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Is the Ability To Learn Other Language Genetic?

 
 
fbaezer
 
Reply Thu 8 May, 2003 01:43 pm
This comes after re-reading the thread of the "secret of multilingual people".

Is the Ability To Learn Other Language Genetic?

I have known poliglot families and strictly monolingual families, it seems to come with the genes package, yet... my father studied English for years, and never went farther than "Khamanegs, pleeze" or "Whatsemare weet you". My mother did slighly better. I can absorb languages quite easily. So does my brother (who is as far from a scholar as you can get). And I know a familiy in which the opposite is true, to the parents' despair.

What's your take on the subject?
 
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Thu 8 May, 2003 01:46 pm
Hmm. I think there is a genetic predisposition to linguistic aptitude, in general, but that's not about learning other languages, per se.
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fbaezer
 
  1  
Reply Thu 8 May, 2003 01:54 pm
This would lead us to a second, related, question.

If research has proven that, as an average, women master language more than men do, does it mean that it would be easier for women to learn another language?

I guess there are logical elements (need, for example, to grasp the different grammar) that are not necessarily connected with general linguistic aptitudes.
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Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Thu 8 May, 2003 02:51 pm
I think mcuh of the predisposition is genetic. The thing about women was that they are more easily able to use the vocabulary that they know, the study I read did not mention that they learn the vocabulary more readily.

The study did not conclude whether it was genetic or whether circumstantial (i.e. they talk more so they talk more betta).
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Phoenix32890
 
  1  
Reply Thu 8 May, 2003 03:41 pm
I had learned, many years ago, that little children can learn a number of languages, almost by "osmosis", and not mix them up. After a certain age, other languages are not as easily absorbed, and must be studied.

Here is the opinion of a Professor of Linguistics:

http://www.linguistlist.org/~ask-ling/bilingual-multilingual-children.html


I would certainly say though, that it would seem reasonable that language acquisition ability differs amongst people, and is probably genetic.
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New Haven
 
  1  
Reply Thu 8 May, 2003 04:39 pm
Math skills are genetically transmitted, so it wouldn't surprise me in the least, that language skills would also be genetically regulated.
Probably associated with the speech area of the brain (Broca's).http://biology.about.com/library/organs/brain/blbroca.htm
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mendiaz
 
  0  
Reply Tue 18 Jun, 2013 12:23 am
Well where as i know about this is that this is not necessary that this ability comes genetically. I do not think so as there are numerous person who are expert in speaking the foreign language with their native language and there is no proof has been found of it though some abilities like this come genetically.
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Atiqah
 
  3  
Reply Wed 26 Jun, 2013 09:15 am
@fbaezer,
My opinion is that since language acquisition (whether native or others) is generally known to be easier for everyone during childhood, this shows that there are biological/genetic factors (in this case would be that of a person's development stage) which contribute to a person's language aptitude. Nonetheless, my belief is that the ability to learn other languages is not genetic as similar to aptitude in other areas, nurture is a more contributing factor compared to nature. For instance, a mother who does not have a high language aptitude may predispose a child to a similar level of language aptitude but it does not necessarily mean that the child will be inapt in learning languages. However, there is a higher tendency of a child being unable to learn a new language effectively due to the fact that the exposure level to that language is low. For instance, I am currently tutoring a primary school student Malay language. Even though her mother is proficient in Malay, due to the fact that her father is not Malay, most of the time at home she does not practice or even hear that language and hence her literacy in Malay is rather poor.

PS: My proficiency in Malay Language is also declining due to lack of usage Sad

Disclaimer: This is my personal opinion and I might be wrong Wink
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buildingmaterials
 
  0  
Reply Wed 4 Sep, 2013 04:41 am
@fbaezer,
Wow, it is unbelievable. You are very excellent.
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Banana Breath
 
  2  
Reply Thu 4 Dec, 2014 02:07 pm
@fbaezer,
We can safely say the "propensity toward" learning other languages is genetically inherited, however that is not the same things as the motivation and drive necessary to pursue such learning. There is no question that some people have an easier time learning languages. People who have difficult discerning tones will find it hard to learn songs as well as tonal languages such as Chinese and this is inherited. However strong motivation is a more significant factor than biological gifts, so those who are motivated and dedicated in learning languages, WILL learn languages.
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pejsata
 
  2  
Reply Wed 27 May, 2015 10:08 am
@fbaezer,
When it comes to languages, it's been scientifically proven that the propensity is mostly inheritable. However, it's not just a good ear for phonetics or a natural knack for vocabulary and grammar that makes us succeed as learners. In fact, numerous studies of independent learners argue that nothing fosters language acquisition more than natural exposition. In other words, apart from the genetic legacy which is a given, Your brother and You probably have a lot of opportunity to use those languages for purposes other that learning alone, like movies and gaming, which explains why You're so successful Smile
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FBM
 
  1  
Reply Sat 30 May, 2015 07:16 am
Possibly something genetic going on, but seeing as how there's no definite science on it yet, I'd look towards Second Language Acquisition Theory first. What you need to excel in a foreign language:

1. Motivation.
2. Opportunity. (time, mostly, since adults usually have to work for a living)
3. Comprehensible input. (Krashen, et al)
4. Meaningful interactions in the target language that focus on the message (content), rather than the form (grammar structures).

People are really starting to poke holes in the Critical Period Hypothesis. There is no science that I know of that backs it up.
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