I’m Still Learning My First Language

I’m still learning my first language. But now, I’m doing it with a Yale professor. I’m taking a freshman seminar called “Acquiring a First Language” with Professor Maria Piñango. At first, I wasn’t sure that I should take this class because I don’t plan on majoring in linguistics, but professor Piñango assured me that the seminar would be worth taking as long as I had the slightest interest in language acquisition. I realized that, although I’ve always loved language learning, I’ve never given much thought to how I acquired my first language!

I couldn’t be happier with my decision to take this seminar. Twice a week, our class of 8 freshmen meets around a single table with our professor, and we dive into the complexities of language acquisition. We all have backgrounds in at least one other language, and we’re able to draw parallels from English to Spanish, Hebrew, Chinese, French, Arabic, and German. One second we’re analyzing the lexical properties of the American English idiom, “kick the bucket”, and the next we’re deciphering the morphology of doucement or كتاب.

(Now I can make sense of nonsensical diagrams like this one!)
A nonsensical diagram examining the idiom "Kick the bucket"

I was surprised to find that even thought I took the class on a whim, thinking it wasn’t really related to my other areas of study, it actually ties my schedule together nicely. In my “Genes and Development” class I learn about development of the brain, and in “The Human Brain” I get to see what happens when development goes awry. My “Acquiring a First Language” seminar helps explain how language learning works on a foundational level, and then I get to put it into practice in Elementary Arabic. Talk about an amazing schedule!