Dear 100 Hour Board,
What did you learn from today's devotional?
-that one TA almost forgot to ask but then I remembered
Sorry for holding this answer over. The devotional was "Language Learning: A Truly Educational Experience" by Brother Clifford, who is the Director for the Center for Language Studies, and I wanted to wait until I could link to it because it was SO GOOD. I honestly feel...silly, perhaps, trying to write about it, so I'll just mention a few things.
-He mentioned that language is "the most complex of all human behaviors." As I've been caring more about the things I say and write lately, I really feel this statement. There's connotations and denotations and etymology and historical evolution, and with all that we expect to understand each other easily? No wonder people have such a hard time; we're all operating with different systems but don't recognize it. Things like movement and facial expression are more uniform or consistent (at least within a culture), but the same word can carry with it a variety of meanings — depending on context and intent — even within a family or long-time friend group.
-A superior level of language proficiency requires one to be able to "spontaneously deliver elaborate explanations and abstract reasoning in extended presentations and discussions." I thought this was especially cool having recently studied Preach My Gospel, which encourages missionaries to be able to summarize scriptures and quotes in their own words (whether in a foreign language or their native one). I think starting with this practice leads to quicker mastery of a language, and it's cool to see PMG be spot on.
-In general, I just feel compelled to learn languages. I'm not very good at this, though. I've even let my Spanish slip a lot since returning to the States, and that can be discouraging. But I want to be able to understand people and appreciate them and where they come from, and I feel like language is a big part of that, so I will keep trying.
-I loved that he ended it with talking about the language of the Spirit. It feels correct to treat it as something to learn, just as any other language, and not something you just get or you just don't. I also love that the language of the Spirit is not limited to words. God speaks to people's current light and knowledge, and in a way they will understand. For me, that is sometimes words, but not always. At different times in my life, I have been less-than-good at feeling its influence, but I'm excited to get better at being receptive to its promptings and going from there.
Dear that one TA almost forgot to ask but then I remembered,
I've been sad that I haven't been at BYU to watch the devotionals and thus answer these questions, but then I remembered that the internet is a thing! So I'll actually answer this one for ya.
First of all, please forgive me for the fact that all my examples will be about Polish, but that's the lens through which I view foreign language learning.
The first section about the complexity of language rang true to me, considering I've been learning English for almost 22 years and I think I've maaaybe made it to the "Intermediate" level. I kid, but I could be much better at English.
I thought a lot about learning the culture along with the language, and understanding the people and not just the words. It's one think to be able to memorize vocab, and it's a whole other thing to be able to feel the concept of the language, to be able to feel it the way natives feel it. It reminds me of an old woman in my mission who would always say that it was easy to find a missionary that speaks Polish, but it was rare to find one that feels Polish. I would always joke with her and ask if I felt Polish yet. She'd always tell me no. It wasn't until she opened up to me about depression and I was expressing some deep feelings that she tearfully told me that I was feeling Polish. And it really felt that way, I could tell that I was really communicating not only in the language, but in the culture as well.
That's mostly why I think that translating is so hard, there are so many cultural ideas that you can translate to more effectively relay the information. There are also just technicalities, I remember the dismay of the Polish translators when Devin Durrant gave his talk on "ponderizing". How do you translate that? They did a good job, but there wasn't a perfect way to translate it.
I also remember a really funny instance where the speaker told a story about baseball and the very clever translator explained the rules and premise of baseball faster than I've ever heard it explained. It was amazing really.
I love the quote that he used that says that "The limits of my language define the limits of my world". I think that's absolutely true, my communications with others define everything that I can do, and that almost exclusively happens through the English language. It made me think a lot more about being an effective communicator, and its place in my life.
Keep it real,