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How does learning a language differ from learning just any other information?

  1. Nov 2, 2003 #1
    I just recently delved into a new Language [Latin] and this question ran through my mind.

    How does learning a language differ from learning just any other information? Certianly there is a different process that must take place for one to learn language and actually think in that language. While you are learning the language you relate the words to your language, you cannot "see" the meaning of the words in any other way. Once you have learned the language, however, you can then relate the words to that language and you no longer need your previous language to understand that language.

    I'm curious how this works.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 7, 2013
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 3, 2003 #2
    This may be difficult for me to answer. I have learned other languages, but never to the point where I could think in them. I think that can only come from full immersion(ie living in the country a few months). But I think the transitional point you're talking about is when you begin to use the foreign languages as a means to learn new words from that language(ie saying "what is the word for"..
    in the foreign language instead of using point of reference from your native language). At least that's been my experience. I'm sure there are other factors involved, but that one stands out to me.
  4. Nov 3, 2003 #3


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    I speak French to an okay degree (more than a litle rusty now tho') and can also converse in Turkish.

    Lerning language differs from learning other information as the brain contains specialized centre for language. IIRC Noam Chomsky (one of the greatest linguists ever in IMO) has done a lot of work in exactly the area your talking about. If your really intersted look around for books like Steve Pinker's Words and Rules or a more technical linguistics book like the Cambridge Enclyopedia of Language, which is a bible for linguists.
  5. Nov 3, 2003 #4
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  6. Nov 3, 2003 #5
    Zantra, that is exactly what I was getting at.

    I know that when you first start learning a language you think tremebundus means trembling, and when you read that you read trembling, not tremebundus. I think it is interesting when you "cross over" and start reading tremebundus instead of trembling.

    HAVOC451 and jcsd, thank you very much for the information and the link. I'll look into the books at our University's library and I will most certainly read those articles.

    If our mind has a specific place for learning languages, how does it differentiate between two languages? For example, how does it know when to you use English instead of French? This sounds like a stupid question, but what I mean exactly is, how would the process work that it would know all these languages like one and still be able to choose between the various learned languages? If you knew them all thoroughly and flawlessly as if they were your "true" language and you started writing and didn't think about what you were writing, would your mind alternate between the languages or is there only room for one language at one time in your "RAM":smile:.
  7. Nov 3, 2003 #6


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    These are not stupid questions; the language capability of homo sapiens is a very interesting one, and your questions (and other 'stupid' ones) point to fascinating aspects of this capability.

    For those who are fortunate enough to have grown up in a household where two or more languages are spoken do truly develop 'mother tongue' fluency in each. There are also individuals who appear not to lose, at adolescence, the extraordinary language acquisition capability of children; for them, learning a new language is truly easy (their verbal fluency may not be quite native-like however).

    Of course, learning to read and write is quite different from listening and speaking, and is perhaps more difficult for children than for adults.

    Do read Pinker, it's a fantastic book.
  8. Nov 3, 2003 #7


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    Re: Language

    Latin is a new language?

  9. Nov 3, 2003 #8
    Re: Re: Language

    Yes, of course it is new

    EDIT: I recently delved into a language new to me.[b(]
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