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Language and memory?

  Tags: Memory
 Language Learning Forum : General discussion Post Reply
18 messages over 3 pages: 1 2 3  Next >>
Senior Member
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 Message 1 of 18
21 December 2015 at 6:57pm | IP Logged 
Why is it that some languages stick in our heads better than others? That's my question. Is it a matter of love, a matter of quality time spent with it? Or what? Some things I learned years and years ago for classical music I have never forgotten even though I've only seen them a handful of times. (As a classical musician you often have to learn various directions in various European languages, and yeah I'm a classical musician.)
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 Message 2 of 18
21 December 2015 at 10:38pm | IP Logged 
I think that's quite a bold statement. Sure, we all remember some things better than others, with only a few of us even taking notice that it's so. I personally hold the view that memory evolves through life stages and works slightly differently over time, so almost everything sticks at young ages, whereas by the time you reach adulthood strong biases and filters appear, and only things that you deem interesting in one way or another stand a chance to stick, while 'dull' stuff simply won't.

Maybe that's how it's supposed to work for evolutionary reasons, maybe really only a few people have a memory which works like that, and anyway my necessarily biased observations of my own mental processes are all the evidence I have, so I don't really know.

And now you're taking this to a whole new level -- you would need to study at least a couple of languages, consistently study the same things, and then keep testing yourself just to check if stuff from lang A actually --and again consistently-- sticks better than the same stuff from B. I doubt that happens for real, and you would need to prove it does (even if only for you as an individual) before we could venture and try to give an answer to that question, so... I guess we'll never know either :)
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 Message 3 of 18
22 December 2015 at 3:48pm | IP Logged 
It's not about the things that YOU consider interesting, it's about the things that YOUR BRAIN considers interesting. And sometimes they aren't the things that are useful (or even healthy) for you.
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 Message 4 of 18
22 December 2015 at 4:38pm | IP Logged 
If you're referring to terms like allegro, that's probably because you treat that as L1 vocabulary. If you mean stuff that actually accompanies music, ie lyrics, then the music and rhythm of course help you remember them. Also, plenty of people have had to learn entire L2 passages by heart, and they may remember them years later but make no progress in the language or forget almost everything else.

One more factor is the syllable structure/sound combinations. If you can barely pronounce something, of course it'll be harder to remember it.

Edited by Serpent on 22 December 2015 at 4:56pm

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 Message 5 of 18
25 December 2015 at 2:04pm | IP Logged 
Back in high school I took music and learned different terms relating to tempo like Largo, Adagio, Moderato, Allegro, etc. I don't claim to know Italian. If you get exposed to Allegro everyday on a piece of music, you'd know what it means. But if you are asked to put Allegro in a sentence in Italian, it is a different matter.

When it comes to music and learning languages, singers tend to have an advantage. People who are opera singers can claim they have at least a basic fluency in the languages they are singing. If you learn to sing the parts to George Bizet Carmen, you might learn enough French to get around in a French speaking country. The same with people who learned to sing the parts to Puccini or Wagner operas can claim to be fluent in Italian or German.

Playing a Minuet or Menuet by Mozart on a piano keyboard I wouldn't know enough words & phrases to be fluent in a European language. Even knowing a simple phrase "Allegro ma non troppo" I wouldn't be close to being fluent in Italian. But if I start listening to pop songs, I'd learn to repeat words & phrases such as the Spanish version of the 1979 song Chiquitita released by the Swedish pop group Abba.

Edited by shk00design on 25 December 2015 at 2:07pm

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Super Polyglot
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 Message 6 of 18
29 December 2015 at 5:07pm | IP Logged 
I actually started out learning Italian from a text book because of those musical terms in Italian.
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 Message 7 of 18
03 April 2016 at 9:30am | IP Logged 
I think the languages that we use more tend to stay in our memories better. Either use it or lose it as they say.
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 Message 8 of 18
03 April 2016 at 1:40pm | IP Logged 
As a musician myself, I follow the advice of the Classical pianist Robert Estrin who posted videos on YouTube.

Learning foreign languages is along the same line as learning to play pieces of music. This is a technique discussed a lot call "space repetition". On 1 of the videos, Robert talked about re-learning a piece of music from time to time. The first time you play that piece you are learning it from scratch note by note. After a period of months or even a year or 2, you want to re-learn the same piece. The second time you'd find that it is less time consuming because certain parts of the music are already familiar. If you try to play a piece that you haven't touch for a while, there is a good chance you'd be able to play little bits but get wrong notes in between. The third, forth and many more times you repeat the piece, the learning curve simply gets shorter and shorter.

Here is the original video:
Can You Learn a Piece of Music You Won't Forget?

When it comes to learning a language you don't just repeat words and phrases over and over. You interact with people who communicate in the same language or even travel to countries where a language is spoken. More exposure means more progress. Take the case of JERO the popular Japanese singer for instance: he is an African-American who emigrated to Japan. He fell in love with Japanese Enka music and started taking Japanese in high school. If he decided to stay in the US his singer career wouldn't take off and his Japanese probably wouldn't be as proficient. You don't necessarily have to emigrate to another country. The polyglot Moses McCormick learned to speak half-dozen languages living in the US.

Edited by shk00design on 03 April 2016 at 1:43pm

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