Is the art of learning languages soon to be a thing of the past? Over years linguists have tried a number of different ways to simplify communication between cultures; this is usually done via the pictograph (signs and symbols).
Pictographs originate from the Ancient Sumerian, Egyptian and Chinese. These early pictographs were ideograms which essentially conveyed meaning via symbols. Pictographs are often used in writing and graphic systems in which the characters are to a considerable extent pictorial in appearance.
Today pictographs are used in similar ways throughout the world in order to communicate at ease between different countries that do not speak the same language. For example ‘emergency exit’ signs, the sign with the little man throwing something in a bin or ‘hazard’ signs – anyone who sees this no matter what language they speak automatically understand the meaning of it. Signs and symbols will only increase as time goes on, but will this leave the population of the world not learning languages?
In many parts of the world pictographs are used on a daily basis at public toilets, airports, around cities and towns when it comes to directions and even now on mobile games such as Angry Birds which is navigated by arrows and not language. Linguists are predicting that as communication becomes more digital and visual, the future of language as the use of symbols and signs are on the increase. What will happen to the use of language leaning if language barriers can be reduced in day to day situations?
There are both advantages and disadvantages of pictographs. A significant advantage is that it can communicate to a large audience of a number of languages and still convey meaning. On the other hand, the disadvantage is they can unfortunately only convey a minuscule amount of information.
Undeniably pictographs make travel significantly easier; helping visitors navigate with ease around the country to see landmarks and sites. But in reality although signs and symbols allow some form of ease within communication, it doesn’t actually assist in human interaction. But general human interaction still counts for a lot for a significant amount of the population. Foreign languages are seen as a successful career tool, particularly with the growing demand for multilingual skills within businesses.
Nevertheless could it be argued that despite the growing need for multilingual skills within businesses, laziness could take over language learning? What do you think? Share your thoughts with us.
Language, whether spoken in French, English German or even Tagalog is an amazing cognitive ability in which we (as humans) understand, learn and produce. One of the more amazing discoveries is that even with over 3,000 spoken languages in the world today dozens of similarities in characteristics between each and every language. Language can be defined as a systematic way to convey meaning using symbols and sounds.
Speech is the dominant means of linguistic communication – many people have come to think that language and speech are the same thing due to their similarities. However, Sign Language definitely suggests otherwise. So, why is this? Well, those that belong to Deaf communities create language using manual gestures, but at the same time in doing so their language shares the same design and mechanisms that spoken languages possess.
Research into sign language and verbal language was conducted by Professor Iris Berent at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts to discover the flexibility of the human language. A paper written by Professor Berenet and her team provide evidence that English speakers can easily learn and recognise key structures of American Sign language, even though there have been no previous exposure or familiarity with this language. 
American Sign Language is the predominant sign language that is used within the deaf communities in both the United States and also the English speaking areas of Canada.  ASL also meets all of the criteria that a language should have, this includes generativity and syntax. Scans of the brain have been taken by researchers; this imaging scan demonstrates that the same areas of the brain that are activated in people who hear spoken language are also activated in deaf individuals when they use sign language.
Surprisingly to many, sign language and spoken language share a number of similar characteristics. Further to the brain activity spoken and sign language both construct words via syllables which are ‘meaningless.’ A research group decided to examine whether or not non signers would be able to discover the structure. The results suggested that participants extended their linguistic knowledge from spoken language to sign language. This finding is significant because it shows that linguistic principles are abstract, and they can apply to both speech and sign.
Can you communicate via sign language, if so what other similarities can you tell us about with regards to verbal language?
Do you remember when you first began to understand what it was your parents were saying to you? Many of you at this moment in time may mutter a laugh under your breath whilst thinking “Who’s going to remember that?” On the other hand some of you may recite your earliest memory when you think you understood what your parent or someone around you was saying; sorry to break it to you but this moment was almost certainly not it. Astonishing new research suggest that babies begin to learn language skills whilst inside the womb.
It was previously thought that babies were only able to begin understanding language at the age of six months. However a team which was lead by Professor Christine Moon of Pacific Lutheran University conducted research which tested the language understanding skills of new born babies from Tacoma and Stockholm, Sweden.
Professor Moon played recordings of a distinctly American English vowel sound and a Swedish one, and tested the babies’ responses by measuring the one thing a day-old baby is really good at: sucking on a pacifier. The sucking patterns reveal that there is a familiarity between the vowel sounds of their mother tongue at birth, which suggests that careful listening took place in the womb.
Moon commented on his research and said “For them it’s pure sound – they don’t have the ability yet to look at a mouth and see where that sound is coming from. And yet they’re already trying to make sense out of it, and it’s just marvellous.” 
Previous studies had also shown similar research of pre birth learning which was that a late-stage foetus can pick up on the musical components of speech, like melody, rhythm and volume. Also similar to this is a popular theory which is known as the Mozart Effect. This theory consists of playing music to babies in the womb and is linked with boosting IQ, improving health and strengthening family ties. Yet another fascinating phenomenon which takes place before child birth even occurs.
Learning a new language can be fun and exciting, simply down to the sheer thought of knowing that at the end you will know a whole different language. Language learning can also open up a number of opportunities socially, economically and just generally about countries and cultures. (Other benefits can be seen in our previous blog such as ‘Bilingual Children Better At Problem Solving’ – http://www.eurolondon.com/blog/en/bilingual-children-better-at-problem-solving/)
On the other hand it can also be quite an intense experience; from getting to know the different vocabulary to articles used and the grammatical side to a new language. However, it’s not all doom and gloom as when learners are getting to learn the ins and outs of a new language when faced with the difficult grammar and vocabulary – it can be somewhat entertaining and refreshing. Each and every language has a quirky aspect to it and in Britain one of those quirks is idioms.
Idioms are often grammatically incorrect therefore can be quite confusing to non native speakers. If some of the following were taken quite literally it could lead to a lot of confusion for language learners therefore we thought we would share the real meaning behind these bizarre expressions from the English language.
Smell a rat – When someone is suspicious of something and a situation doesn’t feel quite right.
Kill two birds with one stone – This phrase is used when someone can accomplish two things at the same time with one action.
Raining cats and dogs – A classic weather related idiom – meaning that it’s raining a lot, something that is quite typical in Britain.
What’s eating you? – This is a question of concern, not a concern that something is physically nibbling away at you but more emotive when someone feels down or seems to have a lot on their mind.
Bend over backwards – This particular idiom means when a person goes the extra mile to make an effort with something they are involved in.
Have you ever come across any strange idioms when learning a new language? If so let us know.
Learning to play a musical instrument can change your brain. Music training can lead to improved skills such as; listening, learning, memory, attention and literacy skills, speech and foreign language skills. Over the last twenty years researchers have made advances in the theory of language acquisition and its positive links with music.
According to research the neurological links between language and music are enormous but the key thing to remember is that music activates more parts of the brain than language does, on both the right and left sides of the brain.  It is considered to be more likely that those learning a new language will remember words or phrases when it is accompanied in a tune like form rather than if it is just heard or spoken.
State Opera of South Australia chief executive Timothy Sexton said that “You have to be able to hear a language; you need have that music education to tune the ear to the pitch and subtleties of a foreign language.”  Many people are unaware of the connection between language learning and music and therefore not actively made the connection with it but it is a critical advantage.
It is concluded that there should be an investment into music training perhaps in schools as particularly early music education had been shown to have wide-ranging benefits. So perhaps if you are learning a new language and are finding it slightly too rigid and dull, why not make it fun again to reach your goal.
Have you used music as an advantage whilst learning a language?
Every year at some point or another, we are all are concerned about our physical appearance – the way our hair looks, the way our skin looks or our weight. This concern is dealt with by going to the hairdressers, purchasing the latest skin care products or taking up a new exercise regime. The battle is constant for us to feel at our best, but when was the last time you were worried or even just thought about the strength of your brain?
The brain is the most complex organ of our bodies with its function to control the other organs of the body, a vital organ that without it we would cease to exist. As previous studies have proved knowing a second language keeps the brain sharper later on in life. As the brain plays such an important part on our body and lives it can make us wonder why are we not taking a bigger interest in trying to keep our brain at its best?
In a recent study in Sweden, Scientists studied young recruits at the Swedish Armed Forces Interpreter Academy who learned a new language at a vast pace. Participants involved went from having no knowledge of a language such as Arabic, Russian or Dari to speaking it fluently simply by learning the language over the short space of 13 months. 
Whilst observing what happens to the brain when a language is learnt in a short space of time, scientists did indeed detect some change in the brain. MRI scans were taken before and after the intense language courses were undertaken and show particular developments in the parts of the brain (both hippocampus and the areas of the cerebral cortex) that are associated with learning new information. The precise development of the brain was determined by the amount or lack of effort that was put into learning and studying the languages. Therefore those that took a greater interest and effort in learning these languages over the course of 13 months found that their brain had developed far more than those that did not.
Consequently “there is a lot to suggest that learning languages is a good way to keep the brain in shape” as said by psychology researcher at Lund University Martensson.
Do you personally feel sharper during or after learning a new language?
Dreaming, from day dreaming to dreaming in our sleep including nightmares, we all do it whether they last a few seconds or as long as twenty minutes. Dreams are considered to be a series of thoughts, images and sensations occurring in a persons mind during their sleep. Usually connected to the unconscious mind the events of dreams are generally outside the control of the dreamer.
As dreams are produced via our unconsciousness we are generally inclined to dream of situations and events that we believe have no existence in our mind. However because we see a number of untold images and events (whether it be in real life or in a film for example) we in fact are just projecting this. Our dreams can also be a projection of emotions that we are feeling.
There are certain dreams in particular which seem to dumbfound many people and those are ones that involve people speaking fluently, or at least being able to understand another language. The reason for the confusion is when they either do not know how to speak the language at all or they haven’t spoken the language in over a significant amount of time.
Sigmund Freud suggests that dreams are manifestations of our deepest desires and anxieties, often relating to repressed childhood memories or obsessions.  This could be a viable explanation for those that dream in a language that they have not spoken in a while (perhaps since childhood), the languages may have just been suppressed into the subconscious mind and is surfacing through dreaming.
Other dream investigations suggest that to hear or speak a foreign language in your dream indicates a message from your subconscious that you do not yet understand. Alternatively, you may not be making yourself clear to others. Further to this to dreams where you are studying a foreign language suggests that you are having difficulties expressing your thoughts. You are confronted with some unfamiliar problem that you do not know how to approach and resolve in your waking life.
Knowing different languages offers untold opportunities and has the ability to banish narrow mindedness in life. There are countless benefits of knowing different languages including improving cognitive behaviour, having an advantage edge in global communication and economy (therefore valuable when applying to a job), and simply having cultural superiority when you’re travelling. The use and understanding of another language will always help to prevail in life. So why not start learning a new language before its too late?
According to previous researchers hypotheses there is a time frame in which second language acquisition skills are at their peak; usually at the age of 6-7 years old. This contradicts what Oscar Wilde famously said ‘with age comes wisdom’ suggesting that the older we get the wiser we become. However this is not always the case, according to recent research babies as young as three months were capable of out performing adults in reference to the skills it takes when learning a new language.
The research was conducted by scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig with an outcome that would not be assumed by many . The findings showed how children manage to learn language at a faster rate during the early stages of development as well as a strong link between very basic auditory skills and sophisticated rule learning abilities. Perhaps it is therefore time to get the future generations learning and continue evolving our planet.
How old were you when you first started learning a language?
Do you think those that learn language from a younger age have a greater advantage over those that learnt at an older age?
When we came across this story at Euro London, we couldn’t help but read on. A British student winning the French X Factor?! It sounds absurd, but Matthew Raymond-Barker touched the European nation’s hearts with his renditions of pop classics in the native language. Although admitting being less than perfect at the language when he arrived in the country, with the X Factor winner’s crown at stake Matthew quickly found his fluency with French.
The story is a perfect example of how language learning can open up opportunities that you may never have dreamt possible. Ok, this is a rather exceptional example but nonetheless illustrates that you do not need to let language be a barrier to your ambitions.
Learning a language may just be the X Factor you need to find your dream job!
Whether you’re a natural when picking up the lingo on holiday or just can’t get your head round your adiós and au revoir, we all have different learning styles when approaching languages. The process in which you learn a language can often determine whether you throw your books down in frustration or reel off vocabulary with ease.
As individuals, we have a natural preference for a particular style of learning. Discovering which style is best suited to you can enhance the process of language learning, as well as making it a far more enjoyable enterprise. Here at Euro London, we encourage anyone and everyone to take up new languages and whether you are a visual, kinaesthetic or auditory learner here are some handy tips to help.
Visual – Do you delight in drawing mind maps? How about scribbling down lists? If yes, then you may be a visual learner. Visual learners thrive on seeing vocabulary written down and therefore flash cards can be a useful prop to learning.
Kinaesthetic - If you enjoy learning through the act of role play and interactive group work then you are most probably a kinaesthetic learner. Kinaesthetic learners prefer to reinforce the act of learning through a physical activity. Interactive language games are perfect for those who prefer this style of learning.
Auditory - Do you find yourself singing Adele’s latest hit, word for word? Then you may favour auditory learning. Auditory learners tend to pick up conversational language more rapidly than others and rely largely on the spoken word to process information. Making up rhymes to remember vocabulary and listening to language tapes are both ideal approaches to learning a language for these individuals.
Discovering whether you favour visual, kinaesthetic or auditory learning may just be the key to unlocking your language potential!