Language learning and our brains work in an amazing way. Those of you who have studied a new language before will know what I am talking about here. Our brains take on new knowledge quite readily, and can store old knowledge at the same time. Learning a new language or skill causes these two functions to collide in a brilliantly wonderful way.
Most of us stop learning grammar usage and function around 12-15 years old, then spend years of “fine tuning” and learning how to use it better and in a contextual manner. Think academic writing, online writing, letter writing, public speaking, higher level reading, etc. When we start a new language, our brains have to go back to the storage unit and sort through the years of stuff that has piled up. Since we can’t constantly have the newest information at the forefront, our brains learn to pull from the files, as well as to assimilate the new stuff into the old files, or to use the previous example, to re-organize our stuff to fit the new stuff in the storage unit with the old stuff. Eventually it all becomes old stuff.
I am not a linguist, so I do not totally understand the entire process, but all of us, at some point in our new language will stop translating everything and will just start speaking, reading, hearing, and writing things in the same way we do our native languages. FASCINATING! It’s an exciting time, as a teacher, to watch this happen. Sometimes we have to remind students that they are no longer translating entire sections of whatever it is they are working on. Sure, it takes a lot of repetition and practice, but our brain just does it.
I’m looking forward to our start date (still undetermined, but aiming for the fall), so I can start experiencing this again. Here’s to our amazing and wonderful brains!