Je synthétise, tu synthétises, elle synthétise …

November 12, 2009

A friend recently sent me this link about babies crying “in” a language. “Does Piaf scream in a French accent for you and an English accent for her mother?” she asked. The honest answer is that, when she was crying in the sense that this article means, I didn’t notice (probably because I hadn’t read the article) and now, as her crying is of the sort of Ground Zero tantrum variety I have described previously , I cannot make out either language and have forgotten how to interpret non-linguistic communication.

Another germane piece of media was the Horizon documentary the other night, Why Do We Talk? Superficially, of course, it had nothing to do with bilingualism – it was much more about the wonder of what you might call “anylingualism” – but it provided real insights into how language “happens”; why children take language learning in their stride when, if you think about it, it’s a seemingly impossible task when you’re starting from scratch; and how we, as humans, have an instinct such that, in the absence of language, we essentially make one out of the most promising material to hand. All in all, the programme performed that very neat trick of bringing together a load of discrete odds and ends you already knew in such a way that you forget you ever knew them and it all seems fresh, simply because you’d never synthesised it all and drawn the appropriate conclusions.

I’m all in favour of the TV doing my work for me. It gives me more time to shoehorn my daughter into a coat – “MY manteau” – against her will.


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