Language development is similar to muscular development

Hi, readers.

Recently, a mother asked whether the time and effort she had spent teaching English to her child would be lost if she had to stop for a while.
We have seen in the research literature that early exposure to a foreign language increases the possibility that the child will later develop a higher level of proficiency in that language, and that a child’s attitude towards that language will be more positive.
From our experience, however, we know that it is difficult to learn a new language. When we stop learning and using a second language, we gradually become less proficient in that language. Yet, if we begin learning and using that language again, we regain our skills quite quickly. To simplify the reason for this, we might say that the brain has stored the “potential” for using that language again.
In muscular development, we notice a similar pattern. While a great deal of effort and nutrition is needed in order to build a muscle, when we stop using it, the muscle shrinks. However, when we begin using it again, the muscle quickly regains it’s original size. The muscle has a “memory” of its original size.
Perhaps we can say that language ability and muscular development are similar in their ability to build, and to regain their original strength.
When we think of all the positive effects of second language learning, it seems reasonable to conclude that no language education is wasted.
Simon R. Downes, PhD



幼いうちに外国語に触れておくという事は、将来的により高度な語学力を習得する可能性を高め、子どもの対象言語の学習態度をより積極的なものとするという研究報告がなされています。 私たちは自分の経験を通して、新しい言語を学ぶのは難しいという事を知っていますね。第二言語をの学習と実践を中断すると、その言語の能力は次第に失われていくものです。でも、再び学習と実践を始めれば、その言語力を短期間で取り戻す事が出来るのです。

この理由について簡単に言うと、私たちの脳は再びその言語を使う「潜在能力」を持っている、と説明できるのではないかと思います。 筋肉の発達にも同じようなパターンが見られます。筋肉を作るには、多くの努力と栄養が必要です。そして一度使うのを中断すれば、筋肉は小さくなります。それでも、再び筋肉を動かす事により、短期間で元のサイズの筋肉を取り戻す事が出来るのです。筋肉には元のサイズの「記憶」があるのです。 能力の構築と一度達したレベルへの復帰能力という点において、言語能力と筋肉の発達には類似性があると言えるかも知れませんね。


サイモン・ダウンズ  (翻訳:市瀬愛)


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