Friday, October 19, 2007

The capacity and perserverance to learn

I really do believe that we have the capacity to learn any form of communication, as long as it’s within the limits of our physical and mental capabilities. This may include such things as age, motivation and genetic programming. We still don’t have the ability to use mental telepathy (well some of us, anyway?!), but maybe with the evolution of the species, we may develop that capacity. One of my fellow students at USQ makes quite a persuasive point, in that we may not have even developed our existing abilities (to react to pheromones) yet. Who knows…we have yet to discover many things.
The interesting thing for us teachers is that if we have this capacity (at least at some time), how long will it remain with us? As we have come to understand, there is somewhat a time limit to effectively and comprehensively pick up a language (at least for L1). “The critical period.” This is quite a concern for teachers, as it will undoubtedly make it really difficult for adult learners to acquire a second language. I think that these learners are faced with a hidden barrier to language acquisition, which may discourage them from persisting with the process of learning a second language. As another fellow student stated, many learners don't feel it necessary to attend classes more than only a few times a week. Could part of the problem be that the capacity for learning a second language has diminished in our adult learners (depending upon how much they have gone past the ‘critical period’). A language may seem quite exciting in the beginning, but then the novelty starts fading as reality starts kicking in. Maybe that is one of the reasons that pattern recognition systems are so successful with adult learners. They give people a way to balance the scales back in their favor. What do you think? Steven Mondy

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