Dear followers, I do believe this ongoing discussion is of high interest for many. I have reproduced it acknowledging author and origin. You may find it in the group Instituto Cervantes in LinkedIn. It all started by an article kindly offered by Andres Esteban HOW IMMERSION HELPS TO LEARN A LANGUAGE, in the New York Times: It is possible for adults to process a language the same way a native speaker does, and over time, the processing improves even when the skill goes unused.

Although age becomes an issue as learning naturally slows down, if motivation is high and the adult learner gets the right input and support, a good enough level of linguistic competence can be reached. However, there will always be grammatical interference from his/her native language that will prevent the learner to reach native like level in the new language. CONTRIBUTED BY ALEJANDRO OSORIO

Unfortunately in Spain, where there are several recognized languages other than Castilian or Spanish (Galego, Euskera, Valencià, Català, a whistling language in one of the Canary Islands and some minor languages without the rank of co-official in their regions), most Spaniards are against immersion programs carried on in the Catalan and Basc Autonomous Communities arguing that there is no need to learn a language other than Spanish and that it is detrimental for students when it comes to make sure they master the only State-wide Spanish language. Scientific evidence is against this of course.  CONTRIBUTED BY JORDI PICAZO

With so many languages in Spain, it is no wonder that there are those who oppose immersion, since some of the speakers of these languages learn Spanish as a second language. Would you say, then, that Spanish is a foreign language in some regions of Spain? Some of these languages, other than Spanish, were spoken when the Romans introduced their language (vulgar Latin) and culture to the Iberian Peninsula, is that not so? An example is Euskera, which is spoken in the Basque country of Spain. Is it not, so ancient, that it has been difficult to assign it to any specific place in Indo-European languages. For this reason, they may be reluctant to abandon their language to a hierarchy of languages that do not relate to theirs? I welcome any corrections to this, as I have only had one linguistic class in my formal education. CONTRIBUTED BY MARY JO RUIZ

Dear Mary J, you raise many points here. Let me start somewhere, saying that a piece of data seems to be if I am not wrong that Euskera, together with Japanese, are the two unclassified languages in the world. Then, to continue, I don’t think it would be good that the language of a European State, even if that may be the case in some countries in Asia, was a Second Language to some of their people. That certainly is not the case in Spain except deep down in the countryside where some old people may find real difficulty in expressing themselves in a language different from their mother tongue. The language identity in many Autonomous Communities with a second language (which are a reduced number) is very low except in the Basc Country, Galicia and Catalonia. However, Spanish is used freely in these Autonomous Regions, where except for Catalan the local language has still a low strength. Basc people and Catalans are the ones with a higher National and Cultural identity related to the language too. Public surveys show, finally, that, even if some people are reluctant to believe it, Spanish is better known and used by compulsory education students in Catalonia than in some of the Castilian-speaking Autonomous Regions. My modest contribution. CONTRIBUTED BY JORDI PICAZO

Since we have digressed to regional languages, certainly Spain is not alone in Iberoamerica. In Mexico, there are still about 55 indigenous languages spoken (out of hundreds in existence in 1500). Due to cultural attitudes that come from colonial times, most are now slowly dying out, regardless of what some advocates believe. CONTRIBUTED BY JAMES MUSSELMAN

Congo DRC has over 250 languages and dialects, most originating from a common Bantu language. What is remarkable to me is that many Congolese are daily exposed to 3-4 oral languages and relatively fluent in all of them (not so in the written language): an official written language (French), a national written language (Lingala, Tshiluba, Swahili, or Kikongo), and one or two local oral languages (village and family). My friends routinely switch from one to another, immersed in all, happy to have a couple of languages uniting their country politically and economically, also content to have a language or two bonding them to a unique, local, and family identity. Truly the brain is amazing in its ability to master languages when the learner is immersed in many. I personally believe it is possible to promote the national unifying languages that offer important economic, scholastic, and political advantages while, at the same time, fostering a climate of preservation for maintaining those dialects that reflect uniquely local identities within the nation. While colonization led to many negative and adverse effects on all continents, threatening the very existence of uniquely local dialects and cultures, it should also be noted that it helped to unify many disparate groups into regional and national forces. CONTRIBUTED BY DALE GARSIDE


  1. Anonymous says:

    Motivation combined with need (work, upcoming holiday etc. )are in my opinion ingredients which never fail. I have a friend who will be 72 next month who has a higher level of English than most people I have met. His motivation? Holidays in Englsih speaking countries.

    Another equally important ingredient is exposure to the language in question. Whether that be via visiting the country, or the opportunity to listen to the language. Less dubbing ( in Spain ) and more TV/Films in the original language.



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