Thursday, June 11, 2009


I regard this blog as an experimentation in the expression of things I encounter during the course of my life. I started to learn English at the late age of 12 as I entered the junior high school, and then only very clumsily and slowly. That means that a vast domain of my own experience since childhood is not "tagged" and "structured" within the context of the English language.

I suspect that there is a common problem shared by people who have learned a second language only relatively late in their life. Namely, the accumulation of personal experience since infancy has not been transferred properly into the universe of the second language.

When a speaker utters a word, all the details of the history of his life is behind it, giving the speech force and energy. Only after the translation of at least the salient episodes of one's life can one be expressive in the second language.


r_yuzurin said...

It makes me sense now.I started to study anew English in my 40s.It has been three.Naturally,there are like a high wall,but I would like to struggle and enoy with difficulties!

(ma)gog said...

I don't think that I am particularly linguistic, but as I started to learn English at school at the age of late twelve like you, I was just fascinated by it. Learning another language had made me realize there was scope of new world beyond the horizon(this sounds exactly like the popular English textbook's title). I enjoyed reading English aloud everyday, listened to English tapes provided from the school continuously, and I was just so happy. I am still thrilled to notice how much one could change his way of thinking or even his attitude when the same "me" tries to convey "my thought" by using English or in Japanese. It is exciting indeed, to see how languages could perform to characterize one's behaviour or personality.

Anonymous said...

I'm learning English now.
But it's very difficult.
I think that I should be able to express a delicate nuance precisely.

TSHFKYM said...

Although Japanese is my first tongue, (with english close behind), I only started living in Japan for the first time when I was 18. My problem was the lack of cultural experiences in my first tongue, and although I have learned to live with it, it continues to trouble me.

Anonymous said...

It seems as though the main purpose of language is to serve as a mechanism to express one's experience. However, the side effect of language is that it does seem to alter one's perspective of their experience. For example, a study found that native speakers of languages with more rules are able to make more distinctions between similar shades of colors than non-native speakers. Language appears to act as a module (or filter) that interfaces with other systems and then feeds back to itself.

So I suppose language could alter how one perceived an existing memory, thus forming a new "noisy" (in the since of adding noise to a signal) copy of the memory. does the new "noisy" memory copy allow one to be more expressive in the non-native language? Yes, I would think so because the memory is more inline with the culture of the non-native idea!

I suppose an interesting question would be, what is the error in terms of the ability of expression between having "noisy" memory copies versus the original memory copy?? From experience, I don't think there would be a striking difference... Or, another interesting question....are there additional added benefits to developing "noisy" memory copies for a second language, besides improved expression and memory??

nekochama said...

Yes! I agree..having started learning Japanese at age 30, I brought my two children to Japan at ages 10 and 8. You can imagine the entailments.

砂山鉄夫(Tetsu Sunayama) said...

When I make an attempt to compose a Waka or Haiku poetry, I always make a measure of the distance between my real experience and my linguistic expression.

Having a clue about distance between the two is extremely difficult.

In that sense, these poetry might be the second language to me.

This entry makes me think about meaning and function of language per se, and reminds me of Wittgenstein's writings.

Me said...

Hello Dr.Mogi,

First I'd just like to say I love all of your work. I'm currently a freshman at the University of California, Merced. I have been studying Japanese for about almost 2 years now and your work and books have inspired me to study cognitive science. Anyways, I just wanted to say I really enjoyed reading this short and simple observative entry about language learning. I've been studying Japanese on my own and have come to realie that everything you said here is so true. It's always really important when you're learning a new language to think of ways to "re-experience" things in your new target language.

By the way, I'm reading your book "意識とはなにか". It's really great. Keep up all the great and fantastic work!