This is going to be a completely non-Scottish Gaelic related post. I know, both shocking and disappointing, but I promise you’ll get more of my inept attempts to speak the language later on today, scout’s honor. Besides, linguistic news is relevant to our interests (at least, to mine, and I imagine if you’re reading this probably yours too.)
News item the first: There was recently a post on Language Geek letting all those of us who’ve been living in a cave know that Google Chrome offers a language immersion app, which is pretty darn cool. You select whatever level of fluency you consider yourself, and the program takes whatever website you’re on and starts randomly changing words to their equivalent in your desired language. The higher your fluency level, the more words get replaced. Which is a nice way to start learning some serious vocabulary (though it won’t help with grammar at all). Sadly, the program uses Google’s translation software, so you can only get it for the 64 languages Google Translate is capable of… um… translating. Which does not include Scottish Gaelic. But if you want to bone up on your German, it seems like a great plan. Learn more about the app over here.
And the second bit of interesting news in the linguistic world comes from the awesome folks at Language Log. Apparently there was an essay published in Psychological Science not long ago which showed that bilingual speakers are less emotional, instinctive, and prone to cognitive biases or framing tricks (check it out here)There is now a whole bunch of speculation as to why this is. Julie Sedivy writes in Discover Magazine (in this article) that it could be because we have to think harder and take more time when using a non-native language than when we use our native tongue. It’s less natural. I wonder, though, if it might not have more to do with the process by which we learn the language to begin with. Second-language acquisition is slower, more methodical, and more analytic by nature. This blog is a perfect example. We examine the language thoroughly, a little at a time, gathering knowledge instead of a survival skill. They’re two completely different processes of learning something, and I’m not really surprised to find that that we use the results of those efforts in a way that reflects the efforts themselves. It just shows how much learning and language are connected to the way our brains work and how much of our perception of the world or ways of examining it are influenced by how we talk about it.
ETA: I just came across this very interesting interview of three Australian linguists explaining why it’s so important to save endangered languages. As this blog is pretty much all about helping save an endangered language, it seemed too appropriate to not post. Also, the aging cheese metaphor is kind of amazing. Go listen to it here.