Wednesday, May 20, 2009

many benefits of being a polyglot

People who can speak two languages are more adept at learning a new foreign language than their monolingual counterparts, according to research conducted at Northwestern University. And their bilingual advantage persists even when the new language they study is completely different from the languages they already know.

They found that the bilingual participants -- whether English-Mandarin or English-Spanish speakers – mastered nearly twice the number of words as the monolinguals.

And they believe the bilingual advantage is likely to generalize beyond word learning to other kinds of language learning, including learning new words in one's own language and a very basic ability to maintain verbal information.

"After learning another language, individuals can transfer language learning strategies they've acquired to subsequent language learning and become better language learners in general," said Northwestern School of Communication's Marian.


D: IMHO (in my humble opinion), the best way to learn a second language is prior to pubescence. If the parents do not speak two or more languages at home, that means learning a new language in primary school.

And IMHO, the best way to do that is to have a first language that is easy to learn.

I refer back to my earliest blog entries.
Finnish has an alphabet with the sound of the letter in the letter name.
It has highly regular spelling, to the point where spelling bees are a pointless concept.
Many Finns that learn Finnish at a rapid pace go on to learn Swedish.
From Swedish, it easy to learn English.

Alternatively, a very simple SECOND language after a not-simple first one.
One should try to teach language in primary school, while the children still have brains that exhibit much plasticity.
I was pretty much hopeless at French, having already hit puberty in Grade 7.
I was also given almost no pointers on how to study efficiently to learn lists of vocabulary. So I never learned it. I took both Grade 13 French OACs, nearly failed both, and still cannot speak French to save my life.
What a collossal waste of my time.

I have my literacy tutor certification now.

On some weekends, I read the Globe and Mail while staying at a friend's place to work for him. His grade 1 daughter likes to read along. I suspect the Globe is written at about a grade 10 level. This week's most incomprehensible word was "league". Lee-goo-eh?
She is a high end reader, but I feel sorry for a poor student, or one that is a good student but has learning disabilies.

The more we stick to English-Chinese-Russian as the first childhood language, the more a very slick and trim aux-lang makes sense as a secon language.
Every addiotional year required to learn these demanding natural languages is another year towards high school, when it is essentially too late to efficiently teach a second language.

For that matter, in high school or later an aux-lang makes even more sense, for all the reasons listed above.

By aux-lang, assume I mean a language as devoid of advanced nat-lang features as possible.
For example, agreement and many infixes, as well as basic vocabulary demands.
(Insert Espo rant here.)


Thursday, May 14, 2009

rules of English quotation marks

D: huh. I just learned something new...

The placement of question marks with quotes follows logic. If a question is in quotation marks, the question mark should be placed inside the quotation marks.

Examples: She asked, "Will you still be my friend?"
Do you agree with the saying, "All's fair in love and war"?

Here the question is outside the quote.

D: The concept of nestled punctuation can be expanded with proper design.

Use single quotation marks for quotes within quotes.
Note that the period goes inside all quote marks.

Example: He said, "Danea said, 'Do not treat me that way.'"

D: I plan to incorporate these nuances into HIOXian.

Update: having inherited some money, I am ordering the 300 page instructions on my font editor. I am also ordering a more concise book on the subject.
This effectively doubles the price of the product.
I am afraid that reading a 300 page PDF is just not the same to a hidebound academic like me!

D: one more aside.
The worst thing ever to happen to English just might be the apostrophe.
Nobody but nobody knows how to use it!
It *could* be fairly clear.
It is not though.

Compare: mine, yours, his, hers, its, theirs.
Of course, some add an "S", while some do not.
In this respect, the archaic "'tis" is more clear than "it's".
However, confusion over whether an S ending means an apostrophe would remain.

The simplest solution is Esperanto's.
Just lose all the grammatical forms that use apostrophes.

E.g. The X of the Y.

"...le adherentes de Esperanto"
NEVER Esperanto's adherentes.

This approach can be used in English writing - and should be by the vast majority of people. Ironically, the truncations unacceptable in a formal essay are known only by those who write formal essays.

E.g. The adherents of Esperanto.
Versus Esperanto's adherents.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

politeness and etiquette

The Globe and Mail Focus section had an interesting article Saturday 2 weeks ago.

The way ESL students learn, they tend to revert to imperatives for requests, instead of the indirect question format.


I want you to close the door.
Close the door!
Can you /will you/ would you (please) close the door?

A structure such as Espo would help.
C^u (means query) fermis la doro (OK I couldn't be bothered looking up the words).
It potentially leaves the word order intact.
OK, if there was word order instead of infix/agreement hell.
An anglicized version might look like this:
Query: you close door.

D: more particles for the other Espo query words would have been welcome.
A word for what, followed by word for space (where), time(when), thing (what -), person (who), reason (why).
This would have avoided kie kiel and the confusing rest of the lot.

D: must-do for Decimese!

Changing word order is difficult for ESL students, or can be.
I imagine the minimal grammar of Chinese results in this perceived rudeness.
E.g. You go now!

Korean is an interesting take on honorifics.
Apparently you can say a fairly rude sentence. Just remember to add the right title at the end.
For foreigners, it's best to avoid honorifics entirely unless you are sure.


Ssi (씨/氏) is the most commonly used honorific used amongst people of approximately equal speech level. It is attached at the end of the full name (such as Kimcheolsu-ssi) or simply after the first name (Cheolsu-ssi) if you are more familiar with someone. Appending -ssi to the surname (Kim-ssi) can be quite rude, as it indicates you are of a higher social status than the person you are referring to. The word is pronounced 'shi' with a tense 'sh' sound. Ssi is derived from the Chinese character 氏, meaning surname and has its equivalent (and cognate) in the Japanese 氏(し;shi), pronounced 'san' and 'shi'.


Seonbae (선배/先輩)is used to address senior colleagues or mentor figures, e.g. students referring to or addressing more senior students in schools, junior athletes more senior ones in a sports club, or a mentor or more experienced or senior colleague in a business environment. As with English titles such as Doctor, Seonbae can be used either by itself or as a title. Hubae (후배)is used to refer to juniors. However, the term is not normally addressed to them directly. It is mainly used in third person.


Seonsaeng (선생/先生) has much more formality and is used to show respect to the addressee. It is related to the Japanese honorific, 先生(せんせい)and shares the same pair of Chinese characters, representing 'teacher' or 'one has lived before' (literal).

A few verbs have special humble forms, used when the speaker is referring to him/herself in polite situations

Pronouns in Korean have their own set of polite equivalents, e.g. 저 (jeo) is the humble form of 나 (na, "I") and 저희 (jeohui) is the humble form of 우리 (uri, "we").

Speech levels

There are seven verb paradigms or speech levels in Korean, and each level has its own unique set of verb endings which are used to indicate the level of formality of a situation. Unlike "honorifics"—which are used to show respect towards a subject—speech levels are used to show respect towards a speaker's or writer's audience.

D: of course, English finds a way to be polite or rude.
Compare "excuse me sir" to "yo, beeatch".

A simple, optional, and methodically applied system of honorifics would reflect social status realities.


San (さん ?), sometimes pronounced han (はん ?) in the Kyoto area, is the most common honorific and is a title of respect similar to "Mr." or "Ms." However, in addition to being used with people's names, it is also employed in a variety of other ways.

San is used in familial honorifics. For example, mothers - both one's own and other people's - are addressed as okaa-san (お母さん ?, "honorable mother" + san), whereas the word that simply means "mother" (母 ,haha?) is used when referring to one's own mother while speaking to a non-family-member. In the same way, younger siblings address their older brothers and sisters as onii-san (お兄さん ?) and onee-san (お姉さん ?), but refer to them to outsiders using the plain words for "older brother" and "older sister," ani (兄 ?) and ane (姉 ?).


Kun (君 , in Kanji ?, くん in Hiragana) is used by persons of senior status in addressing or referring to those of junior status, or by anyone when addressing or referring to male children. It can also be used by females when addressing a male that they are emotionally attached to or have known for a long period of time.


Chan (ちゃん ?) is a diminutive suffix; it expresses that the speaker finds a person endearing. A similar example in English would be calling a girl named Mari, "Mari, dear." Thus, using chan with a superior's name would be condescending and rude. In general, chan is used for babies and young girls. It may also be used towards cute animals, lovers, and very close friends.

D: it's best to avoid them entirely if you are not sure.
I tried to show respect to guru/mentor and mixed up chan and san. Oops!

For the record, as an ex-infantry with Corporal rank, I consider sir to mean "doesn't work for a living", and perhaps implies imcompetence also.