People study language for a job, a relationship, for travel or to be “fluent”.
Language is infinite (infinite possibilities of ways how you can say something), just like vocabulary, the number of rules, exceptions and the possibility of new words.
The number of sentences that you can create is infinite BUT only a small portion of them are actually correct/usable.
Native Selection is the theory that native speakers can pinpoint the correct subset of natural language without thinking about it. We want to acquire that intuition (I don’t know why is incorrect but it sounds and feels awkward and incorrect).
✓ I gave him the book back
✓ I gave him back the book
✓ I gave back the book to him
✓ I gave the book back to him
✗ I gave the book to him back
✗ I gave back him the book
If you ask why to a native speaker looking at this, they may not know the reason, but just know that for some reason the last two sound wrong.
Phonology: The system of sounds that are possible in a language.
Native speakers know what correct words sound like.
Even with nonsense words, native speakers can tell what sounds “right” in their language. How do we acquire this skill? Ho do we get that intuition?
Noam Chomsky: Theory of Generative Grammar
American linguist, cognitive scientist, philosopher, “Father of modern linguistics”
- “Generative Grammar”: a model of native speakers’ speaking ability
- Grammar: a cognitive machine that churns out all possible grammatical sentences
We have so many friends who study from textbooks all the time, they study the rules, they study grammar but the first time they’re in a natural speaking environment, suddenly, all of that doesn’t work. It sounds strange. And that idea that GRAMMAR is not the key is one confusing element because we think if we study grammar, we’ll become fluent!
Native children don’t have a complete vocabulary of their language, they don’t know every word but yet they’re still fluent. They’re native. They still have an intuition in their head.
The X-Factor to fluency: Intuition based on Ritual Usage.
You know something is wrong. You hear it because you have a connection in your brain of something you’ve heard in the past.
There are certain times when no matter what even if the sentence is grammatically correct it is still not correct in the situation.
For example, when somebody says: “Will you marry me?” This is a set phrase. But if you hear someone saying: “It is my deepest desire to spend the rest of my life with you”. that’s another way to say it that you may not learn in a textbook. But its situationally from a different context. Different time. For example: Slang.
You cannot just simply force yourself to memorize these grammars and phrases and just become fluent. You have to immerse yourself in these situations.
The idea of knowing exactly why you’re learning this language and so you do not waste time. It stays very personal and exciting to you. Language is personal. It should always be personal and that’s the best way to keep it alive within yourself.
On top of that you have to improve your study methods. There are the Four functions of language:
Proactive, you create:
Passive, things where you sit and take it in, and that’s it, end of story:
For studies, it helps to focus on “active learning”. Even if you read something, read it aloud. If you listen something, mouth along with it or repeat it. If you never use the muscles that actually need to produce the language, if you never use your tongue to speak, if you only use your ears, is not going to work. Those are separate! So is very important to make sure to always be proactive when you are studying.
Always bring in new sources and find ways to repeat them, mimic them, imitate them. Don’t think too much about it, is in the tongue’s muscle memory. It’s a loss if the 1st time you say something and you stutter is only because you’ve never actually said it aloud before. If you know the phrase, if you can hear it and you know what it is, then you should be able to say it. And the way to say that is to practice it.