top of page

What is language? Share your views based on your own experiences.

Week 1

Language is a means of detailed communication, which allows humans to connect, record history, learn, plan, and create together. I don't remember learning to speak, but I do remember enhancing my understanding of the english language in elementary school through college by learning vocabulary, practicing writing my letters and cursive, completing spelling assignments, writing fiction and nonfiction works, and reading both quietly to myself and out loud. In middle school and high school, I took 5 years of Spanish. I saw through my time at school that language development took hard work and dedication. As an adult, I taught and also observed my two children develop as english speakers in my 10 years as their stay at home mom. I read, spoke, and sang to them as much as possible, even when they were infants. As a result, they are both extremely well spoken and communicate very effectively. I view language learning as most successful when immersion occurs -- giving learners as many opportunities as possible to hear the language, look at it and read it, and practice speaking and writing it as much as possible will allow them to live the language everyday and learn it intuitively. I do agree after watching my children learn to speak english from a very young age that "Language is a complex, specialized skill, which develops in the child spontaneously, without conscious effort or formal instruction, is deployed without awareness of its underlying logic..." as described in Pinker's The Language Instinct and quoted in Brown's work "Defining Language." Part of language learning is intuitive and comes naturally while becoming a more sophisticated user of the language takes dedicated study and practice. Support and guidance by patient teachers is so important to keeping students motivated and feeling welcomed into their new language. 

The Critical Period Hypothesis.

Week 2

I'm a music teacher and I view music an extremely effective method of teaching language to children. Teaching language, numbers, and many other concepts to children in the form of song is so effective and makes the learning fun! Music is a language in itself because it is a form of human communication and it has its own system of notation that is universal. I consider my work in teaching children to write, read, and perform music notation as very similar to what language teachers do, and so this course and certificate program is so helpful to my teaching practice in addition to allowing me to better support ELL students. If students don't understand a music vocabulary word or music theory concept immediately, I am not concerned because I will continue to give musical examples and explain the concepts numerous times throughout the school year. Music has so much pattern based repetition that I've seen many instances in which students will be performing a concept for awhile before they truly understand the theoretical concept or vocabulary word. They are living and performing the language of music before writing and analyzing the material, and that is an excellent way for elementary school students (especially younger ones) to begin learning and living the language of music. 


Week 3

1. Falstaff is one of Shakespeare's most popular characters, appearing in three of the playwright's stage works and eulogized in a fourth. Falstaff was a comedic villain whose role, demeanor, and behavior was over the top and captured the audience's attention: "Old, fat, lazy, selfish, dishonest, corrupt, thieving, manipulative, boastful, and lecherous" ( McWhorter refers to Falstaff during his discussion of double negatives, pointing out that although the English language currently dictates that academic, professional, and proper english does not allow for double negatives, many other languages do, including Old English. In English that resembles what we speak today (emerging in the 1500s), “single negation was an alternative, not the rule” (227).  Shakespeare’s Falstaff used a double negative speech pattern to convey intensity, and as a famous literary figure, exemplifies that double negatives were acceptable and meaningful patterns of speech at that time: "Double negation in this period was an emphatic strategy -- two negatives, rather than canceling one another out like integers, meant heightened negativity” (McWhorter 228). This “heightened negativity” fits well with the exaggerated and dramatic nature of Falstaff’s character.

2. Interlanguages are a natural stepping stone for language learners. When I practice my Spanish speaking with native speakers, I am certainly using “Spanglish” to help me get my thoughts out since there are still gaps in my vocabulary and grammar despite my 5 years of Spanish studies in school and numerous trips to Mexico. I don’t intend to butcher the Spanish language, but it is better to practice speaking broken Spanish peppered with English words and phrases as a bridge to communication, than to not practice speaking until I feel I have a thorough grasp of Spanish (which I would argue will not occur without conversational practice). When my children were learning to speak English during infancy, their words were peppered with baby speak and nonsensical sounds, but the interlanguage of baby talk and English allowed them to practice and achieve fluency. I understand that some native speakers of languages may be purists about their language and not want to see it morph with another language. However, in my family we lost our German language speaking during WWII because my ancestors in America did not want to be associated with Nazis and so they dropped many German cultural practices that would allow others to identify their country of origin. I understand why they did that during WWII, yet at the same time I mourn the loss of our German heritage and language speaking. I wish there was an acceptable interlanguage at that time for German immigrants who distanced themselves from Nazis but could still retain and celebrate their culture.

bottom of page