Reification: Problems with Relation to Language Learning

beneficii   Sun Jan 06, 2008 6:18 am GMT
I finally found the word to describe what intuitively I thought was so wrong with the processes of language learning that people take and it is here in this article:

I agree 100% that equating relying entirely on explicit grammatical explanations and bilingual dictionaries of a language to learning/doing the language amounts to the _fallacy of reification_.


'Can you see what I mean? Discussion ABOUT language, no matter how detailed, erudite or numerical, is not, cannot and will never be language itself. The belief that it is is the source of all difficulty and calamity. The typical student of Latin today probably knows more about Latin than most Roman citizens ever did; I can just see Roman kids all: “hey, Quintus, what’s the ablative singular on that, bro?”, but still could barely comprehend a raw Latin text let alone use the language. Put another way, you could be fluent in Japanese without ever knowing ABOUT Japanese, but you could never be fluent in Japanese only by knowing about it. This was never more vividly illustrated than when, last weekend, I went to my Sengalese friend, B-star’s house. B-star came to Japan aged 27, 7 years ago. Not a word of Japanese. He’s now completely fluent. We talked to each other in Japanese, he told me:

“When I first came to Japan, I went to a Japanese school and looked at the books, but it just kind of sucked, you know? So I was like…this isn’t going to work; I’m not going to learn this way; I just have to go out there and figure it out. Pretty soon I was speaking, and people asked me ‘how did you learn?’, I said: ‘I don’t know! Not even I know!’”.


Anyway, B-star isn’t the star of this tale, his four-year-old daughter is. She was talking circles around some people who had taken university-level Japanese. Because children have magical language midichlorians? Negatory…I think it has more to do with the fact that B-star’s daughter doesn’t know what a base 5 verb is (as a matter of fact, I’m not sure what this bases business is).

So knowing the path and walking the path are clearly two different things. Knowing what you’re doing and knowing about what you’re doing are two different things. I mean, I could write you volumes (no, I really could) about iconicism, subtext and hyper-realism in Toy Story but does that mean Toy Story is hard to watch? NO, for crying out loud it’s a freaking children’s movie. A thing is not its abstraction. A description or abstraction can be useful, until it isn’t, at which point it becomes little more than a legend, a ghost story whose only real purpose is to impress and/or intimidate.



And the all important quotation that a lot of people seem to forget about:

"Yes, even if you had no systematic method, if you were to spend the _next 18-24 months, 24 hours a day,_ surrounded by one language to the absolute and total exclusion of all other languages, I am almost certain that it would be impossible for you to come out without fluency" (emphasis added).
Guest   Sun Jan 06, 2008 8:25 am GMT
24 hours a day surrounded by one language is not possible. I have got other things to do as well. In the end, it all boils down to a lot of input. The main question is which is the right time for an actual production of the language. When should we start speaking and writing?
Xie   Sun Jan 06, 2008 1:51 pm GMT
Personally, I really like what this guy writes. Like what he says... or, no, I can just say "I say", with my very limited knowledge of (his) English (which has been good reading materials for me, btw), I can understand the gist of it, it works, done, good. I don't have to analyze anything, not even the word reification (which I did, out of curiosity).

>>So if you want to be good at something, maybe you should let go of whatever reservations, ignorance [...] that may be holding you back, and just try it. Don’t think ABOUT it, don’t analyze it. Stop talking, stop arguing, stop considering, stop comparing and contrasting. Just do it.

This is the summary.

As usual, I think his passage is "good". A bit long (for me, English challenged lol), but long enough. I like the examples. Beginners wouldn't really understand what NOT to do, like ANALYZING, without reading a long passage like such, with a lot of interesting examples.

The idea isn't exactly about learning a language for literally 24 hours a day. It's just a slogan or whatnot. "I" did tell some people about this site, and the responses were less than lukewarm, and they were not saying anything other than "that doesn't make Japanese easier, does it?".

And here, it's what the alljapaneseallthetime guy and I, someone who hasn't learnt a language as good as his Japanese, would think about and write a passage like that. It's not just a western tradition or whatnot. There are certainly some practical steps you still must take, and sometimes you might not be able to get things "right" or feel frustrated sometimes, but still, as written, why "whine"? It just seems like, when you start to split hair, at that moment you are already becoming analytic, and things would easily suck.

Then, after all, I'd like to ask: I'm "informally" psy. prepared now. But how to kick start? How do I find the input? For Japanese or, whatever, ok, there are tools you can use, but what else? Doing Japanese or whatever all the time would mean you need everything native. Textbooks (to be very soon forgotten, really, for its own sake). Translations, like Assimil ones. Transcripts. Writing out lessons. Word lists, whenever necessary. TV courses. Anything. But then? I know I mustn't be analytic and may have to be somewhat orderly and have plans... and ok, I play lessons even in the background to immerse in the language totally, but the ultimate ever-recurring question is: How do I maximize the input? For an Anglophone to learn Japanese, it could still not be terribly easy; what about the others? I'm being analytic, but, really, it's the ultimate practical question that troubles many. Aspiring Chinese students of European languages often complain about cases and genders and tenses and so on, but then, it seems like, as a universal fact (or simply my personal belief), there are certain preconditions of maximizing input *that literally easily* through collecting materials, recording songs and drama series and so on...i.e. the African way or whatever.