videos demonstrating how infants responded to parental speech by moving arms & legs. And we've all read studies illustrating the young child's ability to learn multiple languages between birth and age 5 or so. Theories tend to credit vast capacity for audio-lingual neurological growth in those years-- usually (but not always) followed by winnowing down to neurological branches most reinforced by regular experience.

It doesn't seem to much of a stretch to imagine that the expanding neurological brain age 0-5 is equally equipped for creative problem-solving-- that gradually, & particularly as awareness of social norms sets in-- & thus the brain begins to favor heeding experience,& input from authority/ social hierarchy-- various reinforced neural paths begin to take precedence, & the perceived ability to think outside of the box is tamed.
 
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Way back in 1985 I dated a woman with a degree in cultural anthropology. We went to the old Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, where they had a small children's play area. She suggested we watch the kids for a bit. One young boy was arranging blocks in all sorts of imaginative ways, most of which fell apart, but they were nevertheless clever. Then his father came and "showed him how it was done." the creativity stopped. Thus it seems that we're often taught NOT to think when we're young.
 
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Yes, Geoff, I definitely think you are right. The same goes for parents who insist their kids color within the lines.

I will never forget the time my son was in pre-school. The teacher had planned a group craft-making event, which to my 3-year old son seemed boring. So he said he was going to do something else - build rockets! He went to another part of the room and began his rocket building, while the teacher stayed with her group. One by one, the teacher told me (rather irritatedly), the kids stole away from her and joined my son. By the time the class was over, my son was leading them in rocket building - and the teacher was by herself. The teacher told me the story as a criticism of my wayward son. I took it as a compliment!

And, lastly another story to validate your thoughts, Bethree. A family visited us from Israel. Their 2-year-old daughter didn't speak English and our 2-year-old didn't speak Hebrew. Yet, it didn't seem to make one iota of difference. They colored together, handing back and forth the colors that they were asking for (how they knew, we didn't know!), each speaking in their own languages but seemingly understanding each other. It was so interesting to watch.
 
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The second part of your post reminded me of an hilarious Coupling episode, Kalleh. This is what happens when two adults, speaking English and Hebrew respectively, try to interact: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmFefiKpG7c. At another stage in the episode, the same scene is shown from the other's POV; a trick that the writer of the series is fairly fond, and that works excellently.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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