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Here Steve and Jill talk about Jill’s childhood and relate aspects of it to language learning.
Steve: Hi, Jill.
Jill: Hi, Steve.
Steve: You know what, Jill?
I don’t know where you were born and where you were brought up. Did you grow up here in Vancouver?
Jill: I did, in North Vancouver. I was born, actually, in a small town called Golden.
Steve: I’ve been to Golden.
Jill: Yeah, small town in British Columbia but we left when I was a year old. Actually, my mom left with us and my dad is from there and his whole family lives there so he stayed.
Steve: Oh, okay.
Jill: So, we grew up in North Van but always went back to visit.
Steve: I’ve been to Golden.
I mean, the scenery there is just spectacular.
Jill: Yeah, it’s beautiful.
Steve: Spectacular. That whole area from Golden to Revelstoke, the snow, the quality of snow they get, the rocky mountains, the peaks, the skiing, I mean, it’s really spectacular country.
Jill: Lots and lots of trees everywhere. Yeah, it’s beautiful.
Steve: And it’s nice in the summer too.
Jill: Very warm.
Steve: And it’s very warm; hot.
Jill: And very dry.
Steve: Dry and hot.
Steve: So, no, it’s spectacular; it’s spectacular country. Oh, I see, so you grew up in North Vancouver?
Steve: And gee, but that’s kind of tough that, I guess, so your mom left.
Steve: So, your mom had to bring you up? She had support, I guess?
Well, my mom’s whole family lived here. She has six brothers and sisters and then my grandparents and we were always very close. We first lived with my grandparents when we moved back for a year, so. And my dad did come down, you know, once a month to visit us and we went up there for all the holidays. So, actually, we thought it was really cool because, you know, my dad had a big ranch and we had horses and we had dirt bikes and we got to drive vehicles when we were 12. Because he had all this land we could just drive, so we got to do all these things that none of our friends ever got to do.
Steve: So your dad was a rancher up there?
Jill: Well no, not really, he actually owned a sawmill for many, many years.
Steve: What was the name of the sawmill?
Jill: Soles; Soles Lumber Limited.
Jill: He just bought a ranch at one point. He was never really a rancher; he just bought it just, I guess, for whatever reason, but had 1,200 acres on this ranch. So, you know, we would go for walks through the forest with the creeks running through and horses and so it was really great.
Steve: Oh, yeah, and especially in the summer.
Jill: Oh, yeah.
Steve: To be up there it must have been
Jill: Oh, it’s light until 11 at night and it’s just you don’t hear any sounds.
You don’t hear any noises and you see all the stars in the sky.
Steve: So you went horseback riding too?
Jill: Yeah, I grew up riding horses.
Steve: Oh really. So, do you like to ride?
Jill: I don’t; not any more. I used to just bug him solid when I was up there because when I was little I was too young to go by myself and I couldn’t saddle the horses up myself so he always had to come and he was always so busy working. So, I was always bugging him to take me riding. And then when I was, I don’t know maybe 13, I went to a camp for a week; a riding camp.
And it was actually English riding though, where you do some jumping and stuff and I had always done western riding with the big horn on the saddle. And then when I was about 14-15, I just completely lost interest and I think I’ve been on a horse one time since then; just no desire anymore.
Steve: You know, that’s very interesting. I guess I always try to relate everything back to language learning, but people go through periods where they like to do certain things and then they don’t like to do certain things. I mean, they often talk, for example, in the case of young kids who play sports it might be a girl that’s into whatever, basketball or gymnastics, or boys into hockey and some of them burn out.
Jill: Yeah and they could be very good.
Steve: They could be very good and all of a sudden at the age of 14 they’re no longer interested.
Steve: Very often the parents, they put so much into it. They see their child as this future ballerina or whatever it might be
Jill: an NHL star.
Steve: And the child loses interest.
Steve: It’s the same with language learning. I confess now that I tried very hard to get my two boys, Mark and Eric, interested in language learning with, you know, no real success. And then, Mark, because he played hockey professionally in Europe and then in Japan, he got interested.
So when he was in Italy and then he was in Austria and in Switzerland and in Japan, wherever he went, he tried to learn the language. And, you know, I’ve talked recently on my blog, thelinguist.blogs.com, about how in our school system we sort of treat everyone in the classroom as if they’ve all got an equal interest in learning languages.
Steve: So they all get the same treatment and they get a treatment that’s, basically, if they aren’t very interested in languages, it’s going to discourage them. It gives them a lot of seemingly meaningless things to do and it teaches them meaningless things.
And, you know, if it were only possible to nurture sort of an interest in language with young children and somehow allow them the freedom to explore so that they maintain that interest. And at some point, some of those kids, perhaps a larger percentage, will take that interest, you know, right to the extent that they are going to learn to be fluent in the language. But we don’t do that, we’ve got to force it.
Jill: We force it on them.
Steve: We force it on them and some of them won’t continue. Well, so what? So, you know, you were interested in horses and then you were no longer interested in horses, big deal; one way or the other.
Jill: I had different interests.
Steve: You had different interests.
Steve: Now, if your father or your mother had said “no, we want Jill to be a horsewoman and she’s got to do it”, you know, that wouldn’t have helped either. Jill: No.
Jill: I wouldn’t have enjoyed it and I probably would have been angry and bitter with them and, you know, who knows?
Steve: And what you have now is you have very pleasant memories
Steve: of the time that you enjoyed horses.
Jill: It’s not a negative experience.
Steve: And I think education has to be that way.
There has to be more of an opportunity, especially for children but even for adults, to explore and discover things on their own. And the challenge in education is how do we stimulate that interest, how do we make it easier for them to cultivate that interest, but we shouldnt be trying to force something at people.
Steve: And I think that’s where you know, how many people have a pleasant recollection of their language studies in school?
Jill: You know, I don’t know anybody who does, honestly. In Canada we were always made to learn French.
Steve: The English speaking population.
Jill: The English speaking population were always made to learn French.
I think it probably varied, depending on the school, what grade you started at but at a certain point, you had to; it was mandatory. Do you know that I have not spoken to one person who was forced to do that who actually likes French? They all hate it. They remember very little aside from the basic “Hi, my name is” and “How are you?” You know, other than that, they don’t remember. And French is a beautiful language and I’m not just saying that because I speak it because I have very negative memories of learning French too. I didn’t enjoy my time learning it.
Steve: So you didn’t enjoy the French you learned in school?
Jill: I didn’t.
Jill: I didn’t.
Steve: It’s a bit artificial isn’t it?
Jill: Yeah, I didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t actually even enjoy my university courses very much, but I do still believe that French is a beautiful language and I do still want to improve and use it. But, I think that most people have a negative experience.
Steve: Of course now you have French on the LingQ System, so.
Steve: Hey, you can go to town and enjoy it.
Jill: That’s right; that’s right.
Steve: Yeah, I mean, I’ve mentioned this on my blog, I think I want to do this experiment.
Take some children, maybe six or seven, and have a program in the schools which is called “Languages” and using a system like LingQ, allow the children to, say, look at a map of the world and on that map will be the languages that are available. In other words, we have, you know, audio books, like stories to listen to or to read, or we have videos, little short videos, in these languages and use a system line LingQ so that they can save words and keep track of the words that they’re saving. So, they keep a little score and maybe tie it to “Snakes and Ladders” or some little game; make a game out of it.
And so that all that we ask of them to do is that they will, in each year, explore one or two languages. Listen to it many, many times and children like listening to the same thing over and over again. I mean, children say “read me that story again. ” Jill: Oh, and they’ll watch movies a hundred times.
Steve: A hundred times, so they’re ideal. And, of course, if they will listen to the story over and over again and gradually learn the words and so then one year they might do Swahili and the next year they might do Spanish and the following year they might do sort of Indonesian, it really doesn’t matter, but they are expanding their mind; they are expanding their mind.
I think that with a program like that, when they are say 15 or 16, they will be better language learners and at that time if they decide to learn French, they’ll learn it in two years and so that they don’t need 10 years.
Jill: They’ll have learned some of the techniques.
Steve: They will have learned some of the techniques; their brain will be more flexible. Their brain will not resist the fact that different languages have different sounds, have different structures and so forth. I would like to do that as an experiment. The new approach so that we don’t teach French, one language, like arbitrarily decide
Jill: you have no choice and this is how it’s going to be taught.
Of the thousands of languages in the world, we decide which language you are going to learn. Whereas it should be, there are all kinds of languages out there, which one do you want to explore? And next year you can explore another one. All we ask is that when you do decide to explore one, stay with it. So, you have to listen over and over and do these other things, for which I think LingQ is very suitable.
Steve: So, anyway, that will be our next project. Anyway, so once again, the transcript for this podcast will be available at and I should say it will be the lingQ.com because very soon we’ll be moving to the lingQ.com but also at thelinguist.com.
You can also hear it at EnglishLingQ.com and we hope that you find the discussion interesting and with the transcript you can read and listen and, hopefully, improve your English at the same time. Thank you very much, Jill.
Jill: Thank you.