|The cherries have nearly disappeared from the trees already...|
Wow--the last post on bilingualism prompted loads of *fascinating* comments that made my brain run off in a hundred directions...hence my lateness in replying. Had to go chase my brain down:-)) (Actually, three sick boys are my excuse for my absence--hopefully that won't happen this week).
Before I head down some of the *very* interesting rabbit holes brought up in the comments, I'd like to tell you about what my experience with languages (German, French, and Japanese, specifically) is so everybody knows where I'm coming from:-)) Ought probably to have done that first, but...anyway, off we go!
When I learned both German and French, I learned them "Outside-In", as I've come to call it. That means, I learned them first from the "outside", so to speak, in a foreign language classroom (starting in the ninth grade for German, and the eleventh grade for French, for a total of four years of High School German and one year of French--I had a busy schedule:-). I learned them using textbooks, memorizing vocabulary and declensions and verb tenses, with a bunch of other students whose L1 was the same as mine. The L1 (first language) of the teacher was also the same as that of her students. This kind of language-learning is "outside"--by which I mean "non-immersion". You are learning it outside the country and culture where the language is spoken (full-immersion schools could also be included here). Class time is usually spent learning the phrases a traveler would use, and vocabulary is often presented in daunting lists. A disproportionate amount of time is spent using the students' L1 to talk *about* the language--to explain the past tense...the passive voice...strong and weak adjective endings...count and non-count nouns... 'ser' and 'estar' or 'por' and 'para'... the Preterit versus the Imperfect (I had lots of Spanish teacher-friends, so I picked up all the hard bits in Spanish kind of by osmosis;-))
I don't mean to imply that language classes are a waste of time, or that one doesn't learn anything.
I rocked at that stuff in German. I was the Grammar Queen.
I certainly learned plenty of vocabulary and grammar--enough to test into 300-level German classes as a college Freshman.
And after six years of studying German (four in High School, and two more at university).... I went to Hamburg, Germany for a year-long study-abroad program.
Six years. And when I opened my mouth... no words came out. I was Scared. To. Death. Scared to speak--scared of making a "mistake". Curiously, it was as though all the German I'd learned in 6 years of study wasn't.... real. As though all the grammar and all the vocabulary I'd learned lived only inside my textbooks ("Wir, die Jugend";-). As though I couldn't believe that real people really used those words. Did real Germans actually say "Tschuss"?
I was about to find out-- and about to start learning German... from the Inside-Out.
Stay tuned-- mata asobou, ne!