Becoming a Language Baby

Some of my toughest language learning experiences were in an introductory Korean class I took in college. By the time I began to learn Korean, I was already speaking enough Japanese to not only survive a week in Tokyo, but also help a group of classmates navigate trips on intricate rail systems and eat from all-Japanese menus.

I was glowing from these achievements, so finding myself in a full-immersion experience with the Korean language killed my pride in a grand way. I thought that my teacher went way too fast and I was frustrated when I botched chance after chance to express myself to her. Pouting one day at all of the progress I wasn’t making, I finally understood that I was being sent back to memories of learning English, my native language, for the for the first time. I was in the awkward state of being a language baby.

Honestly, learning a new language does involve putting yourself back into the shoes of a child. Think back to that experience of babbling and speaking nonsense, which people were willing to happily listen to up until the point you were no longer cute and cuddly! Maybe part of the reason we shy away from learning new languages and even new things about our own language is because we dread that return to incoherent dependency. We want to think of ourselves as capable and articulate, and surely we are, but in another person’s language, we have quite a lot of catching up to do.

Don’t let this be discouraging though. Realize that being completely new to a language, accommodating native speakers will allow you space to make mistakes. Besides, there are some pretty swell points to learning new languages with prior language learning experience.

You better understand what kind of learner you are.
Being that you’ve already gone through an education system in one way or another, you already know whether you’re a visual or an auditory learner. You know if you prefer to learn with books or with games or with videos. These tidbits of information can make it easier for you to open up to a language and stick with it even when you start to get a little discouraged.

You already know what your preferences are.
This works only if you don’t let those personal tastes get in the way of trying new things. If done well, you can easily find shared interests to bond over with a speaker of a different language. If you’re a hobbyist, chatting with a person from another country about it can be an easy way to make new friends. Even if your take on the subject is different, the similarities will be enough to kindle a more personal relationship.

You know more about what you want out of life.
Perhaps when you were a child you had to learn a language as a requirement, like us U.S. American kids who hardly remember our high school Spanish when we reach adulthood. Or maybe there was a language that your family spoke that you weren’t interested in until now. Whether you’re looking to regain your language skills to find work abroad or you’ve fallen in love with someone and want to share that with them, you as a non-native language learner have goals that clearly reflect passions.

So maybe I’ll take my own advice when I take another dive into Korean sometime in the future and follow my passion for food. And of course, if you need someone for your English learning journey, I’m happy to help you learn!

Traveling Beyond the Five Point Essay

Different cultures have different ways of writing essays. It’s a fact that’s very obvious, but the United States can be so ethnocentric that we often never learn about simple things like this. Yes, if you’ve grown up in the land of the of the five-point essay, then it might be hard to think about essay writing any other way.

For those not familiar with the five-point, or five paragraph essay, it is a common goal in the U.S. education system that people learning to write should be able to defend a thesis (main argument) in about five key points. The argument is presented in the first paragraph, or introduction, and then reiterated in the last paragraph, the conclusion. A minimum of three body paragraphs filled with facts supporting the thesis are then sandwiched between those introductory and a concluding paragraphs.

Making sandwiches is a very U.S. American thing to do.

After everything is researched, all information is cited properly and bundled into a little non-nonsense package.  However, if people in other countries have differing beliefs about everything from time management to audiovisual aesthetics to the way they see themselves in society, the way they might employ language can be drastically different.

When I was still just a volunteer ESL teacher in college, my students from Latin American countries like Peru and Mexico seemed to really enjoyed using narratives in their essay writing. This wasn’t believed to take away from the fast and hard scientific facts that we tend to value. This also resulted in writing that was warm and experiential.

When I was trained as a writing center consultant in university, I found that my Chinese clients were fond of sprinkling tidbits of history and cultural knowledge across their essays. And to the dismay of their professors, they were a lot less likely to have a citation for this information because it is thought to be freely shared by society. When they included narratives in their writing, it was often focused on family memories.

I have studied Japanese for a long time, so I’ve had to step out of my writing comfort zone numerous times to impress my sensei. A thesis is not revealed in the beginning paragraph of a Japanese essay. You are given background information on the topic in question and then perhaps a dilemma or puzzle to ponder. Then, you are taken through the writer’s winding understanding as they reach a logical conclusion.

Amazing, isn’t it? With expertise backed by a global perspective, we hope to offer you something more than the average five point here at DAEDAL. And we’d love to hear more about essay writing in your part of the world.

Who Benefits from Language Services?

The short answer: everybody!

Whether you’re learning English for the first time or are still finding grammar and vocabulary difficult after many years of study, there’s no need to feel alone. Even if English is your first language, we know well those moments when language doesn’t come to us as easily as we’d like. We stutter in front of crowds of hopeful listeners and stare at blank pages, hoping to express even a tiny bit of what we’re feeling inside. There’s a simple reason why working with another person can benefit you and your work.

Language is meant to be shared.

Take the very creation of language as confirmation of this. It was developed so that human beings could share life-saving knowledge with each other. This occurs in all parts of the world and persists even in modern times.

As wonderful as something might sound in your head,  you won’t know for sure until you’re in front of someone. We pick up on non-verbal cues to guide us through a conversation. We argue over the way we think something should be. As dreaded as they may be, we need questions from the audience during our presentations to be sure that others are understanding our ideas. We are beings that thrive on feedback after all.

When you have a personal conversation with someone about your writing or you get another person to fumble through the drafting process with you, great things can happen! That being said, you challenge the parts of language that already exist and create your own standards for communication everyday. So don’t be shy about putting forth your best work.

Be a proud part of that legacy and share your language journey with others. We sure hope that you’ll keep us in mind if you’d like some help getting started!