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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

42                  The Loom of Language
how languages grow, and the reader who docs not know many gram-
matical terms will discover the use of important ones The reader
who already knows the sort of grammar taught m schools and colleges
may make the discovery that grammar is not intrinsically dull;, and
may learn something about the principles which must motivate a
rational judgment about language-planning for a world at peace
The popular myth that it is more difficult foi an adult than for
a child to learn languages has been disproved by experimental research
carried out by modern educationists Much of the efiort put into
early education is defeated by the limitations of the child's expen-
ence and interests The ease with which we remember things depends
largely on the ease with which we can link them up to things we know
already Since the adult's experience of life and the adult's vocabulary
are necessarily more varied than those of the child., the mental equip-
ment of the adult provides a far broader basis of association for fiesh
facts. Thus an intelligent grown-up pcison approaches the study of a
new language with knowledge of social customs and of history, with a
world picture of change and growth gained by general reading or study,
and with a stock of foreign words, foreign idioms or derivatives of
borrowed roots gleaned from daily reading about international aflairs
(cfl canard^ d&narche, Quai d^ Or say, Wilhctmstrasse, blitzkrieg), adver-
tisements of proprietary products (glaxo, aspirin, cute*, innoxa, oval"
tine)} or technical innovations (cyanamide, carbide,, hydrogenation,
radio-therapy, calories, vitamins, selenium). Children learn their own
language and a foreign one pan passu. The adult can capitali/c the
knowledge of his or her own language as a basis for learning a new one
related to it Above all, an adult can visualize a distant goal more
easily than a child.
One of the difficulties with which a child has to contend is the
haphazard way in which we pick up the home language Children
acquire a vocabulary with little deliberate elucidation from parents or
from brothers and sisters, and they do so in a restricted environment
which exempts them from dangers of misunderstanding in a larger,
less intimate one Before school age our language diet is nobody>i>
business So the power of definition and substitution, so essential to
rapid progress in a foreign language, comes late in life, if at all Indeed
most of us never realize the inherent irrationalities and obscurities 01
natural language until we begin to grapple with a foreign one The
discovery may then come as a shock, discouraging further effort
Many difficulties which beset the beginner are due to the fact that