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Language Is the Scaffold of the Mind

A mind without language

A mind without language

It isn't easy to imagine our mind without language. We can't think, plan, or relate to other people if we lack words to structure our ideas.

Bertrand Russel stated that the task of language is to "make possible thoughts which could not exist without it."

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IDEA EXTRACTED FROM:

Language Is the Scaffold of the Mind

Language Is the Scaffold of the Mind

http://nautil.us/issue/76/language/language-is-the-scaffold-of-the-mind

nautil.us

5

Key Ideas

A mind without language

It isn't easy to imagine our mind without language. We can't think, plan, or relate to other people if we lack words to structure our ideas.

Bertrand Russel stated that the task of language is to "make possible thoughts which could not exist without it."

Language and acquiring information

Take language away, and the amount of information you can acquire decreases.

Many deaf children born into hearing families live in a world unable to communicate properly. They are never exposed to abstract ideas such as "justice" or "global warming." Unless the parents learn sign language, the child's language access will be delayed or missing entirely.

Non-linguistic limitations

The lack of language affects even functions like math. Keeping track of exact numbers above four requires knowing the words for these numbers. The language-number interdependency means many deaf children in industrialized societies fall behind in math because they did not learn to count.

Social cognition is another part of your mind that needs language to develop. Why is your mom upset? Understanding social situations requires inferring what people around you are thinking.

Adult individuals with aphasia

Language can disappear after severe damage to the brain. It is known as aphasia - the inability to understand or produce speech.

Research on adults with aphasia has demonstrated that math, theory of mind, and other cognitive abilities are independent from language. Patients with aphasia perform comparably to the rest of us when asked to complete arithmetic tasks, reason about people's intentions, determine physical causes of actions, or decide whether a drawing represents a real-life event. Some can continue with creative tasks.

Our language is a scaffold

In adults, language is separate from other functions of the brain.

Our language is but a scaffold for our minds. It is indispensable during the formative years but can be done away with once the building is in place.

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Know your motivation

If you don’t have a good reason to learn a language, you are less likely to stay motivated over the long-run.

Once you’ve decided on a language, it’s crucial to commit.

Find a partner

Finding some kind of partner on your language adventure will push both of you to always try just a little bit harder and stay with it.

It’s a really great way of actually going about it. You have someone with whom you can speak, and that’s the idea behind learning a new language.

Talk to yourself

When you have no one else to speak to, there’s nothing wrong with talking to yourself in a foreign language.

This can keep new words and phrases fresh in your mind. It also helps build up your confidence for the next time you speak with someone.

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Fiction and the mind
Fiction and the mind

Stories, fiction included, act as a kind of replacement for life. You can learn information from them very effortlessly. You'll also remember false information without realizing and will find f...

Confusing fiction with reality

When stories are done well, they are like artificial sweeteners - they fool the mind into thinking we're consuming the real thing.

For example, children sometimes really believe that puppets are alive. Even animals sometimes react to pictures as if they are real things.

Emotions influence our perception

The rational part of our mind knows that what we're looking at, or reading, isn't real. However, the perceptual areas of our brains are very closely connected to our emotions.

Emotions force us to interpret the world differently. Research reveals how fear can affect vision, moods can make us more or less susceptible to visual illusions, and desire can change the apparent size of goal-relevant objects.

Listen

The more you expose yourself to the new language, the sooner you will become familiar with its sounds and structures. Familiarity, in turn, will speed understanding.

Copy

Repeating the sounds (out loud or in your head) will give you a feel for the language. Memorize not just words, but sentences and even songs to get the rhythm and intonation of the language. 

Read

Read words, sentences, children’s books, newspaper articles. Read as far and near as you can, whether out loud to an audience or quietly to yourself. 

Seeing the language in print helps you understand word structures. It also anchors the new sounds, and helps them get imprinted in your mind.

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Forgetting the First Language

While our brains are flexible and adaptable as children, we tend to start having more rigid learning and relearning skills as we grow old.

There have been some extreme cases when the mother t...

Trauma associated with a Language

One of the reasons for forgetting a language is the trauma associated with speaking a particular language: The mind recalls the bad experiences while the language is heard or spoken.

The Switch Mechanism

Once a person is able to speak two or more languages, the mind has to create a mechanism to switch between those seamlessly.

Switching a language is not like forgetting, but if there is too much back and forth, the competition starts between the two languages.

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Language: a primary tool for understanding human behavior
Language: a primary tool for understanding human behavior

Language is integral to how we express and communicate in everyday life.

Understanding how people use language - what words and phrases they choose to combine - can give us insight into our...

How language is interpreted

According to research, slight differences in language can reveal biased beliefs of the speakers.

For example, saying "girls are as good as boys at math" can imply that being good at math is more common for boys than girls.

Other languages inform our own

There are about 7,000 languages worldwide. Each language reflects the culture of the people who speak it.

Studying other languages and how they develop over time can help scholars understand the unique ways we communicate with one another.

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Consciousness And Quantum Physics
Consciousness And Quantum Physics

Understanding consciousness and how it fits in the universe is a perennial puzzle for decades. Some call it the holy grail of science.

Quantum physics is able to describe the atomic and...

The Observer Effect

Modern science is hesitant to talk about consciousness due to it opening a pandora’s box, putting their previously ‘bulletproof’ theories under suspicion.

Quantum Theory had a similar ‘uh oh’ moment when it was found that the behaviour of atomic level particles changes when we (a conscious observer) are looking at it, or not. This is known as the Observer Effect.

Objectivity Vs Consciousness

Physicists argue that objectivity might as well be an illusion, and consciousness has to be put in the picture of its worldview.

The two puzzles of Science, Consciousness and Quantum Mechanics, might as well be closely related, with one arising because of the other.

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Learning a second language

Research shows that children are proficient at learning a second language up until the age of 18, roughly ten years later than earlier estimates. It also shows that it is best to start another lang...

The decline in language learning

There are three possible reasons why the ability to learn a language decreases at 18.

  • Social changes: At 18, late teens typically graduate high school and may no longer have the time, opportunity or learning environment to study a second language.
  • Interference: The rules of a first language may interfere with the ability to learn a second language.
  • Continuing brain development: Changes in the brain that continue during the late teens and early 20s may make learning harder.

Learning a new language

There are many examples of people who pick up a language later in life. Our ability to learn new vocabulary appears to remain constant, but most of us will not be able to master grammar like a native speaker.

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Network Effects

Network effects are the unseen forces that are guiding our destiny and exerting a powerful intervention on our lives, creating energy that escorts us down a path that is not always fully our intent...

Zipf's Law

Zipf's law is a mathematical probability that states that in a given set, the most frequently used data value (or word) is used twice as often as the next most common value. This is true in various statistical sets like income distribution in companies, internet traffic, phone calls received, and language.

One of the implications of this law is there are unconscious network forces and mathematical patterns governing our lives, with human beings just being nodes exchanging information.

Dinner Party Mathematics

When six to eight people are conversing at a dinner party, it is easy to focus on one conversation, but if the number is higher (say 15), then two-way conversations are more likely.

When groups get larger, the change is exponential, not linear, affecting one's social experience.

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The Best Strategy
  • Go to a country that speaks the language.
  • Get a phrasebook and learn a few basic expressions.
  • Commit to only speaking in that language from Day One.
  • Use a ...
  • If You Can’t Travel to Learn

    Pick a friend who also wants to learn the language. Agree to talk in the target language at least once per day or whenever you do talk.

    The friend does not have to be a native speaker. Whenever you are stuck, use a dictionary or Google translate. But, 10% of your time should be speaking with an advanced or native speaker.

    You Can’t Find a Partner

    If you cannot find someone willing to commit to only speaking that language, hire a tutor.

    You can also opt for language exchange with people who want to learn your language.

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    Guiding The Unconscious Mind

    You can work with the unconscious to unearth its associations and align them more closely with your values and goals. Doing so, you can tap all the power the unconscious has to offer.

    ...

    The Unconscious Mind

    Left to its own devices, the unconscious mind creates inaccurate beliefs and self-imposed limitations. Its main goal is your survival and it does what it can to get rid of threats, even if it means derailing your conscious goals.

    That said, the unconscious can also give the energy to accomplish your goals and offer a lot of intuitive wisdom. But to get to those benefits you need to help it transcend its useless limitations. 

    Of Reaction And Response

    A reaction is instant and driven by the beliefs of the unconscious mind. When you say or do something “without thinking,” that’s the unconscious mind making decisions in your stead.

    Responses, on the other hand, are slower and based on information from both the conscious and unconscious mind. A response takes into consideration the well-being of not only you but those around you, weighs the long term effects and your core values.