MEITS Blog


What, if anything, makes learning English different from learning other languages?

by Henriette Hendriks

We Skyped the son of a friend of ours last week. He’s from the Netherlands and needed to interview a British citizen for his English homework. He sent an email,  in English, inviting my British partner to participate and then proceeded to conduct the interview in fluent and almost flawless English.

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Football, Multilingualism and Interdisciplinarity

by Lisa-Maria Müller

“Tooor, Tooor, Tooor, Tooor, Tooor, Tooor! I wer’ narrisch!” Cordoba 1978, Austria beats Germany 3:2 – a legendary victory the country still hasn’t quite recovered from (not least because Austria isn’t necessarily spoiled with football victories). 

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“Hey, I’m a trilingual. What are you?”

by Yanyu Guo

Leo is a three-year-old boy who has lived in Hong Kong since he was born. When meeting a new friend, he usually proudly introduced himself as a trilingual and wondered if the kid standing in front of him could also speak different languages. Leo’s parents initially adopted a ‘one parent-one language’ policy in which the mother spoke to the child in Cantonese and the father in Mandarin.

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Could languages help young women break the glass ceiling?

by Lisa-Maria Müller

The gender pay gap is persistent and while the number of female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies is at an all-time high, according to the 2017 list released by Fortune magazine, it still only amounts to 32, or 6.4%. But young women might have an ace up their sleeves ...

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Where is that native speaker?

by Henriette Hendriks

Have you ever learnt a modern foreign language? Many of us have attempted it at least once in our lives. Perhaps it was in school, or perhaps you fell in love. However, an encounter with a new language arises, starting to learn always seems easy. But how do you know when you have finished, or reached the target? At what point can you say you have acquired the language? Is it, perhaps, when you know all the rules in the grammar book? Or when you stop speaking with a foreign accent? The questions surrounding how much language is sufficient to have acquired it are ones that have been testing learner, teacher and researcher alike.

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Is acquiring a second language like acquiring the first?

by Yanyu Guo

Human language has posed great challenges for learning sciences. It has long been noted that children acquire language with relative ease and rapidity and without effort or formal teaching while adult second language (L2) learners cannot. In particular, children show creativity in the course of first language (L1) acquisition, which goes far beyond the input that they are exposed to. This was dubbed as the poverty of the stimulus by Chomsky (1980), with an assertion that human’s knowledge about natural language grammar is supplemented with some sort of innate linguistic capacity. Chomsky (1965) put forth a hypothetical module called the language acquisition device (LAD), which enables human to acquire and produce language.

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The Earlier the Better?

by Lisa-Maria Müller

There seems to be a general consensus that languages are best learned at a young age and it is not difficult to see where this assumption comes from. Children generally acquire their native languages seemingly effortlessly, all while discovering the world around them. Adults, in contrast, tend to find the learning of languages substantially more challenging, even if they put a lot of effort into the task. Hence the logical conclusion that foreign language learning must be easier for children than adults, which explains why the starting age for language learning in schools has consistently been lowered over the past decades. Great. Answer found, case closed, let’s move on. Right? Well, it’s not so easy. The problem with the assumption mentioned above is that it is based on a comparison between first language acquisition and second language learning instead of comparing like with like. That is, students who have started to learn foreign languages early in their school careers and those who have only been exposed to them later in life.

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