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31 October 2007 @ 07:14 am
Bonjour, je m'appel...  
so there's this kid being featured on the BBC news this morning who's being called a 'Boy Genius' because he can speak 10 languages. Impressive. Except... can he? They have this little soundclip of him saying "Bonjour, je m'appel [name cut]" and his accent sucks. I'm not French, I'm not Quebecois, I'm not North African, French is not my mother tongue. It is, however, the first foreign language I learned and trust me, his accent sucks out loud.

I can read eight languages. I can speak three semi-fluently (four if you count English), and with a little exposure I'm sure I could speak the others as well.

It's a knack, I'm a linguist. I have that little switch in my brain that lets me pick up languages and extrapolate meaning, sentence structure, basic grammar. Learning a language by rote is not learning a language, it's memorising phrases like "where is the swimming pool?" and "Thierry! That's bad for your teeth!"* which doesn't exactly help you when you're in the situation where you have to make yourself understood in a real life situation in a strange country.

This kid has a good memory, clearly, but from listening to him? He's learned by rote. So, sorry kid, but you don't come across as a linguist.

(Dude, why am I working at a job I hate where I don't get to flex my mental muscles? I know I'm good at languages, so why don't I get to use that?! Gah!)

*"Thierry! C'est mal pour les dents!" was one of the phrases we had to listen to on a language tape when I was in second year at school.
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
velvetwhipvelvetwhip on October 31st, 2007 07:22 am (UTC)
Everyone is so desperate to have a genius child that they are damaging perfectly normal, bright children by drilling them into submission. It's very sad.

Ah yes, quite a bunch of us, isn't it?unhobbityhobbit on October 31st, 2007 10:14 am (UTC)
"Thierry! C'est mal pour les dents!" was one of the phrases we had to listen to on a language tape

La plume de ma tante est dans le jardin!
still searching for something...amy_star_ on October 31st, 2007 11:09 am (UTC)
At our school it was all, "Le crayon est sur la table."

My favorite phrase remains, "Le petit chien jaune dit, 'Ouap! Ouap!'" I don't know what kind of dogs the author had, but I've never heard one make that noise.
thedothatgirl: halloweencatwillowthedothatgirl on October 31st, 2007 10:31 am (UTC)
Every parent thinks their child is special.

But mine really *is* ;)

Le Sange est dans l'abre. (credit to Eddie Izzard). I much prefer to read languages as I am a wimp when it comes to using them.

still searching for something...amy_star_ on October 31st, 2007 11:07 am (UTC)
i'm actually intrigued by this accent now. I took French in school (and I'm technically bilingual, but I haven't used it in almost 10 years) and my accent has been described as "French by way of China" AND by a native French-speaker as having no english tint to it... not sure which is more accurate. If either one is. But then, I grew up on the Quebec border, with French-language schools all around me tainting any of the good habits my teachers were instilling in me...
Cataditu_az on November 1st, 2007 06:27 pm (UTC)

my opinion? poor kid. not about the language learning - i'm sure that even rote learning will come in handy, but about all the bbc crap and the 'omg you're a genius!'.

since starting my linguistics course i'm feeling a lot more humble about my language ability... i've been sitting there telling myself as a mantra '8 languages... 8 languages...' and the lecturers and classmates are all.. 'whaddaya mean you don't know any non-European languages? DUDE!' (obviously not in those words). *sigh* i'll be getting out those chinese stuffs (i can't even remember whether i've been given Cantonese or Mandarin) when i get back...

i mean rote learning has its place. it's very useful. i know this because i seem to have no ability whatsoever for it, and kinda wish i had... but no, language ability? genius? not a thing to do with memory. out of curiosity... did they mention an IQ for him?