All posts by dina0308

Hyperpolyglot vs polyglot savant

Some people learn other languages because they have to or desire to do so, whereas for others it is a natural process as they live in a multilingual environment (De Jong, 2011). However, for some people, who are able to acquire sixteen, twenty languages, it seems not to work the same way.

Timothy Doner is an ordinary teenager with an extraordinary ability to speak in over twenty languages – including his native language English, French, Hausa, Russian, Arabic, Persian, and so on.  He relates his multiple language acquisition with the love to world’s history and social politics. Timothy says that languages bring him closer to people around the globe as well as serves him to explore the world in different ways. With the help of internet blogs, youtube, textbooks, disk, etc., he is able to educate himself without external help, although for communication he creates an artificial multilingual environment through skype. In his artificial environment he can practice the oral proficiency as much as possible after getting some basic vocabulary. On the one hand, this can be explained according to De Jong, ‘he desires to learn languages’ and he has that ‘multilingual environment’ in his computer. Would it mean that anyone who desire to learn languages can succeed in as many languages as they desire to? The answer would probably be ‘NO’. It does not quiet explain Timothy’s exceptional ability to learn languages; however, his ability can be described through the term hyperpolyglot – people who ‘possess a particular neurology that’s well-suited for learning languages very quickly and being able to use them’. These quick language learners are very rare, they are more likely to be unable to drive a car, they have some problems with social interactions, they can get lost easily, etc.

How far are hyperpolyglots from polyglot savants?

In contrast, “savants” are people with serious mental, social or physical disabilities but who present extraordinary abilities in a particular area. Christopher is a polyglot savant. His diagnosis was autism; he could score very low on IQ tests and therefore he required a special care, since he was not able to take care of himself. Surprisingly, on the other hand, the research demonstrated that he was able to speak sixteen languages. Those languages mostly were learned through self-study materials, with no help at all. The researchers attempted to understand the process of language learning of the polyglot-savant. He was taught two languages, one of which was real African, and another one was artificial. Christopher could acquire African but as researchers explain, since he had autism, and he did not posses cognitive abilities, he could not acquire the artificial one, though as another research showed it was definitely possible for normal person to acquire the artificial language (Smith & Tsimpli, 1998).

If hyperpoliglots and polyglot savants have particular extraordinary ability to learn languages; can too much concentration on the languages learning bring hyperpoliglots to mental disorders and they might become polyglot savants one day? As in ‘A Beautiful Mind’ – a movie where a mathematician who was fixated on the problem solving in mathematics, developed a paranoid schizophrenia. Does this mean that excessive obsession of these people can be a reason of their developed mental disorders?

References:

De Jong, E.J. (2011). Foundations for multilingualism in education. Philadelphia.

Smith, N., Tsimpli, I.M. (1998). Modules and quasi-modules: language and theory of mind in a polyglot savant. University of Camridge and University College London. Retrieved from: chrome-extension://oemmndcbldboiebfnladdacbdfmadadm/http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.52.940&rep=rep1&type=pdf

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The human factor in pluralism

Pluralism is a positive result of people’s relationships with different cultures, languages, and religions, who happen to share the land because of one or other circumstances (Pluralism papers No.1, 2012).  The history of Kazakhstan as a state is mostly considered to begin in 1465. Its history as a pluralistic state has probably begun at the same time. There are many stories of people, regardless whether they migrated by force or by their own will, who have been leaving in the country in peace and unity for many years. One of the stories written further in this post demonstrates that human factor plays a pivotal role in the development of pluralism in our country.

The story was narrated for the first time in 1990, when the former prisoner of Akmola camp of traitors’ wives (ALZHIR) – Gertruda Platais came to Kazakhstan after many years. This touching narrative brings to tears. The women were evicted by the regime from different parts of the USSR in the camp surrounded by Kazakh villages. Gertruda shared her impressions when she met Kazakh people for the first time. It happened on the way back from the lake Zhalansh to the camp. Kazakh children and old men were throwing stones on the women. The officers of the camp laughed and explained their behavior as the reaction towards the women who were traitors; that the women were hated by everyone, even the children. The women suffered from the awful morality of the reaction which was transmitted to young generation by the old men. However, the stones turned out to be small pieces of hard cheese- kurt, since everyone in the villages knew that women in the camp were hungry and were about to die. The people of the villages constantly hid food for the women in different places by putting signs. This saved many women’s lives in such devastating conditions in the camp. Later on, the story laid as a base on a touching poem named “Kurt – a precious stone ”.  The poem portrays how the German woman prayed to Kazakh people’s God, not for saving her but for saving the people and giving their children a bright future.  Indeed, the story is a great example of humanity which was stronger than the regime of that time.

Today, children in Kazakhstan are generally aware of being a part of the ethnically diversified state. At homes they are taught eternal values, which teach to be kind to anyone, regardless the ethnicity of people. Importantly, the special respect is given to mothers, which is put on the highest rank. Beside their homes, children are inculcated the friendship and unity ideologies in kindergartens since their early years.

We have a very old proverb which says “kind deeds give award”. I think as far as people of our country keep carrying the profound meaning of this proverb, they will always have peace and happiness as awards.

References:

Defining pluralism. Pluraism papers No.1, (2012). Global center for pluralism.

The pre-school trilingual education in Kazakhstan

Within the framework of trilingual policy in Kazakhstan a number of kindergartens provide a pilot mother-tongue based trilingual education. Children are taught the two additional languages Kazakh or Russian and English at the age of four. However, it is still doubtful whether children whose mother tongue is Russian would acquire the state language – Kazakh successfully.

Some scholars suggests that the most effective ages to start learning languages are 5 and 6, they claim that the first language (L1) should be fully developed before adding other languages. According to a pilot program in Kazakhstan, children will start hearing and learning two languages other than their native one in kindergartens from the age of 4. As cited in UNESCO (2010) report on mother tongue based education, ‘the “threshold level hypothesis”, which posits that only when children have reached a threshold of competence in their first language can they successfully learn a second language without losing competence in both languages. Further, only when a child has crossed a second threshold of competence in both languages will the child‘s bilingualism positively affect intellectual development, a state which they called additive bilingualism” (Skutnabb-Tangas and Toukomaa, 1976, p.13). However, some scholars argue that it should be done earlier. Montessori, for example, emphasizes that “Only a child under three can construct the mechanism of language, and he can speak any number of languages if they are in his/her environment at birth (as cited in Anderson, 1974, p.77). According to another Japanese scholar Ibuka (2012), it is more difficult to perceive models of foreign languages later when a child has already built a model of his or her native language in the brain (after 3 years old).

The above mentioned demonstrates that the pre-school trilingual program can be effective. However, in my own experience I acquired Kazakh and Russian as my native languages and keep balance in these two languages since they were the languages of my home (Kazakh) and the kindergarten (Russian) which I attended form the age of two. Then English was the additional language when I was 7 years old. Today I am able to communicate freely in three languages. So I think that bilingual education (Kazakh and Russian in the same load) should be first considered in kindergartens since children in Kazakhstan start being enrolled to kindergartens when they are 2. By the age of 6-7 when the competence in two languages will be achieved English can be added. So when children enter schools they will be able to freely communicate in two languages; hopfully Kazakh language will be acqired as a native one. This will positively affect their cognitive and language skills. Later on, since the trilingual program continues in primary and secondary schools, the competence in three languages will be further developed and will not be a burden for learning other subjects.

References

 

Anderson, T. (1974). Bilingual education and early childhood. (pp. 77-78). American association of teachers of Spanish and Portuguese.

Ibuka, M. (2012). (Ed.) Posle treh uje pozdno. Moscow. M: Alpina non-fiction.

Kairgalieva,B., Salieva, A. (2013). UMK K PROGRAMME “RAZVITIE TRIEDINSTVA YAZYKOV V DOSHKOLNYH ORGANIZACIYAH”. Retrieved from www.rcdd.kz/files/umk-razvitie-triedinstva-yazikov.doc

UNESCO, (2010). Enhancing learning of children from diverse language backgrounds: Mother tongue-based bilingual or multilingual education in early childhood and early primary school years. University of Victoria.

How to make reading fun for the growing generation?

Having observed my 2 year old nephew playing ipad, who knows its features better than I do, the other day, I thought: would he love books as much as he loves that gadget in the future? I am not talking about the books that he will have to read at school and university; I am talking about serious fiction literature. I could not help but wonder: Will he even have any favorite books? And how can I help him to raise the love to literature?

The issue of reading generation is especially pivotal for the time being, since contemporary people are more likely to spend unlimited hours surfing on the Internet rather than reading books. According to the journal “Knigolube”, only 17% of Kazakhstani citizens are active readers who buy at least one fiction book a month. More sadly, Kazakhstan’s National Library revealed that the whole generation of young people, who are not even familiar with serious literature, has been formulated over the last 15 years. In addition, they claim that around 50% of the adult population does not read at all. These “book lovers” will definitely be the role models for their growing children. Consequently, there will probably be much more such “book lovers”, who think that reading is a hard work or an old-fashioned occupation.

WHY SHOULD WE CARE ABOUT READING?

According to “The reading Kazakhstan” project, reading is a core for individual’s knowledge, gaining professional skills, consciousness and cognitive, which molds the foundation of world view. Besides, it is a crucial element to reach cultural and national values.

I think reading books can be compared to a treasure that contain tons of gold, but is forgotten and only searched by limited number of people. Those who decide to seek for treasure will find golden benefits which develop verbal abilities, improve focus, memory, imagination and so on (“10 reasons why reading will save your life”).

SO HOW TO HELP CHILDREN READ?

1.         Role-modeling is the best way to make children read. By teaching yourself to read, you teach your children.

2.        Read stories with them. According to Bloch (1996), ‘listening to stories is the most crucial to later competence’ of children (p.5).

3.        Do not demand children to read with the speed of light. Pay more attention if they do enjoy reading and comprehend to it.

 CAN YOU ADD SOME MORE ADVICES?

 References

Bloch, C (1996). EMERGENT LITERACY, MULTILINGUALISM AND EARLY CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT (ECD). Position paper prepared for the Education Sub-Committee of the Language Plan Task Group (LANGTAG).PRAESA, Faculty of Education, University of Cape Town, Private Bag, Rondebosch 7700

National Library of the Republic of Kazakhstan. “The reading Kazakhstan” project of 2010-2013.  Retrieved from http://www.nlrk.kz/page.php?page_id=175&lang=1

10 reasons why reading will save your life. Retrieved from: http://whytoread.com/why-to-read-10-reasons-why-reading-books-will-save-your-life/