Thursday, 16 June 2011

Do You Have A Back-up Language?

I know many people who are truly bilingual i.e they read, write, speak and think in two languages ever since childhood.

I also know a few who had tried to learn a third language a little later in life and managed to acquire a basic level of proficiency, one of them is my youngest daughter who learnt French for about three years at school. But on a short trip to France could barely make herself understood.

My eldest son, who studied formal Arabic up to SPM quickly picked up Jordanian street Arabic while doing his degree there.

They say the way to be proficient in any foreign language is to live among the native speakers and speak their language until it becomes a natural tongue.

I recently read that information about our native languages are stored in the left side of our brains, and that of languages that we are still learning or had mastered later are stored in other areas of the brain.

Why am I fascinated by this?

It is the realisation that an extra language can serve as a back-up communications tool should one happen to suffer damage to the left-brain and completely lose one's native language(s).

It happened to a 13 year old girl here:

It happened too to a friend who had suffered a stroke. He has reportedly lost his Malay and powerful English but is communicating now only in Thai, a language he was learning or had perhaps only just mastered.

I mean... seriously, though I do not wish it on anyone and certainly not on myself, a trauma to the left brain could leave us totally incapable of communicating to anyone.

But if we had been learning a new language prior to it happening,  this language might just kick in during recovery and help us be understood.

I'm thinking perhaps Mandarin, Tamil or even Javanese... there are many such speakers here in the Klang Valley

And also memorising more of Quran verses, for the Arabic capability......

I must reiterate, I do not wish brain injury on myself or even to anyone else, Na'uzubillah min zalik

Yes it is scary...  but hey, let's insure ourselves... just in case...



Pak Zawi said...

Zen, at our age it is better to be prepared.

Red Alfa said...

Impending stroke coming?

It seems so! Lately I have these tightness and intermittent pains in my chest which would only go away if I started unducing heavy coughing... now is it another/an early reminder I should be learning Russian again?

Al-Manar said...

How about sign language? It is more universal except for the need to have another person knowing it. For that matter what's the use of knowing Russian if no one in the house can understand. Let us hope whatever happens we can still say our syahadah.

Wan Sharif said...

In total agreement with Abang Hassan Al-Manar..
I can argue technically in French at my workplace in 1984 but found it difficult to make myself understood in a restaurant in Nice in the same year.. :).

Cat-from-Sydney said...

Aunty Zen,
Communication doesn't have to be in a language. A subtle prolonged stare from a father, for example, can sometimes be more effective than the stroke of rotan. How do you think my Mama and I communicate? purrr....meow!

Red Alfa said...

In such matters I shouldn't be so flippant. Thank you for the gentle reminder.

Yes, I should pray whichever part of my surviving brain should the unfortunate has to happen by Allah's Will, it must be foremost that I shall be able to say the Syahadah fluently in whatever language that I can speak with.

I am being reminded that on one occasion of near fatal accident I was in, my last conscious word was very fluently the 4 letter word!

Zendra-Maria said...

Pak Zawi, indeed we should

Zendra-Maria said...


Zendra-Maria said...

Pakcik Hassan, *thumbs-up*

Ayoh Wang - i understand your predicament in Nice, sometimes ganu people can barely make themselves understood by me.... hehehe

Cats, your mama has the sweetest jelingan I've seen... no wonder you purrrrr-meowww your way everywhere :))