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The Blog

Language learning for mental agility

December 2nd, 2008

The Conversation Prism by Brian Solis is a diagram which describes the current web 2.0 landscape:

The Conversation Prism - brian solis

As a language teacher, these are exciting times. There are clear and obvious ways that 80% of the tools on this diagram can be utilised to learn a second language (SLA).

An interesting article yesterday reported  the current interest in Transhumanism in Silicon Valley. The idea that we can use technology to transcend or physical limitations. I am hearing educational gurus talk more and more frequently  about the way our personal intelligence is merging with the combined intellect of knowledge via the Internet… the way learning is changing, as well as our role as teachers.

Some types of knowledge need to make their way from the screen to our brains. Yes, we can use an on-line auto translator to communicate with people who speak different languages… however it’s a lot more time efficient and satisfying to have that information available automatically. You’re not going to have an intelligent conversation via an auto translate function, though it will help you while you’re learning. We’re having big problems with people using their iPhones alongside more traditional methods of artificial recall in exams in the Czech Republic. But nobody is ever going to be able to learn a language for you.

The idea that we can work to maintain our mental fitness is particularly important to me personally because of  the experience seeing Altzeimers at first hand.  After seeing the path travelled by Dave Edmonds and his wife Dawn. Dave is the father of  a friend I’ve know for 20 years, and was always quirky, insightful and vastly entertaining - when he said that he’d forgotten how to swim when we met them in Thailand in 2000 we had no idea that this was the beginning of his journey away from us.

To some extent, this leaves me with a feeling that it is my personal responsibility to look after my brain as well as I can. If we have the gift of intelligence we must put it to use, not just keep it distracted, with a vague feeling of unease that we are not reaching, or even reaching for, our full potential.

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