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From peterpayne, the blog of an American living in Japan. He runs the jlist.com web site for Americans who wanna buy Japanese toys, DVDs, porn and stuff.

http://www.peterpayne.net/2005/10/on-stereotypes-how-and-why-words-jump.html

(The first windowful of the entry is OK but if you scroll down it's probably NWS because it includes ads for some of their naughty stuff.)

Anyway, he writes about living in Japan for so long that he has forgotten some English words (for example, "gynecologist"):
It's a strange feeling, not being able to recall a word you know you should know -- you stand there with a dumb look on your face while your brain googles your hippocampus, trying to find the term.

Comments

( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
angeyja
Oct. 29th, 2005 01:18 am (UTC)
What I thought was funny about living in Iceland that year was how my brain kept spouting German (language from high school) instead of Icelandic, and it had me wondering about about language acquisition, like somehow learning a sceond languange so late my brain need that English to German to Icelandic.

I have often wondered how easily Ben could re-pickup the language, since we lived there when he was 1-2 years old, when he was just strting to talk, and he learned verbal language with both.
cjsmith
Oct. 29th, 2005 03:03 am (UTC)
When I started learning languages I built storage bins in my head. I had English and everything-else, and the latter contained French. When I started on German I had to build a bin for French, and until I built it I confused words in French and German. Then I had English, French, and Other, until I started on Russian...

I always confuse the latest two.

I wonder: if I get good enough, will I start confusing languages that are actually related somehow? :-)
firecat
Oct. 29th, 2005 04:55 am (UTC)
I guess it's been long enough since I learned any new languages that I'm not having this problem with Japanese.
usqueba
Oct. 29th, 2005 08:59 pm (UTC)
I can't build bins. Language is stored all over the place, in little clumps, throughout my brain ;). Sometimes my brain kicks out the right word, wrong language... sometimes it produces the right language ::sigh::
angeyja
Oct. 30th, 2005 12:33 am (UTC)
I was working English then German then Icelandic. I have a very very tiny smattering of French and that only recently from travelling.

I think this was my nature (not compartmentalizing, which I do not endorse for others) and my first German teacher in middle school. She had seventeen languages, when I knew her, and passed onto me the picture more of relationships than bins.

Icelandic is quite archaic which is where I think there was the disjoint. I felt as if you almost had to think differently to speak it, and my brain couldn't quite make that leap. So there was the quick step, sideways so to speak, to German, and then back.

kightp
Oct. 29th, 2005 01:39 am (UTC)
"...while your brain googles your hippocampus..."

*love*
cjsmith
Oct. 29th, 2005 03:08 am (UTC)
That is a wonderful phrase!

I find that if my brain ever does serve up a word for something, it will REFUSE to give me another word for that same thing -- even if the word it served up is not in the language I wanted. It figures it has given me a perfectly fine word and its job is done thank you.

I don't know why, but this happens almost always with nouns, not with any other kind of word. Some are even fairly common words. I have gotten VERY good at improvising: "I was walking through the, the, that thing, you know, rectangular, connects the hallway to our apartment, when you called."
firecat
Oct. 29th, 2005 04:55 am (UTC)
Yeah, same here. To all of that.
ljgeoff
Oct. 29th, 2005 03:20 am (UTC)
Just today, I signed a post "LJG, googlemaster." I expect that it'll 'google' will turn up in dictionaries as a verb any time.
aquaeri
Oct. 29th, 2005 05:21 am (UTC)
That is a cute phrase. But really I just want to squee because I saw the movie your lj icon is from last night.
firecat
Oct. 29th, 2005 06:45 am (UTC)
It's a good movie, isn't it?
therealjae
Oct. 29th, 2005 05:55 am (UTC)
This has so happened to me.

-J
janetmiles
Oct. 29th, 2005 09:36 pm (UTC)
I should pass this on to one of our grad students -- she's doing her dissertation on this phenomenon! Thanks!
firecat
Oct. 30th, 2005 06:32 am (UTC)
How cool is that!
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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