Becoming Fluent: How Cognitive Science Can Help Adults Learn a Foreign Language

Becoming Fluent: How Cognitive Science Can Help Adults Learn a Foreign Language

by Richard Roberts, Roger Kreuz

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Overview

How adult learners can draw upon skills and knowledge honed over a lifetime to master a foreign language.

Adults who want to learn a foreign language are often discouraged because they believe they cannot acquire a language as easily as children. Once they begin to learn a language, adults may be further discouraged when they find the methods used to teach children don't seem to work for them. What is an adult language learner to do? In this book, Richard Roberts and Roger Kreuz draw on insights from psychology and cognitive science to show that adults can master a foreign language if they bring to bear the skills and knowledge they have honed over a lifetime. Adults shouldn't try to learn as children do; they should learn like adults.

Roberts and Kreuz report evidence that adults can learn new languages even more easily than children. Children appear to have only two advantages over adults in learning a language: they acquire a native accent more easily, and they do not suffer from self-defeating anxiety about learning a language. Adults, on the other hand, have the greater advantages—gained from experience—of an understanding of their own mental processes and knowing how to use language to do things. Adults have an especially advantageous grasp of pragmatics, the social use of language, and Roberts and Kreuz show how to leverage this metalinguistic ability in learning a new language.

Learning a language takes effort. But if adult learners apply the tools acquired over a lifetime, it can be enjoyable and rewarding.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780262529808
Publisher: MIT Press
Publication date: 02/03/2017
Series: The MIT Press
Pages: 248
Sales rank: 1,138,279
Product dimensions: 5.38(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.62(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Richard Roberts is a Foreign Service Officer currently serving as the Public Affairs Officer at the US Consulate General in Okinawa, Japan. He is the coauthor (with Roger Kreuz) of of Becoming Fluent: How Cognitive Science Can Help Adults Learn a Foreign Language and Getting Through: The Pleasures and Perils of Cross-Cultural Communication , both published by the MIT Press.

Roger Kreuz is Associate Dean and Director of Graduate Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Psychology at the University of Memphis. He is the coauthor (with Richard Roberts) of Becoming Fluent: How Cognitive Science Can Help Adults Learn a Foreign Language, Getting Through: The Pleasures and Perils of Cross-Cultural Communication , and Changing Minds: How Aging Affects Language and How Language Affects Aging (all published by the MIT Press).

Table of Contents

Prologue xi

Acknowledgments xiii

About the Authors xvii

1 Terms and Conditions 1

Three Myths about Foreign Language Learning 1

What Is Cognitive Science? 5

Mind the Gap 7

What Does "Meta" Mean? 8

2 Set Yourself Up for Success 11

Well Begun Is Half Done 11

Caution: Contents May Be Habit Forming 18

Suggestions for Developing Effective Language Study Habits 21

A Sense of Self 23

Trying Hard Not to Try Hard 26

Getting in the Zone 28

3 Aspects of Language 33

I Before E / Except After C / or When Sounded as A / as in Neighbor or Weigh 33

Behind the Scenes at the Foreign Service Institute 36

Measuring Fluency and Proficiency 40

Interlanguage 45

I Know You Know What I Know 48

4 Pragmatics and Culture 53

The Language, the Culture, and You 53

Cooperation 56

Speech Act Theory 59

Figurative Language 60

Don't Be a Language Zombie 66

5 Language and Perception 71

Speed versus Accuracy 71

Can Learning a Foreign Language Prevent Dementia? 73

Generalization Is for the Birds 77

Acquiring an Accent 81

Can You Change Your Accent? 86

In Praise of Nonnative Speakers 88

6 Cognition from Top to Bottom 91

Hearing Is Also Seeing 91

Untranslatable 95

False Friends and Kissing Cousins 97

Words, Words, Words 101

Learn to Swim by Swimming 106

Metaphors and Idioms: A Free Ride or a Sticky Wicket? 110

7 Making Memories … 115

The Workings of Working Memory 115

Deep Thoughts 121

Allow Me to Elaborate 124

Learning versus Relearning 125

Cognitive Overload 130

The Time-Traveling Intruder 135

8 … And Making Memories Work for You 139

Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me 139

Practice Makes Perfect? 143

Take It Personally 149

Emotional Aspects of Memory 152

A Little Knowledge Is a Dangerous, Yet Helpful, Thing 157

The Art of Memory 163

Epilogue 169

Notes 171

Suggested Readings 193

References 195

Index 211

What People are Saying About This

Susan R. Fussell

This is a one-of-a-kind book that will give adult language learners the confidence they need to start or continue studying a foreign language. Engagingly written chapters draw on the authors' personal experiences and findings from cognitive science to illustrate why language learners experience problems and explain what they can do to overcome them.

Benny Lewis

There are many books about language learning in general, but it's great to finally see this scientifically sound account of second language acquisition. I was constantly nodding my head at things that I know to be true as an experienced language learner and coach to language learners, explained in a no-nonsense way drawing on many valid sources. Recommended for people who want to know the facts about adult foreign language acquisition.

Endorsement

This is a one-of-a-kind book that will give adult language learners the confidence they need to start or continue studying a foreign language. Engagingly written chapters draw on the authors' personal experiences and findings from cognitive science to illustrate why language learners experience problems and explain what they can do to overcome them.—Susan R. Fussell, Professor, Department of Communication and Department of Information Science, Cornell University, and editor of The Verbal Communication of Emotions

From the Publisher

There are many books about language learning in general, but it's great to finally see this scientifically sound account of second language acquisition. I was constantly nodding my head at things that I know to be true as an experienced language learner and coach to language learners, explained in a no-nonsense way drawing on many valid sources. Recommended for people who want to know the facts about adult foreign language acquisition.

Benny Lewis , international best-selling author of Fluent in 3 Months

Becoming Fluent is written by cognitive psychologists who lucidly demonstrate how adults can successfully learn a foreign language by utilizing strategies based on reliable cognitive science and educational psychology research. The reader will understand how and why he or she can master a new language—an insight unrealized in previous texts.

Timothy Jay , Professor of Psychology, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, and author of The Psychology of Language and Why We Curse

This is a one-of-a-kind book that will give adult language learners the confidence they need to start or continue studying a foreign language. Engagingly written chapters draw on the authors' personal experiences and findings from cognitive science to illustrate why language learners experience problems and explain what they can do to overcome them.

Susan R. Fussell , Professor, Department of Communication and Department of Information Science, Cornell University, and editor of The Verbal Communication of Emotions

Timothy Jay

Becoming Fluent is written by cognitive psychologists who lucidly demonstrate how adults can successfully learn a foreign language by utilizing strategies based on reliable cognitive science and educational psychology research. The reader will understand how and why he or she can master a new language—an insight unrealized in previous texts.

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