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考研英语时文赏读(83):为什么孩子更容易学会一门语言?

  摘要:考研英语作为一门考研公共课,虽然大家都学了英语十几年,却仍经常有总分过线挂在英语上的情况,因此英语复习不单单是单词、做题。阅读作为考研英语的大头,仅仅做考研真题或许没法满足你的阅读量,因此帮帮之后会不定时推出一篇英文美文,这些文章都与考研英语阅读同源,多读必有好处。

  Why kids learn languages more easily than you do

  为什么孩子比大人更容易学会一门语言

  Learning a second language is tricky at any age (and it only gets tougher the longer you wait to crack open that dusty French book). Now, in a new study, scientists have pinpointed the exact age at which your chances of reaching fluency in a second language seem to plummet: 10.

  二语习得对任何年龄段的人来说都不容易(而且,你在打开那本已经积满灰尘的法语书上拖延的时间越长越困难)。现在,科学家们在一项新的研究中精确地指出了二语习得时,你有机会达到流利水平的确切年龄分水岭:10岁。

  The study, published in the journal Cognition, found that it's "nearly impossible" for language learners to reach native-level fluency if they start learning a second tongue after 10. But that doesn't seem to be because language skills go downhill.

  这篇发表在《认知》上的研究发现,如果语言学习者从10岁以后才开始学,那他想要达到母语水平的流利程度“几乎是不可能的”。尽管这似乎并不是因为过了这个年龄语言技能就会下降造成的。

  It turns out you're still learning fast," says study co-author Joshua Hartshorne, an assistant professor of psychology at Boston College. "It's just that you run out of time, because your ability to learn starts dropping at around 17 or 18 years old."

  该研究报告的联名作者、波士顿学院心理学助理教授乔舒亚·哈特肖恩说:“事实上,你还是能学得很快,问题在于这时候你的时间已经不多了,因为到了17~18岁左右,人的学习能力就会开始下降。”

  People who start a few years after age 10 may still become quite good at a language, the authors say, but they are unlikely to become fluent. Kids may be better than adults at learning new languages for many reasons.

  论文指出,虽然那些刚过10岁不久就开始学的孩子还是可能掌握地很好,但已经不太可能达到完全流利的水平了。孩子比成年人更容易掌握新的语言,这背后可能有诸多原因。

  Children’s brains are more plastic than those of adults, meaning they’re better able to adapt and respond to new information. “All learning involves the brain changing,” Hartshorne says, “and children’s brains seem to be a lot more adept at changing.”

  孩子的大脑有着比成年人的大脑更强的可塑性,也就是说,他们适应新信息并做出反馈的能力更强。哈特肖恩说:“所有学习都跟大脑的改变有关,而孩子的大脑对改变的适应能力似乎比成年人强得多。”

  Kids may also be more willing to try new things (and to potentially look foolish in the process) than adults are. Their comparatively new grasp on their native tongue may also be advantageous.

  孩子尝试新事物的意愿(在具体过程中可能会表现得比较傻)也比成年人更强。因为距离习得母语的时间相对较短,因此在这方面或许也有一定的优势。

  Unlike adults, who tend to default to the rules and patterns of their first language, kids may be able to approach a new one with a blank slate. These indings may seem discouraging, but it was heartening for scientists to learn that the critical period for fluent language acquisition might be longer than they previously thought.

  不同于大人,大人通常会沿用母语的规则和模式,孩子则可能以空白的姿态采用全新的方式学习新的语言。尽管看似有些让人泄气,但让人欣慰的是,科学家们发现,语言习得的关键时期可能比他们之前认为的要长。

  Some scientists believed that the brief window closes shortly after birth, while others stretched it only to early adolescence. Compared to those estimates, 17 or 18 — when language learning ability starts to drop off — seems relatively old.

  一些科学家认为短暂的语言学习窗口在出生后不久就会关闭,另一些科学家则认为这一窗口能持续到青春期早期。与那些估计相比,17,18岁——也就是语言学习能力开始下降的时候——似乎已经是很大的年龄了。

  For the study, the researchers created an online quiz promising to guess people's native language, dialect and home country based on their responses to English grammar questions.

  在这项研究中,研究人员设计了一个根据大家对英语语法问题的回答,来猜测大家的母语、方言和母国的在线测试。

  At the end of the quiz, people entered their actual native language, if and when they had learned any others and where they had lived. The quiz went viral: almost 670,000 people took it, giving the researchers huge amounts of data from English speakers of many ages and backgrounds.

  测试时,大家需在测试末尾输入他们实际的母语,是否学过、何时学过其他语言以及他们在哪些地方居住过。后来,这项测试迅速传开:近67万人都参加了测试,为研究人员提供了不同年龄,不同背景的英语使用者的海量数据。

  Analyzing the responses and grammar mistakes allowed them to draw unusually precise conclusions about language learning. The findings also offer insights for adults hoping to pick up a new tongue. People fared better when they learned by immersion, rather than simply in a classroom.

  通过分析大家的回答及其中的语法错误,研究者们得出了异常精确的有关语言习得的结论。这些发现也为那些希望学习新语言的成年人提供了很多真知灼见。浸入式学习的效果比仅仅在教室里学习的效果更好。

  And moving to a place where your desired language is spoken is the best way to learn as an adult, says Hartshorne.

  成年人学外语的时候,最好的学习方法就是搬到使用你想学的语言的地方去,哈特肖恩说道。

  If that's not an option, you can mimic an immersive environment by finding ways to have conversations with native speakers in their own communities, Hartshorne says. By doing so, it's possible to become conversationally proficient—even without the advantage of a child's brain.

  如果这点不在选择范围之内的话,也可以通过想办法在自己所在的地方和该语言的母语人士交流模拟一个浸入式的语言学习环境,哈特肖恩说道。这样一来,即便没有儿童大脑的优势,也能达到熟练对话的水平。

  (全文共542个词,时代周刊)

  ►重难点词汇:

  tricky  adj. 狡猾的;机警的;棘手的

  pinpoint  vt. 查明;精确地找到;准确描述 adj. 精确的;详尽的 n. 针尖;精确位置;极小之物

  plummet  n. 铅锤,坠子 vi. 垂直落下;(价格、水平等)骤然下跌

  tongue  n. 舌头;语言 vt. 舔;斥责;用舌吹 vi. 说话;吹管乐器

  adept  adj. 熟练的;擅长…的 n. 内行;能手

  discourage  vt. 阻止;使气馁

  dialect  n. 方言,土话;同源语;行话;个人用语特征 adj. 方言的

  immersion  n. 沉浸;陷入;专心

  mimic  vt. 模仿,摹拟 n. 效颦者,模仿者;仿制品;小丑 adj. 模仿的,模拟的;假装的

  ►帮帮提示:考研英语同源外刊美文赏读汇总

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