In this blog, I would try to relate the process of speaking a language and brain. This blog post is purely fictional, based on my imagination, and I don’t have any biological/experimental proof to verify the things written on this blog.

How do we think? How do we speak? Why are we good at one language while stammering in another?

These were the questions in the back of my mind. I sat one night and tried my best to answer them with the knowledge I possess. I was looking for a logical answer which would fit well in the real world, though may not reflect the way things work. I started with asking myself questions like “Do I know all the grammar I need for my native language?” The answer was no. Then how come I mostly use the right tense and grammar while speaking? Then I asked myself “Do I know the grammar of the foreign language?” Yes, my mind answered. Well, then why do I stammer and use fillers in the foreign language and not in my native language?

With these questions in mind, I thought of breaking the problem into smaller parts. First part is the process of figuring out the content/keywords that I want to deliver. Next is knitting them into meaningful sentences. Finally speaking out to express my views to the world.

To think and come up with the content I want to speak is processed by my conscious mind. Now, think of the conscious mind as CPU of my brain. It processes any random request sent to my brain and is good at it, but the downside is that it is a little bit slow and not very good at repetitive tasks like phrasing keywords into sentences. While on the other hand the stitching of those content into sentences is done by our subconscious mind, which is like a GPU, hence is very fast in performing repetitive tasks. The subconscious mind works on a machine learning model, which has to be trained with examples. Thus to make it quicker and better you need to teach your brain with examples.

Now with the above considerations, let us try to answer the question Why do we speak our native language so quickly? Even though we may not have a formal education in our native language, we speak it fluently. The reason is that we have trained our subconscious mind in our native language. We have been listening and speaking in this language since our birth. Once our subconscious mind is prepared, it is fast in knitting the keywords together. Hence most of the time is taken only in thinking what we want to speak and not on making the sentence.

Now let us consider the case when we try to speak a foreign language. Now our subconscious mind is not trained in it, and our conscious mind has to perform both the tasks of thinking what to talk and then forming a sentence. Since our conscious mind is not trained for such jobs, it achieves them at a very slow speed compared to subconscious mind. Hence we think a lot before while we have to speak in a foreign language.

Why do we stammer? Why do we use fillers? So now there are two possibilities which could happen. First is that you are thinking about the content you have to speak, but in the meantime there is silence, and you come under the pressure of talking something as soon as possible. Now what happens is that your mind knowing that it would need time to construct the sentence as well, it thinks half the content, process it into a sentence and you speak that out to fill the awkward silence. Once done you construct rest of the part and continue the process. The second possibility is that you have a limited capability to process and retain. Now you would have thought of all the content you have to speak. Your mind starts to transform the material into sentences, while doing so it knows that the content you have thought is important and must be stored in brain unless you finish what you want to convey. Hence due to the shortage of memory in your mind, your mind processes the sentence half and then sends it out, and you speak it making space for the next part of the sentence to be prepared and hence in both the cases, we use fillers, or we stammer while we are speaking a foreign language.

Knowing all this, How can we improve our grasp over a foreign language? The solution is to train our subconscious mind, but how? The easiest and the best way is to speak the foreign language more in our day to day life. The more we use and talk, the more our subconscious mind would be trained, and keep on getting better. Yes, we would stammer and take time in the beginning, but unless we teach our subconscious mind, we won’t be able to speak appropriately ever. Also converse more in the foreign language with a native speaker or the one who is already fluent. Talking would help us in two ways. First, we would listen to the correct way of speaking, which would assist in training our subconscious mind. Secondly, ask them to point out few silly mistakes you make. Aforementioned is another excellent way to receive feedback and improve your machine learning model in the brain.

So next time if you are learning a new language, keep these things in mind ;)

I hope it was a good read for you.

Editing thanks to Arushi Mittal

Happy Learning 🤩🤩

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Garvit Khatri