Re: techwr-l digest: March 17, 2000

Subject: Re: techwr-l digest: March 17, 2000
From: "Robert J. Opitz" <opitz -at- scientist -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 18 Mar 2000 12:17:24 -0500

"Tim Altom" <taltom -at- simplywritten -dot- com> wrote:

> We aren't born knowing a language, but we are born with an undeniable
> imperative to learn one.

True, Steven Pinker goes so far as to call this an instinct.

> That's why interpreting spoken language isn't
> really a skill, as most of us mean the term, as something that must be
> practiced like the violin.

I disagree -- this skill must be practiced. There was a news story a year or two ago: a Japanese WWII soldier, captured by the Russians, had spent the intervening time in Russia and had gone back to his homeland for the first time in over 50 years. He needed a Russian/Japanese
interpreter to talk with his relatives. He hadn't forgotten how to speak, of course, but Russian had supplanted Japanese in the way he did it, because for 50 years he had no way to practice Japanese.

The fact is we are practicing constantly, from ordering dinner to discussing weekend plans to reading this newsgroup. We just think of it as living our lives, not as practice.

Bob Opitz

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