What You Didn’t Know about Language Barriers | Roxanne Pomerantz | TEDxBGU

Translator: Alina Siluyanova
Reviewer: Denise RQ How many of you
can speak more than one language? Now, keep your hands up
if you can speak more than two. And how about three? Very impressive! (Applause) But did you know that you actually
could have easily learned 25 languages? It’s true. This is a natural human phenomenon that any normal child
born anywhere in the world is capable of learning any language
that he or she is exposed to. And did you know that the languages that your child is exposed to
before the age of 7, which is also known
as the critical age period, are the only languages that he or she
will be exposed to later in life? Leonard Bloomfield said
that “acquisition of a language is doubtless
the greatest intellectual feat that anyone of us
is ever required to perform.” So, I asked myself and some others
in the overseas student program here: why do we learn languages? At first, we all learn language
because we have to. As humans, we’re designed
to learn language just like we’re designed to walk. There is simply no preventing it. But then, there are some of us
who actually do it for fun. We go through the struggle, we put in the effort,
feeling wrong all the time, but we love it
because the rewards are so great. It’s awesome to speak another language, to carry it with you everywhere you go; to travel and communicate
with people in their native language makes conversations
so much more personal, and you actually
get to enjoy more out of life because it gives you
the opportunity to understand more music, and movies,
and games from around the world. So I want to ask you another question, and I want you all to think about this: if we started taking advantage of the amazing ability
that children have to learn languages and the plethora
of free language learning tools we have in our devices today, could we, by reducing language barriers,
reduce other barriers in society? Which begs me to ask another question: what exactly are language barriers and what do they do? I know what some of you are thinking: you’re at the dinner table, and you’re between
your mother, who is Russian, and your beautiful American girlfriend, and you’re having a moment of realization that you’ve just hired
yourself out as a translator. So, you have to spend the whole evening hearing everything 3 times, and even though you thought
that you could speak English and Russian perfectly, you’re starting to feel
confused and frustrated, and you’re desperate
for a couple of minutes of alone time just to think in whatever language
you choose to think in. But there is a lot more to
language barriers that I want you to know. Have you ever heard
of linguistic relativity? Linguistic relativity is the field which asks questions on the relations between language, perception, and thought. The core theory is called
the deterministic theory, it is scientifically proven,
and it states that the language you speak shapes the way you think
and influences your behavior. The fathers of linguistic relativity,
Benjamin Whorf and Edward Sapir, state that if a word
doesn’t exist in your language, you won’t know
the concept [behind the word]. Now, I think that those guys
can be a little extreme in their theories. I think rather that if a word
doesn’t exist in your language, you are a lot less likely
to identify with that concept. One of my friends here, in Israel,
a native German speaker, told me a story once
of how the English language changed the way
that she thought about love. She told me she still remembers
the first time she heard the term “falling in love”, and that she was shocked
at the use of the language because she had never thought
of being in love as something that happened
suddenly and dramatically, and she pictured someone actually falling, and she could feel that,
and then she knew that someday she will experience “falling” in love
and not just “being” in love. Also, in body language we find
interesting differences among languages. In Hebrew this means “waits”. However, this is a great insult in Italy, and I wanted you all to know that. (Laughter) And the most obvious
differences in languages that are influencing our thoughts
and behaviors is in vocabulary. One scientific experiment
in linguistic relativity showed how gender association
impacts people’s perception. This study used the word “key”, which is in German a masculine word, and in Spanish it’s feminine. So, subjects were asked
to come up with words to describe a key. And the German speakers
used words such as “heavy”, “durable”, “strong”, “useful”, “metal”, but the Spanish speakers
chose words such as “golden”, “lovely”, “little”, “delicate” and “shiny”
to describe the same word — “key”. Another interesting difference
we find among languages is in the perception of correctness. I read in the study
by John Myhill at University of Haifa that correctness in present day English
and most European languages is based on prestige. So, the development of these languages has actually followed the trends
of its most elite speakers. But other languages perceive
correctness in a much different way. Languages such as Arabic,
and Hebrew, and Icelandic are based on textual references. So, if a word appears in a text–
in Arabic, which is based on the Koran, and Hebrew is based on The Mishneh Torah if a word or grammar
appears in this text, it is correct, and if it doesn’t, it is not correct. For these languages there is no connection between correctness and prestige. And there are
many, many words in languages that don’t appear anywhere else
such as “stam” [סטם] in Hebrew, which can be translated into English
as “just kidding”, but not really — it is a unique word to let someone know
you’re not being serious. And “khalomot paz” [חלומות פז]
is how you say “sweet dreams” in Hebrew, but actually translates directly
as “golden dreams”. And there is a word in German
that I love called “Fernweh”, which dictionaries
translate as “itchy feet”, and it is the opposite of “homesick”. It describes the feeling
that you need to travel. So, when my German friend
taught me this word, I thought: “Wow! How I wish that this word
existed in my language!” And I wondered
that if we used such a word, how my experience of feeling
like the only one in my family with a strong desire to see the world
may have been different. So, a few weeks ago, after I auditioned
to be up here on the TEDx stage, I reached out to my psychology
professor back in New York and asked him what he thought
about linguistic relativity. And what he says
explains the story of my friend and, in terms of psychology and memory, what happened when she learned
a new term about love. He said: “It is the breadth
of our language, not our vast experiences, which help color our lives. That is, in memory, the language labels that we assign
events and experiences shape, indeed; limit the way that we can remember them.” For example, if the only positive
emotion word we knew was “happy”, all positive memories
are labeled as “happy memories”. And if they all fit
in that “happy” bucket together, then their shared features,
which make them labeled as “happy”, will be reinforced and at times amplified
at the expense of their differences to allow for better access. This is because your mind categorizes
everything with language labels, so that it can reach for your memories
as quickly as possible. And everything that you say and do, every decision you make,
every conversation that you have, is just a consequence
of some memories, right? So, in other words, your ability,
overall, to access your memories is actually directly related to your breadth
and knowledge of vocabulary. Because our languages
are constantly changing, language barriers
are just growing bigger and bigger. So, what do you think everyone? If we started to take advantage of children’s amazing ability
to learn languages and the plethora of free tools
that we have to learn languages today, could we, by reducing language barriers,
reduce other barriers in society? The answer to me is crystal clear. By emphasizing foreign language
studying in your community, you are seizing an opportunity
to reverse the creation of gaps in the way that we think and behave. There are so many issues in society today that are thought-based, like racism,
and hate crimes, and bullying. So, by increasing
the knowledge of language, we can overcome these differences; also, by having more multilingual
programs for children, of course, because it’s that critical
age period before age 7, where we have this opportunity. So, one such program exists in Jaffa
called the Orchard of Abraham’s Children. It was founded by a Palestinian man
an a Jewish woman, who are married. And they’ve established 3 kindergartens
that teach in both Arabic and Hebrew, and celebrate both cultures’ holidays. So, programs, like this one,
are using bilingual education to promote peace and co-existence
in a humanitarian, non-political way. And it is so effective, because our languages
are a huge part of our identity. Being born to reformed Jewish parents, gave me really early exposure
to the Hebrew language, and if it wasn’t
for that early, early exposure, I am sure I wouldn’t be here,
in Israel, studying linguistics, or giving this talk to you about the power of being able to identify
with more than one language. Now, I want to leave you
with this quote by Helen Keller, who was an American author,
a political activist, and the first deaf-blind person ever
to receive the Bachelor of Arts degree: “Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten — a thrill of returning thought; and somehow, the mystery
of language was revealed to me. Everything had a name, and each name gave birth
to a new thought.” Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “What You Didn’t Know about Language Barriers | Roxanne Pomerantz | TEDxBGU

  1. My take home message:
    1. Children is able to learn up to 25 languages before they reach 7 years old (critical period)
    2. language shapes the way your perception, recognition and behaviours (linguistic relativity)
    Experiment: key? In German is a muscular word, whereas in Spanish is feminine.
    They will describe this word based on their interpretation
    3. Language is part of our identity.
    4. By overcome language barrier in the young generation, will reduce the increasing gap between languages as they are all evolving, fast! And by doing so, eliminate unnecessary misunderstanding and discriminations between cultrues.

  2. En mi kanal hago interesantes videos sobre culturas extarnjeras, la vida en Asia, idiomas y muchas cosas mas! Os espero en mi kanal!!:))))

  3. Great talks and fascinating subject. We are teaching Chinese as a second language online in North America. Your comments and ideas are very useful .

  4. There should be a hybrid language that has words for every single thing.

  5. There are a lot happy day in my life. However, how are some ways I could my life more happy. I will share when I have repost on Talk. Thanks

  6. I think this is one of the most beautiful, unprepared , tension less, and natural, speech in TEDX

  7. Hello dear i really appreciate you and all of you. You know you are just marvellous and very beautifuulllll. I really would like to hug you cause i do like and tell you that you are reaally doing great that is you are really performing great! i wish i were your man. Could I be it? Haha.. i wish you come to my country for a TED talk.

  8. Is there a word for "genocide" in Hebrew? Or something like "Schadenfreude" of German? Just wondering.

  9. I was simply watching her all along, not listening to a single word she is saying. Her smile is gorgeous. She is a natural beauty 😍 the guy who gets her is a lucky son of a **

  10. Dear rox… You are a great spaker. You voice is ready to change the people who listen to you in anyway. I am very much interested in the topic you discussed.
    I am thankful to you about the learning languages. 👍👍👍👍👍👍

  11. I am aganist the phrase fall in love …I live with love not fall.
    Regards from yemen

  12. Facility for language is genetic. Most adults can't learn ANY foreign language, and it's a waste of time and effort to try.

  13. I was planning to kill my high school Spanish teacher, but I found out he already died. I hope he suffered greatly.

  14. Loved it. Please create many more videos. You are so natural. Good luck!

  15. my first language is swahili, second is english, third is spanish, forth is italiy, and fifth is french.. but i mostly speak spanish easly i don't know why.. even my native language is difficult to speak compared to spanish

  16. your looking amazing and so cute,,,i like your way of speak…

  17. Previous 2 years i am learning English language but can't quite better

  18. this is such a great video. very insightful and true. the speaker makes the listeners to do what they need to do after listening to her. she is a wonderful and effective speaker indeed. thank you.

  19. being Filipino gave me an opportunity to be born bilingual because here in the Philippines my native tongue maybe is Filipino, but still we grew up learning like we are really exposed in English language at the same time. And we have almost 175 dialects here too that I can consider another language too. It's fascinating that I haven't think about it until you said it, now I'm learning korean and like the word 안녕하세요 that can translated to 'Hello' in English but my korean teacher who grew up here in the Philippines said that it's not just 'Hello' like in English that we used to, it's more like 'Kamusta ka?' in Tagalog which can be translated to English as well, 'How are you?' see the difference? the degree of emotion and meaning behind and how you used and view it can be really different and it will just know if we really learn and exposed ourselves in different languages.

  20. everything has a new name and it gather in thoughts. absolutely greaaaaat

  21. “Learning another language is not only learning different words for the same things, but learning another way to think about things.” – Flora Lewis
    As a Spanish teacher with German and English proficiency, I totally agree with this.

  22. I bet you, most likes are because she is good looking. 😀

  23. I like your smiling face in whole speech….What a relax person you are …….

  24. Saying we should tap into a child's ability to learn a language is not the sames as explaining how that is done. Lovey girl but not very useful for me.

  25. Good job dude..👌😊Excellent speech in a pleasant way all through..👏😊🎶

  26. Wonderful, Amizing And attractive speech with smiling face… Sty bless with this smiling face for ever…

  27. Noah lived 60,000 years ago and was East African. The Tower of Babel ocurred 50,000 years ago. See Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey.

  28. انها تتحدث بطريقه جذابة و تتحدث بطلاقة عجيبة، شي مدهش جدا , أعجبني اسلوبها في الكلام ❤️
    She is an amazing speaker, she speaks very fluent and the topics is so interesting, I really admire her.

  29. She has attained a place in the consideration pool for dp2 acquisition.

  30. She is such a smiling and happy girl.Felt good seeing and listening her.

  31. I know dt Ur voice is like flattered butterfly but also be reqd to accompany more

  32. It is so hard to see a girl that are are both physically attractive and smart.

  33. Oh!! Her voice, her pitch, intonation, pronunciation and above all her dazzling smile and the life like colours that her beautiful face emits …..for all….. Cheer and applause!!!

  34. Read the Qur'aan everybody, Please, please, please. Allah has revealed it. Know about this Qur'aan. Your life must be changed happily. This is the last revealed book of the earth from Allah (God), which has been revealed to the last Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alaihey Wasallam). Do you know who Hazrat Mohammed (saw)? Read his biography and his ideals for human being. You will surely find the beautiful right path in your life, that will give you peace in the world and the Hereafter.

  35. Personally, I can disagree with this. I've been exposed to second language for over 40 years, still can't put sentences together. So no, not everyone can learn languages.

  36. Your looking is so wonderful dear smiling is happy and your speaking is so cute

  37. The exterior manifests the interior.
    Aesthetically beautiful people are intrinsically beautiful too. Same is her case.

  38. 1 John 2: 15-17 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

  39. V nice presentation ….. I can speak three languages it's very interesting to learn new language and my kid is now 4 years old so can teach him easily. Thanks for giving idea.

  40. You've erred, a word isn't always refered back in a text to the Quran unless it's from it.
    The Quran was revealed in arabic language to muhammad (may Allah raise his rank and grant him peace).
    It was a vehicle (arabic) to convey the teachings to manKind.
    To understand the language of the Quran the scholars refer back to the classical arabic which was prominent during the time the prophet.
    the classical arabic grammar is also refered whence dealing the intricacies of Hebrew language as well as they both are semitic in origin.

  41. Wow !your wow is exactly Israélien ; now that’s not my subject, I want to have a golden dream day by meeting you face to face is it possible?
    Please say yes I know you can make it happen!!!

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