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acquiring a second language through exposure only

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neandermagnon

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Debbie - thank you so much for the info - super helpful

And language confusion is certainly real. Code switching is related to who you are speaking with. Subbing words from Arabic to French is part of confusion. Your brain knows you aren't supposed to be doing English and does the best it can without. This is why it's hard to learn two languages at once and need to use both in similar circumstances. I'll admit I'm guessing a bit here based on experience. It's not a topic I've studied a lot. I just recall it being mentioned and took Spanish and French at the same time in high school and college. (I started Spanish in Jr. High, so was further along, but their similarities both helped and hurt.)

That's really interesting :)

I think one thing that didn't help with the French/Arabic confusion was going to stay in Algeria for 3-4 weeks (actually was supposed to be a shorter stay but due to Reasons I had to stay longer, including extending my visa twice). Algerians are fluent in both French and Arabic and like to liberally mix the two together, like starting a sentence in French and ending it in Arabic.

The evolution of languages is very fascinating (as I'm sure is evident from this thread) not just the emergence of spoken language but how languages evolved. So it makes me wonder if in the future there'll be an Algerian language that's basically a mix of French and Arabic.
 

neandermagnon

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Monastics developed sign languages (vows of silence), several of them, largely differentiated between the various orders, and not tied to an extant language. There are several extant guides to them from manuscripts written in the tenth century and later.

There are a number of whistled languages of various complexity, one of which was a secret language used among Chinese women, and not tied to a specific extant language.

There are extant human languages that are hummed and clicked.

Also: see this on Neanderthal gendered division of labor, and archaeological dental data

That is really interesting. :) Thanks for posting.

With the Neandertal tooth study, I'm wondering whether experimental archaeologists can replicate the wear patterns on the teeth and get a better idea which activities caused which wear patterns.

Regarding Neandertal women hunting, I've heard different opinions from different researchers, but on balance, I'm starting to think that maybe the Neandertal women in my story should hunt at least in some circumstances. Some middle palaeolithic hunting techniques, e.g. a large group of humans driving an animal into a trap, likely were done by men, women and children together and this is similar to what the modern population with no gender roles does (albeit with smaller animals). The Neandertals were sophisticated enough to use different tactics for different animals/situations.

ETA: Neandertal males had injuries showing similar patterns to rodeo riders, suggesting they were caused by close contact with large animals - it's not been clear if female Neandertals have similar injury patters, as some sources I've read don't mention females at all (it's becoming a bit of a theme lol) but I've heard reference in other sources to there not being so many injuries in females. This wouldn't be proof that females didn't hunt, but it would be likely they didn't partake in the most dangerous forms of hunting. But now I'm inclined to go and look at the original rodeo rider injury patterns study to see if the researcher made mention of females. It was done in the 70s or 80s though IIRC...

ETA#2: (sorry) - just did the above and found that the authors of the rodeo rider study have re-examined the evidence from their own study, suggesting that some injuries could be due to interpersonal violence and also that due to differences in how wounds heal, the fossil record may not show an accurate record of the ratio of different types of injury, meaning they may not follow the rodeo rider pattern after all. I might completely reinvent how I've portrayed their culture... more research to do first though...
 
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Debbie V

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"So it makes me wonder if in the future there'll be an Algerian language that's basically a mix of French and Arabic."

This is so likely, there is a word for it: creole. Websters online says "not capitalized : a language that has evolved from a pidgin but serves as the native language of a speech community."

Spanish speakers in the US switch languages like this as well. It's all in which language best expresses the concept.
 

UntoldStoryteller

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Lots of excellent insights and idea to draw from in this thread; but adding my experience in case it’s helpful. I served in the Peace Corps in Cambodia for two years. When I began my post, they dropped me into a village where no one spoke English. Every day for ten weeks, I sat around with someone pointing at objects or actions and trying to figure out what word or phrase corresponded. At the end of those ten weeks, they moved me to my permanent post where I spent the duration of my two years. Learning Khmer was my third language (English being my native language, and French being my second fluent language which I learned in high school through college, eventually living in Paris for ~a year or so). I NEVER mastered Khmer. Like your Neanderthal language, I found a lot of the sounds hard to differentiate and pronounce. One thing that played a huge role in my language learning ability was culture. I loved my service, but it was lonely and hard, which made it difficult to really connect the way I might have if I had a teacher and/or was in a preferred learning environment.

With that in mind, a few things that may be of consideration for your plot:
- How quickly or slowly the MC learns the language might be impacted by motivation (e.g., are you really motivated to communicate, trusting of your hosts, and eager to please or are you feeling culture shock, loneliness and isolation that makes it hard to connect and engage?). If your character is experiencing culture shock or difficulty adjusting, you might be able to show that journey through the learning process.

- Another factor may be how difficult the grammar of that language is and/or how many words are in the language (as an example, Khmer only has tens of thousands of words whereas English has hundreds of thousands of words. Khmer also doesn’t have conjugated tenses, rather it adds a word before a verb to indicate whether it happened already or not. Theoretically, Khmer should be easier to learn.). Assuming the language is simple “enough,” I agree with what others have said around that 3-6 month timeframe.

- One last thing I’ll note is that language directly influences how we think and behave. It’s the codification of norms and thoughts. Is your character learning about the culture through language? Some cool stuff you could do with that. (Last examples: in Khmer there is no word for rape. I worked a lot with young women who had been raped, but the attitude toward sexual assault was hard to pinpoint because they quite literally didn’t have the words to discuss it. Another example would be the word, spelled phonetically, sophup. It doesn’t have a translation in English, but it loosely refers to a way that women are supposed to behave, with an emphasis on being demure, quiet, and polite. It took me over a year and a half — and lots of social/interpersonal gaffes — to understand when people kept saying “aut sophup,” or “not -the way a woman is expected to act-,“ what that REALLY meant at a deeper, cultural/psychological level for the people I was interacting with). There’s a lot of interesting things you could do with your character depending on how various languages play together.

Good luck. Sounds like a super interesting plot and concept!!!
 
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neandermagnon

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"So it makes me wonder if in the future there'll be an Algerian language that's basically a mix of French and Arabic."

This is so likely, there is a word for it: creole. Websters online says "not capitalized : a language that has evolved from a pidgin but serves as the native language of a speech community."

Spanish speakers in the US switch languages like this as well. It's all in which language best expresses the concept.

Thanks :) That's very interesting. I heard of the word creole before, but I didn't know the precise definition - and I also knew these things had precise definitions.

With that in mind, a few things that may be of consideration for your plot:
- How quickly or slowly the MC learns the language might be impacted by motivation (e.g., are you really motivated to communicate, trusting of your hosts, and eager to please or are you feeling culture shock, loneliness and isolation that makes it hard to connect and engage?). If your character is experiencing culture shock or difficulty adjusting, you might be able to show that journey through the learning process.

- Another factor may be how difficult the grammar of that language is and/or how many words are in the language (as an example, Khmer only has tens of thousands of words whereas English has hundreds of thousands of words. Khmer also doesn’t have conjugated tenses, rather it adds a word before a verb to indicate whether it happened already or not. Theoretically, Khmer should be easier to learn.). Assuming the language is simple “enough,” I agree with what others have said around that 3-6 month timeframe.

Thanks so much for your valuable insights :) They are extremely helpful :)

The exile isn't the main character, though he's quite central. The MC meets him after he's been living with the Neandertals for a few months and is starting to understand what's being said to him and can express himself a little. Though his backstory is very important as well and he tells it to the MC, so I have to get all the details right. 3-6 months is a very useful timescale to know, because the story's set in late summer, so this means the events that led to him living with the Neandertals would've happened around spring time. He'd retell events with reference to the season and maybe even how many full moons.

- - - Updated - - -

"So it makes me wonder if in the future there'll be an Algerian language that's basically a mix of French and Arabic."

This is so likely, there is a word for it: creole. Websters online says "not capitalized : a language that has evolved from a pidgin but serves as the native language of a speech community."

Spanish speakers in the US switch languages like this as well. It's all in which language best expresses the concept.

Thanks :) That's very interesting. I heard of the word creole before, but I didn't know the precise definition - and I also knew these things had precise definitions.

With that in mind, a few things that may be of consideration for your plot:
- How quickly or slowly the MC learns the language might be impacted by motivation (e.g., are you really motivated to communicate, trusting of your hosts, and eager to please or are you feeling culture shock, loneliness and isolation that makes it hard to connect and engage?). If your character is experiencing culture shock or difficulty adjusting, you might be able to show that journey through the learning process.

- Another factor may be how difficult the grammar of that language is and/or how many words are in the language (as an example, Khmer only has tens of thousands of words whereas English has hundreds of thousands of words. Khmer also doesn’t have conjugated tenses, rather it adds a word before a verb to indicate whether it happened already or not. Theoretically, Khmer should be easier to learn.). Assuming the language is simple “enough,” I agree with what others have said around that 3-6 month timeframe.

Thanks so much for your valuable insights :) They are extremely helpful :)

The exile isn't the main character, though he's quite central. The MC meets him after he's been living with the Neandertals for a few months and is starting to understand what's being said to him and can express himself a little. Though his backstory is very important as well and he tells it to the MC, so I have to get all the details right. 3-6 months is a very useful timescale to know, because the story's set in late summer, so this means the events that led to him living with the Neandertals would've happened around spring time. He'd retell events with reference to the season and maybe even how many full moons.
 

frimble3

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Re: women and hunting - if a woman was out 'gathering', and she came across a rabbit huddled under the bushes, or in a den under some roots, do you think she wouldn't hit it with a rock or a stick? Or, a den full of something small and tasty? Deer apparently leave their fawns nestled in the deep grass/shrubbery while the mothers go to graze. Score!
And, as you say, the low-contact hunting of surround-and- pursue, famously in the case of the North American Plains Indian 'buffalo jump' - Canada has a town and a park named for the practice. The tribe encircles the buffalo herd and terrorizes it into jumping over a convenient cliff. The women could either be shouters and stick wavers, or waiting under the cliff for the buffalo to fall from the skies. Kill the wounded and start the skinning and gutting.
 

neandermagnon

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Re: women and hunting - if a woman was out 'gathering', and she came across a rabbit huddled under the bushes, or in a den under some roots, do you think she wouldn't hit it with a rock or a stick? Or, a den full of something small and tasty? Deer apparently leave their fawns nestled in the deep grass/shrubbery while the mothers go to graze. Score!

Yeah, they totally would. :)

The meat/plant dichotomy (i.e. characterising all gathered food as plant based) isn't correct as collecting insects and other animals that can be caught quickly without a long chase/lots of tracking/waiting (e.g. shellfish), and things like eggs and honey that come from animals, would be considered gathering. And as you say, opportunistic finds of larger animals wouldn't be ignored. IMO the best way to characterise it is that co-operative big game hunting requires a lot of time, energy and patience from a skilled team of hunters, so in the meantime, the gatherers collect all the other foods which provide the bulk of the food for the community. Though large animals provide an important source of protein, fat and iron.

There ought also to be discussions about men gathering alongside women hunting. There are lots of examples of this, whether men gather bits of food they come across while they're tracking animals they're hunting, or go out gathering with the women sometimes or whether the whole community goes gathering together. Also, people coming across food while out and about doing other things - if it's there, they'll eat it. And some types of gathering may be considered by a community to be a predominantly male role - there are massive amounts of cultural variation between different modern hunter-gatherer societies.

Gathering tends not to get anything like the attention it deserves. Back in the 1960s and thereabouts, male researchers focused on men hunting while completely ignoring the existence of women and failing to notice that women in modern hunter-gatherer societies did anything at all, never mind the vital importance of the role of gatherer. (And assumed all tools, technology, cave painting, and literally everything found in the fossil record was done by men.) Correcting that misconception isn't just about saying "look, women hunted too!" it's also about understanding how important gathering is and sheer depth and breadth of knowledge and skills it requires. (And correcting the astronomical misconception that tool making and use, cave painting, etc were only ever done by men, though that's an entire topic in its own right.)

And, as you say, the low-contact hunting of surround-and- pursue, famously in the case of the North American Plains Indian 'buffalo jump' - Canada has a town and a park named for the practice. The tribe encircles the buffalo herd and terrorizes it into jumping over a convenient cliff. The women could either be shouters and stick wavers, or waiting under the cliff for the buffalo to fall from the skies. Kill the wounded and start the skinning and gutting.

That's pretty much exactly what I have in mind for my Neandertals - the shouter/waver thing for the women and older children, with the men doing closer range stuff with their spears like separating one animal from the herd - I'm probably going to have one of the women joining in with this alongside the men, at least when she's not pregnant or breastfeeding a newborn. I'm also thinking that maybe the elders stay and watch from further back with the small children. Like making big game hunting a thing that the whole community joins in with. And they can go gathering on other days, maybe splitting into smaller groups to gather different things or in different regions.

There's archaeological evidence of middle palaeolithic people using these types of hunting methods, utilising cliffs and swamps for trapping the animals. Conveniently leaving the animal bones in the fossil record lol. Also, as my story's backstory requires one of the Neandertal to have died following a hunting accident, well, there's ample opportunity for that with a cliff or steep slope. I'm probably going to have a landslide situation, i.e. rocks under his feet giving way sending him tumbling down a steep slope. For plot reasons his death has a big impact on the population, so if hunting is a whole community thing with a celebration following the hunt, then him dying like this is going to be all the more tragic and hard hitting. (Makes us writers sound like such psychopaths...!!)
 
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CWatts

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Just chiming in here about how fascinating and informative this thread has turned out to be. I love all these tangents and what I'm learning about Neandertals.

UntoldStoryteller, your Peace Corps experiences are extremely helpful for me as well. I may need to pick your brain for my displaced Parisienne.

The thing about creole reminds me of how The Expanse has invented something like one for the Belters. We get to hear Naomi code-switch depending on who she's with.
 
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frimble3

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An excellent example of 'everyone gathering' would be in the fall, when the fruits and nuts are all ripe and ready. Unless there was a big need for meat, I imagine that it would be 'all hands on deck' to get the crops in. Maybe not every man, but most would also be gathering.
 

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You’ve gotten a ton of good detail here, just layering on from experience - this is in addition to discussions about not being able to get rid of accent, time to basics etc.
- the first week in total immersion I felt completely drained. My brain did not know how to prioritize what was important and I hung onto every sound, every inflection. It’s exhausting.
- gestures are a huge part of survival, but they are far from being failure proof. You may use a finger / hand combo to point up but the target culture sees that finger use as a no no or having other / additional meaning
- a disadvantage of being an adult is that people don’t correct you nearly as much as therefore you learn more slowly, develop bad habits / grammar and because you repeat it, that mistake sticks around longer
- also being out in crowds is extra draining. In languages you have passive understanding of (first gate) your brain detects what are alert / danger sounds / when someone’s talking to YOU. No such luck in new language. Makes for even more taxing walking around experiences.
 

neandermagnon

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Apologies for long delays replying... my kids were all set to start the new term when suddenly BoJo imposed another lockdown/school closure on us. (Not faulting him for doing that as it's necessary... but maybe faulting him for not locking us down again sooner and not communicating clearly...) One of my kids has suspected* ADHD and autistic spectrum differences so didn't cope at all well with the sudden change of plan from expecting to go to normal school to then having to go to "COVID school" (see below) while my other kid is at home and expected to attend school online while I'm working from home (I'm a key worker but able to work from home as it's all on computer and school places are just for SEN/vulnerable kids and kids of key workers who can't work from home)... I have a full time job and I'm a single parent so trying to work and homeschool at the same time has been... a challenge. Then my central heating decided to pack up on the coldest day this winter followed by the plumber needing to get a part to fix it which meant no heating for 2 days. Lucky the shower works off its own separate water heater and also I know how to do clothing layers to keep warm. Also thankful that plumbers count as key workers so he could come in and fix it despite the lockdown. So it's been a tad chaotic. Thankfully I have an extremely supportive employer - including my boss who has 2 kids who are suddenly at home all day so she's in the same boat re the lockdown and school closures.

*nearly impossible to get diagnosed but the school have provided an education healthcare plan and are applying for extra time in exams without an official diagnosis and my kid's eligible to attend school during lockdown on this basis. Also the school are providing regular COVID tests for kids attending and my kid has a test yesterday which was negative.

I even managed to get some writing done today! :snoopy:

Thanks again for all your replies, suggestions, insights, tangents and everything else it's been super helpful and fascinating!
 

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Wow that’s super rough. Hang in there! I am giving you a Medal Of Awesomeness 🥇 for surviving / managing all that and still be standing. This is a feat!
 

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I think much depends on the individual. Some have natural ability to learn languages -- others (like me) don't.

Rather late in life, I met and married a woman from South America. It's a long story but the crux is that she didn't speak English and I didn't speak Spanish. It wasn't a match making site thing, we met through mutual friends. In school, decades before, I had studied French and Latin. Not much help.

Initially, we spoke with the aid of dictionaries, phrase books, and computer translators. Eventually, we settled into a sort of "Spanglish" that worked for us. The bigger issue was when we went back to her country for Christmas holidays. Most of her extended family didn't speak any English, and I also needed to be able to get around the city without always having her along as a translator. I spent about a month to six weeks there every year for about five years and, at the end of that time, I had acquired what I would consider to be "survival" Spanish. I could communicate, but not sustain any in-depth conversation.

My annual trips ended after several years because my work situation changed and I couldn't take that much time off. When we had been married for ten years, my wife died unexpectedly and I had to go back to her home country to settle her affairs there and to arrange burial. I stayed with her brother and sister-in-law. Much to my amazement, I found that with the occasional help of a dictionary I was able to hold somewhat basic conversations with the family, I was able to meet with lawyers and bank officials, and I was able to accomplish what needed to be accomplished.

That was seven years ago this month, and I haven't been back there since. I think probably my limited grasp of Spanish has mostly disappeared by now. I was never fluent, so it's not deeply ingrained in the memory banks.

On the other hand, my wife's cousin (who lives and teaches in Mexico) speaks six languages, all fluently. My brain couldn't handle that.
 

neandermagnon

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Thanks for the valuable insight SapereAude. So sorry for your loss.

I'm glad I'm not the only one that struggles to learn other languages!

Wow that’s super rough. Hang in there! I am giving you a Medal Of Awesomeness 磊 for surviving / managing all that and still be standing. This is a feat!

Thanks - I love the medal of awesomeness :) :) :)
 

Debbie V

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On an aside: I have a teen with ADHD and ASD, so sending empathy. I hope you can get a diagnosis and that the plan in place works well for your child. Mine is starting regular college coursework next week and is currently employed (though she was a holiday hire and I think will be let go next month---the experience counts.)
 

neandermagnon

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On an aside: I have a teen with ADHD and ASD, so sending empathy. I hope you can get a diagnosis and that the plan in place works well for your child. Mine is starting regular college coursework next week and is currently employed (though she was a holiday hire and I think will be let go next month---the experience counts.)

Thanks :) :) :) Good to hear your child's doing well. :) :) :)