First Languages

We all know that everyone has a first language, in terms of communication. We think, write and speak using vocabulary from the language we grew up with. However, this pattern exists beyond the language of oral and written expression and applies to individuals when first contact is made with any system. Whatever system you first encounter, metric or imperial, English or French, piano or guitar, you are eternally cemented in the framework of that system. No matter how intensely you study another system, you must always translate to your first language in your mind.

When someone attempts to learn the metric system, a centimeter is likely described to them as, “approximately half an inch.” Teaching by translation and conversion is slow, tedious and it encourages the mental translation which occurs in the student’s mind. This is not how we learn our first languages, so why do we try to learn new systems in this way? Think about how you first learned the length of an inch. Did someone tell you that it was one twelfth of a foot? Of course not. You learned the length of an inch by looking at something that was an inch long and associating that length with the term inch. This is how we should learn all new systems – observe, then associate.

If someone wants to learn to speak Spanish, they should not merely pick up a Spanish-English dictionary and read it cover to cover. If a person simply wanted to be able to recite Spanish translations of English words, then that dictionary is probably their best bet. Although this tactic may give them a large Spanish vocabulary, their ability to associate those words with objects, feelings or actions would be non-existent. In order to truly comprehend and absorb a new system, you must associate the new terms directly with the world around you.

Translation is the enemy of learning.

Rule of Seven

Seven simple ways to make the world more efficient:

1. Switch all clocks to twenty-four-hour time.

2. Bring about overdue reform to the alphabet. Letters which do not produce a unique sound, such as c, x and q will be fired. A close eye will be kept on j, y and z.

3. Stopputtingspacesbetweenwordswhentyping. Studiesshowthatthisincreasestypingspeedbyfifteenpercent.

4. Change to the metric system. No one knows how many pecks are in a bushel.

5. Cars will be regulated to near-extinction. Each vehicle may only produce a horsepower-to-kilogram ratio which renders the act of driving unexciting. A sedan with a speedometer that can reach 260 km/h is about as helpful as a speaker that can deafen its listeners or a television that can blind its viewers.

6. Place a moratorium on treadmills pending further investigation into aimless exertion of energy.

7. Ban blogs. They are responsible for countless hours wasted by posting semi-useless information.