Turning sixty marks a milestone for many of us. It certainly did for me, not long ago, happening as it did in the home of a close family friend who herself turned 92 earlier this year. I am on a team of friends who are conspiring to help her stay in the home she has lived in, deep in the Ontario countryside, for over fifty years. It’s a bit complicated, but well worth the effort.
I’ve been familiar with gender-neutral pronouns in English for some time now. The most popular one – which has now gone mainstream and become recognized in dictionaries – is singular they. It was the American Dialect Society’s word of the year in 2015. “They” is not the only gender-neutral pronoun in usage in English, but it’s the one that has gained popular acceptance and I’m glad that one finally caught on.
I’ve recently been giving a lot of thought to ‘acquisition’ versus ‘learning’ of a second (or subsequent) language. In brief, the difference is related to communicative competence versus “explicit rule-based grammar teaching” (Lightbown & Spada, 2013, p. 193). (For more on the distinction, click here). In my mind, acquisition is perhaps the longer-lasting state or the point at which conscious rule-based practice becomes automatic communication, as in Skill Acquisition Theory.
The tale of becoming bilingual is like that of Tantalus reaching towards that succulent fruit and watching it retreat from his grasp—one never feels quite able to achieve semantic satisfaction. Few know the myth of second language acquisition, but herein lies the tale of how man learned to speak in tongues.
Language giveth and it taketh away.
Ancestral languages, international languages, minority languages, non-official languages, immigrant minority languages, community languages, home languages, languages of origin… these are just a few of the terms that have been used to describe languages spoken by minority ethnolinguistic groups. Continue reading