The Will to Plasticity

Brains, culture, and language learning

The Secrets of Foreign Language Learning

Launching a book

A couple of reviews of Babel No More have come out recently. One of them appeared in The Economist, where the reviewer says (at the beginning of a clever summary of the entire book) that:

In “Babel No More”, Michael Erard has written the first serious book about the people who master vast numbers of languages—or claim to. A journalist with some linguistics training, Mr Erard is not a hyperpolyglot himself (he speaks some Spanish and Chinese), but he approaches his topic with both wonder and a healthy dash of scepticism.

Then I was interviewed by Nataly Kelly, a Spanish-English translator, obsessive language learner, and Chief Research Officer at Common Sense Advisory. I told her (among many other things) that:

Doing research and traveling spurred me to study Italian and Hindi, and when I was in Bangalore I sat in on two Kannada classes and wished I could have stayed in south India longer. Looking at the archives of Cardinal Mezzofanti in Bologna, I found myself reading a lot of French, Italian, and Spanish. After finishing the book, I've been given a greater appreciation for doing things to maintain the plasticity of my brain, and I'm very interested in taking up a musical instrument. And like a lot of American parents, I'm compelled to make educational decisions for my son that will give him early access to foreign languages.

Finally, I was also interviewed by Colleen Ross of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for a piece whose title I have sort of borrowed for this post, about the "secrets" of language learning. As I have been writing, there are no secrets, though putting that title on blog posts and articles certainly will get people to click on it. There are a lot of methods available, most certainly more than we are shown in the typical foreign language classroom.

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Oh, yeah: Fashion Magazine dilates on the word "hyperpolyglot" and calls me "linguistically impassioned." Which I guess I am. Definitely check this piece out for the graphic by Lewis Merritt.

 

Michael Erard, Ph.D., writes about language, languages, and the people who use and study them.

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