MEITS Blog


Want to learn four languages in a year?

by Henriette Hendriks

One of my friends forwarded me an article from a Dutch newspaper that introduces its readership to the idea of “ultra-learning”, a concept introduced by the Canadian Scott H Young (cf. Young, 2019). The article explains how Young managed to pass a 4-year MIT undergraduate course in more or less one year, and how he then set himself the challenge to learn four languages to B2 level (B2 is one of the proficiency levels proposed by the Common European Framework of Reference for languages, a level described as corresponding to a “confident” speaker).  

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Is my Chinese good?

by Yanyu Guo

“My Chinese is not good”, a heritage speaker involved in my linguistic study said with some discomfort, after finishing a Chinese reading task of the experiment. The time he spent on the task was almost twice the average, even slower than some non-heritage learners at a beginner level. However, he performed in a native-like way in listening and speaking tasks, in terms of both accuracy and reaction times. Heritage learners seem to have no problem with grammar but struggle with Chinese character recognition. They are bilinguals, but not biliterals.

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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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