All posts tagged: multilingualism

Cécile Corbel & songs in foreign languages

Good music makes me so, so happy. I’ve been listening to a lot of “experimental” electronic, indie rock, and singer/songwriter type music these days.  When I listen to music in a language I can understand (English, Korean, and some Japanese), lyrics are often the most noticeable element of song for me and vocals tend to stand out against the backdrop of instrumentals.  But in other languages, vocals become mere morphemes without meaning, indistinguishable from the other layers of sound in a song.  A friend and I were discussing how sometimes we prefer to listen to songs in languages we don’t understand – for me, at least, it’s because it lets me interpret and feel the song in my own way without being hindered by semantics. Recently, this friend introduced me to a singer who, as she described it, has “the voice of a siren.” Cécile Corbel is a Breton singer and harpist who, in addition to having the most enchanting voice I’ve ever heard, also composed the score for the Studio Ghibli film 借りぐらしのアリエッティ (The Borrower Arrietty).  That’s …

Biology of the language-learning brain

A lot of my friends are neuroscience majors so, out of curiosity and because I had some extra space in my schedule, I decided to take an intro-level behavioral neuroscience course this semester. BIG MISTAKE. I have never experienced a class so frustratingly boring in my life.  And it’s a real pity because I know that neuroscience can and should be somewhat interesting (it’s the brain, for heaven’s sake) but… it’s not. Except for today. (Source) We started talking about language and cognition and of course my ears perked up because I’ve always had a fascination for the science behind learning a foreign language.  How does the brain comprehend new phonemes and new grammar structures?  Where and how does it form a new “dictionary”?  How does it affect other parts of behavior?  To what extent is language a learned behavior and to what extent is it innate? If anyone else is interested in this topic, I suggest NOT taking a neuroscience class.  Instead, try perusing The Language Instinct by Harvard professor, cognitive scientist, and linguist Steven Pinker. …