Lanaguages and Children

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for Journal.
Teaching Your Child a New Language



During college, I had a huge desire to learn languages. (I still do.)  I also wanted to make a commitment in teaching my children a language young so they might be bi-lingual.  After years of school and study, I think I have decided I am going to teach my children German.  Here are the ups and downs of this endeavor.



1)      I have started learning German myself.  I am taking the classes, am immersing myself in child-like songs and am registered for a college level class to learn how to speak, write & interact only in German.  I am even trying to work with my husband on this (he just started school himself so it may be more difficult.)  But I feel comfortable enough now I could teach my own child right now some information, like “Danke” for thank you and “bitte” for please/you’re welcome.


2)      I decided to pick a language that was fun & easy. I agree, German is not for everyone, but you should not pick a language you cannot enjoy yourself.  For example, despite the advantages of choosing Korean, I have extreme difficulty speaking any Asian language. This is why I did not choose to learn an Asian language up front. But I will gladly encourage any language knowledge my own child would explore…and maybe I’ll learn “hello” and “goodbye” in any language.


3)      I tried teaching my dogs their commands in German.  It’s easier than expected because the word “to sit” is setzen and since my dogs know hand and verbal commands (somewhat) I can use the same visual and use a similar word.  They get nein now and setzen and kommen (to come.)  And dogs are supposedly the same intelligence as a 2year human.  Good practice for teaching a new language to a non-speaking mammal.




1)      I am not a native speaker. I am trying to resolve this by trying to think only in German and be around native speakers (my class and recordings are helping, but…)

2)      I am just starting this… so if I have children in the next few years, I may know some German, but nothing to communicate fully (well, trying to resolve as I said.)  I do know they offer children classes in the area, of which I would greatly appreciate.  Again, something to overcome.

I am curious—how many people out there have thought about teaching their children a second language?? If so, which language? My brother used sign language to communicate, I know of someone else using French… Please post your comments—I am welcome to suggestions and ideas of how to teach a child another language.

The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker

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Pages: 525 (everything… so more like under 500 reading) published in 1994 originally. Keep this in mind as some of the technology has advanced massively. Maybe for the 20th anniversary there will be an update with that.

Moving into more linguistic books, this is probably the next most important book that someone should read if studying Linguistics.  It is another topic at the cutting edge of linguistic study.  Pinker believes that language is a human instinct.  He travels into each aspect of linguistics starting with.Syntax and and moving through etymology.  He also indicates that there are some basic inheritant understandings that help define why we park on driveways and drive on parkways.  It is a jam-packed book filled with stories about how language is crated and adapted over time–something unique to explore and to understand. Pinker also includes chapters about phonetics, how speech with works with language and what is known up to the time of publishing about how the brain, language and speech all work together.

The book is a little daunting.  It is not meant for the “lay” reader  and definitely directed towards adults. In fact, I would consider it more for a classroom, as there are sets of text that are more formatted for such structure than for “casual” reading.  (of course your definition of causal reading may include university level text books, who knows?)  There is SOO much material to go through, all related just lots of information.  It would be comparable to get a history and development of AIDS research because its extensive, involves a lot of everyday “unnoticed” actions as well as very medically detailed descriptions.  However, in no way is the topic depressing or disappointing–its interesting to think of how different accents even provide rules and guidelines of how to say “ride’ and “write.”

Overall, 4 stars. Unique material, plenty of information, easy to understand but still an overwhelming amount of details.