An ever-changing life inspired by the pneuma
I was just about to get comfortable to study some languages again. Then, I find out my 90-something-year-old aunt died last night. Now, my brain is busy trying to remember something more concrete about her. Most of my memories of her are from my childhood. Those memories are pretty vague.
This is the aunt who in her 80s would go to the casino by herself. (She doesn’t speak much English from what I recall.) A cousin of mine (my aunt is her grandmother) had told me this. My reaction at the time was “That’s just awesome”.
Funny enough, the most concrete memory I have of my aunt (who is my dad’s elder sister) is from my dad’s funeral almost 18 years ago. His funeral hadn’t started yet. People were lingering around, then this lady comes in and starts wailing. It was my aunt. I’m pretty sure she startled both my brother and I. Later, my sister told me my other cousin had to tell my aunt to stop because she was scaring “the children” (lol). My sister then told me that the wailing is a Chinese tradition. Someone had to wail at the funeral so that the Chinese spirits could hear. It usually has to be someone really close to the deceased. Because this was my aunt’s younger brother’s funeral, she fit the role for that well.
Now, I’m wondering who will wail for my aunt.
Another Chinese funeral custom is the burning of “hell money”. This money supposedly pays off any spirits that block the passage of the deceased to the underworld/otherworld. I think it is similar to the Greek tradition of paying the ferryman so that the deceased can cross the river.
I wasn’t especially close to my aunt, but I recall her visiting my mom off and on during my childhood. I wish I knew more about my aunt, my mom, my dad, and my other relatives. I wish I knew what it was like for them to leave their home country to immigrate to a new country. Language barrier and time seem to be the biggest obstacles in that regard.
It’s funny that when a relative dies, no matter how close you are or not (or how much you liked or disliked that person), you feel like a part of you dies with them. I think it’s the connection to the past and to a history that you never knew about that you end up missing. Next time I’m at my mom’s, I’ll have to get her to dig out her old photo albums. Pictures tell so much and yet so little, but they are better than nothing.
The following is copy of what I posted in DuoLingo’s discussion section. (See https://www.duolingo.com/comment/5380893)
Every few discussion threads, I keep seeing the topic of how best to learn a foreign language pop up. I think I should post some of my thoughts on this issue.
I think it’s been proven so far that the best way to learn a language is through full immersion. However, even in full immersion programs, they explain grammar rules to the school children. My sister teaches French Immersion to grade school children and they stress grammar rules. I was taught French from grade 4 through high school and also through one year in university (I got placed in the advanced university course). For most of those years, I was learning French in as close to immersion as possible. (The program name was called “Extended French”, “extended” because we also took other classes in French, such as history and geography.) They placed a lot of emphasis on grammar and understanding the structure used for the language (because they wanted the students to be literate as well as able to speak the language).
While it is true that during the earliest stages of life a person picks up their first language via experience, this doesn’t mean that you can’t pick up the grammar rules fairly early, especially once someone reaches school age.
The main reason why some “rule-based learners” would have problems with a language is that they simply have not internalized what they’ve learned yet by repeated exposure to the new material (this is part of why immersion works – repeat exposure). What I’m saying is that it’s good for these types of learners to have some understanding of grammar and structure for the language so that they can stop asking “why?” all the time and then they can sit back and absorb the new material.
I wouldn’t exactly call DuoLingo’s method of teaching languages on here as “immersion” or even close to it, although it is interactive. In immersion, students don’t focus on translation. They focus on understanding the language in context. The only part of DuoLingo that is like immersion is the exercises with pictures. In my opinion, DuoLingo should use more of those exercises, but they might be worried about being too close to Rosetta Stone’s model. In comparison, Rosetta Stone is ideal if you wish to learn a language through context only.
However, the minute a language student starts to ask “Why?”, I think it’s good that the students gets accurate and detailed answers.
There are also other classes of language learners to consider: those with previous experience in learning a foreign language as well as those who have an academic or linguistic interest in a language. I think these classes of language learners will be more than ready for the “rules”.
All this being said, I think that no language learning tool is valueless. If learning a language is mostly about exposure to it, then having more than one learning tool and different methods of learning is better than not having any at all.
My recent study list has been mostly languages – Chinese (Hoisanva aka Taishanese), Korean, Spanish, Dutch, Irish, and Russian. I have yet to add German and Japanese to that. Technically, I’m bilingual as I’m able to speak and understand English and my dialect of Chinese (which is a weird mix of Taishanese and Cantonese due to my parents’ upbringing). I studied French in the past for ten years (though it’s rusty now). When I get around to studying Japanese, it will be my tenth language!
I’ve resigned myself to learning Mandarin Chinese at some point, which is quite different from my Taishanese dialect. Cantonese is very similar, but there is still enough differences to Taishanese to make Cantonese somewhat challenging. If one counts Cantonese and Mandarin separately as languages and not just dialects, I might be able to speak and understand twelve languages.
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