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Language Is Murder

Learning a language is like committing murder.

Although all forms of murder basically amount to suffocation, immolation, stabbing (direct organ and tissue damage) or “overwhelming the immune response”, there are an infinite number of variations within that.

So to say “only method X works!”, “method X is the correct way” is like saying “human beings can only be killed using a Glock 17” — which simply isn’t the case.

What if you don’t have a Glock?
Shouldn’t you use that Magnum? Or that cheesewire? Or that bottle of arsenic?

1. Do what you like.
2. Use what you have.
3. Repeat.

Yes, this kind of gratuitously gruesome blog post is what happens when you watch too much CSI.

  7 comments for “Language Is Murder

  1. Sebbe
    November 26, 2011 at 19:20

    wow… this is a new perspective

  2. November 27, 2011 at 01:41

    I knew there was a reason I preferred FBI失踪者を追え! Doesn’t have a death in *every* episode.

  3. Matt Bonder
    November 27, 2011 at 19:06

    But, Some methods might be more like hitting someone with a dull hammer, where as AJATTing is like blowing off there head with a bazooka.

  4. December 2, 2011 at 01:45

    There’s a quote that gets used a lot in advice for writers. The phrase can actually be attributed to a number of different authors, including Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald and others. The original quote probably comes from Sir Author Quiller-Couch, an obscure early 20th Century writer, but I like Stephen King’s version best:

    “kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings” ― Stephen KingOn Writing

    What this refers to are all those little bits of writing that cause you to fall in love with your own creativity.  The problem with them is that when we are in love with our own writing, it can sometimes be difficult to get rid of those bits, despite the fact that they are often detrimental to the work as a whole. Entire characters can be left in a novel or other work of fiction sometimes, simply because the author him or herself was so infatuated with their creation they couldn’t see that the character was actually utterly irrelevant to the story.  Being able to edit out these “darlings” from our writing can mean the difference between writing a masterpiece and writing a doorstop (ie. a big block of paper no one will ever read because it sucks).  To return to Quiller-Couch, his own quote may help clarify:

    ‘Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.’
    Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, ‘On Style’

    So what does this have to do with language learning? Well, a lot actually, though little to do with Khatz’s particular metaphor in this post. For instance, and this is just one example, how many of us have SRS cards we KNOW we need to delete or at least suspend because they are just too hard, too unmanageable, too … whatever, but we never do because we think we NEED that word, or we WANT that word, and yet we groan inside every time it comes up and we miss it once again? And we do this sort of thing in so many aspects of our L2 acquisition, from things we watch or listen to “because they are good for us” to  boring sentence sources like textbooks we keep trying to force ourselves to mine in some systematic and thorough way, because we need a system. In some of these cases, we aren’t even in love with the actual material, in fact we may hate it, but what we are in love with, instead, is our own preconceptions about learning a language.

    And we could cast the net wider and talk about habits or things we keep in our daily life which damage our efforts, reduce our immersion, hurt our motivation, etc. It’s really a very interesting and possibly fruitful metaphor to explore.  Hopefully khatz will tell us a bit about his darlings, and how he murders them.

    Anyways, I know this comment went way off the rails, but I just have a propensity for the dark and gritty metaphors, examples, analogies and pop culture references khatz likes to make, and thought I’d riff on this one a bit. Excuse me now, I’ve got some darling-killing to do.

  5. December 15, 2011 at 11:50

    Hmmm. is learning a language like committing murder, or like being murdered oneself? I would suggest the latter. Teaching a language may be like committing murder, especially if one’s methods are tortuous. On the other hand: (being a more positive minded guy) couldn’t you say that learning a language is like making love – there are many techniques, yet all lead to pleasure? I think such a simile might be more motivational!

  6. December 19, 2011 at 11:40

    “So to say “only method X works!”, “method X is the correct way” is like saying “human beings can only be killed using a Glock 17″ — which simply isn’t the case.”

    Totally true looool 

  7. April 8, 2012 at 17:26

    I would have thought learning a new language is more akin to resurrection or even a 2nd coming! You had once chance with your first language, now in the 2nd you have a chance to remake yourself to your own design! Well actually you could do the same in the first – but in the second there is less holding you back..on the assumption you can learn the 2nd! If you don’t like what you did in th e 2nd…do it in the third!

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