Ever wondered about the link between dreaming and language learning?
You’ve probably heard people talk about the moment when they started to dream in a foreign language. It’s often considered a sign of fluency. In the 1980s, Canadian psychologist Joseph De Koninck observed that students of French who spoke French in their dreams earlier made progress faster than other students.
But were they quicker because they dreamed, or did they dream because they were quicker?
With the World Cup in full swing, everybody is brushing up on their Brazilian football language and throwing around words like jogo bonito! and golaço!.
These words are part of every football fan’s vocabulary, testament to the vibrancy of Brazilian footballing culture and its impact on the world.
Yet we need only step back a century, to the birth of Brazilian football, and we have to acknowledge the influence of a small island nation that has only won one World Cup compared to Brazil’s five – England.
We like lists because we don’t want to die.
- Umberto Eco, The Infinity of Lists
What’s a listicle? It’s an article written in the form of a list. You know, the ones you see with titles like ‘11 Things to Never Say to a Man Whose Head Has Been Sheared Off by a Sheet of Glass’ or ‘25 Lesbians Who Look Like Justin Bieber’ (wait! come back!).
Depending on your taste they can make you laugh or simply confirm that humanity is a lost cause. Websites like Buzzfeed and Listverse grew famous for them, newspapers embraced them, and people, inevitably, started to hate them.
They are the purest textual expression of a distracted, modern mind. So it’s probably worth asking: what are they doing to our brains?
Photo by Haraldo Ferrary / CC 2.0
When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie
Love. Fury. Passion. Italians are well known for expressing themselves through body language and hand gestures, as if the feelings bubbling up inside them can’t be expressed in mere words, but require an accusing finger, an appeal to the heavens, a shake of the fist.
Scandinavians, on the other hand, are not.
According to traditional stereotypes, our northern brethren are more reasoning and reserved. It’s not that they don’t feel extreme emotions – just that they are less inclined to express them physically.
Yes, these are cultural cliches, although few people would dispute that Italians talk with their hands to express themselves. But what if there is a biological imperative behind it? What if gestures actually help our brain develop? What if there is a link between how we use our hands and how we solve problems?
Photo by Elias Gayles / CC 2.0
Students are anxious to learn it. Dictionaries try to define it. Media outlets develop extensive style guides for it. Governments try to control it.
What sounds like a new crack epidemic is, in fact, just a language: English.
We live in a world surrounded by many different types of English. You can enjoy the weird and wonderful offerings of Urban Dictionary, smile when an Indian businessman asks you to prepone your meeting, or watch The Wire and realise you need subtitles.
But ‘proper English’ is still a desirable commodity – and big business. So who gets to decide what it is?