Re: virus: From Mouth to Mind

From: Grant Callaghan (
Date: Thu 21 Nov 2002 - 06:34:31 GMT

  • Next message: Vincent Campbell: "RE: Why Europe is so Contrary"

    >At 02:33 PM 20/11/02 -0600, you wrote:
    > >> This article from has been sent to you by
    > >>
    > >> --------------------
    > >>
    > >> August 2002 issue
    > >>
    > >> By W. Wayt Gibbs
    > >>
    > >> New insights into how language warps the brain
    > >>
    >"Some neuroscientists think they are
    >close to explaining, at a physical level, why many native Japanese speakers
    >hear "liver" as "river," and why it is so much
    >easier to learn a new language as a child than as an adult."
    >Yes Joe this is a fascinating article. Just on this point though, a few
    >years ago I was working with a youth group called 'The Flying Fruit-fly
    >Circus. We had a Chinese trainer, who was a middle aged man with a good
    >grasp of English. He had difficulties pronouncing the name, as I'm sure you
    >can understand. What he said was 'Frying Flute-fry'. It was the cause of
    >great amusement that, whilst he could obviously pronounce the required
    >syllables, he could not say the name of his circus in the same way that we
    >My solution was to write down 'The Frying Flute-fry Circus' and ask him to
    >read it. He grinned a great big grin and, with perfect enunciation and posh
    >accent (or at least good enough for us Ausies to think perfect and posh),
    >said "The Flying Fruit-fly Circus". He knew that he had said it correctly
    >and joined our hilarity. So I think that he heard it the way that we said
    >it alright, it's just that he had to think the syllables differently.
    The habits we learn as children are the foundation on which the rest of our lives are built. They are harder to change than the ones we pick up later in life. The Japanese "r" sounds the same to a Japanese as the "d" the "l" and the "r" in English. We, in turn, have trouble hearing the way they say
    "sayonara," for example. I write it "sayonara" but when pronounced by the Japanese it sounds like "saynonada" to English speaking ears. When they say
    "follow," it comes out sounding more like "fado." I had a lot of trouble with my Chinese students learning words that end in "l" because in Chinese the "l" always comes at the beginning of a syllable. My drill was to make them say two words in close succession. If the target word was "fall," I would make them say "fa lu" and then teach them to drop the "u" in "lu".

    So, although it's usually the case that words that don't exist in the first language of a person are hard to hear and pronounce, it is also the case that when a sound always comes on the front or the back of a syllable, they will find it hard to reverse the sequence. With practice, the proper sounds and sequences can be taught, but it takes a lot of practice and paying attention.


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