Radio Inspire

How To Learn Sign Language

Michael Erard – A New Metaphor for Language Learning


>>Hi. Hola. When I was writing Babel No More, I wondered if polyglots were ever going to get into the habit of meeting face-to-face. So that they could use their various languages. And so I’m just really glad to see that meetings like this happen, and are happening more, all over the world. I think that’s an important thing. I think the next step is going to be dating and marriages that arise from these meetings. The offspring of this group is going to be… Linguistically very powerful indeed. So being here is just a real privilege. And I want to thank Ellen and Richard and Alex for the invite, and just appreciate them again for all of the hard work, putting this together. I don’t know about you, but I was getting emails from Ellen at, like, 3:00 in the morning. And I’m on East Coast time, so I know there was no time lag. So I know that she was working really hard. I have an announcement to make as well, before I get into the main part of my talk. You know me as… Or maybe you don’t know me… You’re meeting me right now as Michael Erard, the author of Babel No More. But this is actually the last time that I will be speaking as Michael Erard, the author of Babel No More. And that’s because the book is going to be translated into French. And published by Assimil. In about a year. And the title is going to be Adieu Babel. And so from now on, I’d like to be known as Michael Erard, the author of Adieu Babel. And for the rest of the talk, I’ll be referring to the book as Adieu Babel. So if you go… I haven’t read that book. Well, you might have read it already, just in a different translation. The book has been translated into Russian and Korean and Arabic. And there’s a UK version, where they changed the title, for some interesting reason. But this is the… So this is the first translation into a native European language, and I’m really excited about that. It’s important to me personally, and I’ll just tell you why… Because I’m Michael Erard, and I’m the author of Adieu Babel. And you should know these things about me. We should know these things about each other. The back and forth with the publisher happened during my son’s first week at kindergarten. And he’s going to this really wonderful French immersion school in Maine, where I live. So this was a very fortunate development. It just felt very lucky to be happening. And for the past two years, he’s been at a French-speaking preschool. And people say… Oh, do you speak French? And I have to say… No, I don’t really speak French. I’m learning more and more, so when he says… Papa, tu existez pas, I have some answer back to him. My languages are really Spanish and Chinese, but I want to get more French, and I have to get more French, because I am Michael Erard, the author of Adieu Babel. My wife is taking French classes right now to keep up with my son, so at home, it’s mostly English, but we’re a family of language learners. In my own first family, and I didn’t get to put this in my book… The real language learning star was my sister. Who’s a little bit younger. Who speaks French and Arabic all the time, because she’s married to someone from West Africa. But over the course of her life, she’s spoken… Or she’s learned German and Swahili and Haitian Creole and Spanish, and I don’t know what else. And so when I think about language learners and how people use that in their lives, I think of her. But maybe she was inspired by my father, whose name was also Michael. He went to a seminary high school in the ’50s, which was one of those schools where, when you studied philosophy, you studied it in the original language. So he’s very proud of his Latin and his Greek and his German. And he kind of lorded that over us. But it was his father, whose name was also Michael, who was the real curiosity. He grew up on a farm in Michigan. Which is in the middle of the US. And he was a real Romantic guy. This was a hundred years ago. He played the violin, he loved to dance, and he was looking up at these machines, flying in the air. And he realized… I want to fly. I want to learn how to fly. So he learned how to fly, and tried to join the US military. They didn’t have a place for him. So at that point, he said… I know. I’ll go to France. His own father had come from France. So maybe he had some French at home. But my grandfather went back to France, spent a decade there, and became a French speaker, and one of the artifacts of that, that I really love, are some workbooks that he has, where he’s working on his grammatical exercises. So I wanted to tell you all of these things not only because I’m Michael Erard, the author of Adieu Babel, but because we’re going to spend some time together. And I’m going to be giving you some advice. Some ways to think differently about what it is that you do. And I want there to be an element of trust. And we can’t trust each other if we don’t know a little bit more about each other than we do. So the thing that I’m going to talk about — and this is something else that you don’t know about me — is based on work that I did when I was a senior researcher and a metaphor designer at a thinktank in Washington, D.C. And the thing I’m going to present to you is this idea or this metaphor, which is a metaphor for learning language. But really a metaphor for learning anything else. And the metaphor, broadly, is this: That learning a skill and learning a language is like weaving a rope. Language skills are ropes, and being a good learner is being a good weaver. And I will spend a considerable amount of time unpacking what I mean by that. And the specific reasons… The specific needs that exist for this metaphor in the polyglot community, and among language learners, more broadly. I wished that I had this metaphor when I was writing Adieu Babel, because it’s really useful and really powerful. But the work that I was doing came after the book was already finished. So Frameworks is a thinktank in Washington, D.C., that uses the social sciences to help people and organizations talk about their social issues. And the skills-ropes metaphor was developed as a part of a very large education reform project, and this particular project was aimed at giving people another way to talk about what learning is. So I’m obviously adapting this metaphor for a specific type of learning, and a specific type of skills. But that’s one of the things that I designed it to be able to do. So this is not a huge stretch. Really quickly, a metaphor. Why am I talking to you about a metaphor? I mean… Metaphors, right? A metaphor helps you to explain things. And those are two things — if you understood the climate as an architecture, as something that is built, and something that humans have a role in, actively, it would change your perspective on what’s happening to the weather that we see. And also the body as a team. You might make some different decisions on the basis of that. These are not metaphors that operate to change the neurons or sort of rewire the brain, but they’re organized — they’re things that we can use with each other. And so the language learning metaphor is something that you would use at the start of a language class. Say… And you would continually keep referring back to it, kind of as a touchstone. A metaphor connects the familiar to the unfamiliar. And it helps people project their understanding of the familiar thing to the unfamiliar thing. I know that you’re going to say — well, language learning for me is not all that unfamiliar. But I’m going to ask you to pretend, maybe, as if it is. Also, a metaphor creates new understanding and suppresses old ones. So maybe there are some ideas about language learning that are not actually all that beneficial. And I’ll talk about two. One is the conception of the brain — and this is quite prevalent — the notion of the brain as an empty container. And the learner as simply someone who needs to sit passively as knowledge is poured into it. Which has all kinds of ramifications for learning activities and learning environments. The other thing, the other metaphor, the other understanding that’s quite prevalent is the idea of a path or a landscape, and I’ve heard people use that kind of language already. I’ve plateaued in what I’m doing. I just need to push through. That’s actually kind of limiting language. So let me unpack this metaphor of the skill rope a little more and show you how it works. Because I actually think that you’re going to like it, and you’re going to really find it useful. So learning new language skills is like weaving a rope. There are lots of strands that go into a rope. Right? And they all have to be tightly woven together, in order for that rope to be usable. The rope is a tool. You do something with it. It’s not just something that lies around. You want to tie up the bad guy. You want to pull your friend out of the hole. You want to raise the sail. The rope is meant to be usable. And that’s what we’re shooting for at the end, is usable rope. What are the strands that go into the rope? In every skill rope, there are cognitive, social, and emotional strands. So there’s three things together. In every skill rope. Every skill is made of these strands. So some of those strands are related to abilities that we’re born with. We all bring some strands to any sort of learning task that we do. Some of the strands that we’re given, and other strands we get along the way. So no matter what we start with, we all need opportunities to weave the strands together. And you have to do this to make the rope usable, because no strand by itself is going to make the rope usable. So that’s just a taste of what’s coming. I said that the metaphor was designed, or that I was a metaphor designer. What the heck does that mean? When I was at this particular job, one thing that it meant was that you created a set of candidate metaphors, and you tested all of them. So in order to explain skills and learning in a new way, we came up with a set of metaphors. And these were the candidates, the other candidates that we tested. Skills as muscle, circuits, platforms, tools, and stacks. The inputs to the metaphor itself were interviews with education experts. So, for instance, that piece about cognitive, social, and emotional strands as being together, woven together, in every skill, that is not Michael Erard, author of Adieu Babel, making that up. That is an expert view about learning. And then we did interviews with 20 Americans to figure out what it is — what are the ideas about learning that they already have in their heads? How can we link up to those existing views, not push them out entirely, but use them, in order to create these new understandings? And then we tested them. So we tested them. We did interviews with 72 Americans, and then a survey with quite a large group of people, and then a small set of metaphors were tested in focus groups with 30 people. And of all of the metaphors that we tested, the one that did the best was this… Was skill ropes. So these are — next I’ll talk about some of the things that the metaphor does really well. That we found. So it helps people talk about the brain’s active role in learning. Who’s doing the weaving? What is doing the weaving? It’s the brain that’s doing the weaving. Right? The brain is not an empty, passive container that must sit still in a chair, in a classroom, and have stuff poured into it. It is something that is actively doing stuff. Every skill is woven out of these three kinds of strands. Right? So what do I mean by cognitive strands? These are things like… Working memory capacity. Brain processing speed. Implicit learning abilities. Acoustic sensitivities. General brain plasticity factors. These are things that are inborn, and organic, and genetically controlled. They can’t be modified very easily. And they differ among individuals. Again, that’s not… This is not Michael Erard, author of Adieu Babel, making that up. That is… Consensus view among cognitive scientists and people who study psycholanguage acquisition. Some other of those cognitive skills are more plastic, and they can be enhanced. The social and emotional strands — what are those? Those are things that maybe come to mind a little more easily when you think about the things that you guys spend your time doing. So how do you not be bored? How do you stay focused on tasks? Doing fun things. What happens to you when you make a mistake? How do you deal with social anxieties? How do you seek out opportunities to use your new language? And on and on and on. To be usable, the strands have to be tightly woven together. And what does it mean to weave those things tightly together? It means to do an active process in environments where you have access to resources, and where you have a teacher or you have peers who are modeling the weaving and modeling what it means to put these things together. Another part of it — each strand needs all the other ones. The rope woven from a single strand is not usable. So a rope that depends just on the social or emotional factors isn’t going to be very strong. It’s going to be a small, thin rope that’s not going to be very usable. In the same way that someone who has high aptitude needs to develop their skills. They need to actively engage with the social and emotional strands and weave those around their cognitive strengths. Otherwise, they’re going to end up with weak ropes. Then there’s this point… Becoming more focused on what it is that polyglots are doing. You know, good learners are good weavers. Strong skills are built from strong strands. I think I’ve said that. Am I moving backwards? Good language skills are strong ropes. And that polyglots possess lots of different ropes. So this other thing… Good language skills are strong ropes. Who is going to tell you that you have a rope that is good enough? I think that it should be you. Right? It should be… You know the tasks that you want to perform with the skills. That should determine how good the ropes are. How usable they are. And another thing that is true about polyglots is — polyglots possess lots of different ropes. I think the institutions were involved in saying that only if you had a big, fat rope were we going to count that as having a language. Or having language skills. But the people that I met when I was writing Adieu Babel have ropes of a lot of different sizes. And none of them are… All of them are as legitimate as the other ones. Because people are trying to find a way to make them usable. Here I have an example of sort of what I mean by lots of different ropes. And if you’ve read the book, you might find this familiar. So I gave a self-assessment in speaking skills to a guy named Graham Cansdale, who’s this really great European Commission translator. And these were his… So this is a self-assessment. In all of the languages that he claimed to have some proficiency in. All of the languages that he had studied. You can see what that profile is. This is his reading self-assessment. And we could get into why the speaking is different from the reading. But I suspect that you might already know what that is. This is another way of looking at all of the different skill ropes that Graham has. Based on self-assessments in speaking, listening, and reading. If you know the inter-agency language round table scale, this is based on that scale. So it’s very functional. It’s very… What can you do in the language? And you can see all the variation that he has in these languages that are arranged by when he… Arranged in order of when he learned them. He grew up in Britain, studied French very early. And most recently, in the last couple years, has been studying Chinese. We might go back to that slide during the question period. So why use a metaphor? Metaphors are often used in situations where old ways of thinking are getting in the way of new solutions. So I want to tell you some things that I think are getting in the way. That this metaphor is really meant to address. One of those notions is the notion that every learner is different. And it’s certainly true that learners are not uniform. But the pendulum seems to have swung in the other direction quite far. And as a result, it’s difficult to talk about commonalities among learners, and the kinds of resources and environments that all learners need. So the skill ropes metaphor is a good way to talk about what those resources and environments might be. Another reason that you need a metaphor is this sort of problem. So I’m sure that you’re familiar with this saying that comes from Thomas Edison about genius, right? What is genius? Well, here’s the recipe for genius. It’s 1% inspiration, 90% perspiration. But maybe it’s not 90% and 1%. Maybe it’s 10% and 90%. This is a numbers game. People who are not specialists like to play the numbers game. It happens a lot in the nature versus nurture debate. And people say… Which matters more? Nature or nurture? And you have to decide for one or the other, because it’s a zero-sum frame. Does everybody understand zero-sum? In a zero-sum situation, anything that you accord to one factor has to be subtracted from the other factor. So this is what lay people do when they talk about genetics and the environment or nature and nurture. They say — oh, it’s 50/50. Then they go… No, no, no, it’s not 50/50. It’s 70/30. Without understanding that actually… People who are studying evolution and genetics don’t talk about nature versus nurture anymore. They talk about nature and nurture, and the interactions between them. So… But the zero-sum frame doesn’t give you a way to talk about those interactions between the two. The skills rope metaphor does. They interact because they support each other, and they support each other in a process, and they support each other in a process of growing over time. In the book Adieu Babel, which I wrote, I wrote that polyglots are not made. And they are not born. But they are born to be made. And I wished that I’d had the skill ropes metaphor, because that encapsulates that set of interactions that I was talking about when I said that. When you don’t talk about all three things together, particularly the cognitive strand, you have a hard time explaining different outcomes. Why is it that learners at different… At the same stage… Will be doing different things? And I think the common answer is to say that… Oh, it’s about motivation. That you didn’t actually work hard enough, or you didn’t want to work hard enough. But what happens when motivation is equal? And there are certainly lots of situations where that’s true. What determines outcomes in those circumstances are things like talent and aptitude, other inborn cognitive abilities that differ among individuals. I think it’s really important to add that understanding to an appreciation of what we are doing when we are teaching and we are learning. And here’s the third reason that I think that the skills rope metaphor is necessary. This idea that talent doesn’t matter. That’s an old way of thinking about skills. That’s actually quite related to the brain as a container metaphor. It’s just — open your brain a little bit more. And you’ll be able to get as much stuff in there as you want. I understand why people say that talent doesn’t matter. Language teachers don’t like talking about it, because students use it as an excuse. Math teachers and music teachers are in exactly the same boat. If you use the skills rope metaphor, you can get around that. Because you can say — look, everyone has strands, but everybody has different strands, and what we’re going to do is we’re going to weave together what you have with an eye towards what you don’t have. People who are egalitarians don’t like talking about talent or aptitude, because they don’t like talking about an elite. They believe in the natural powers that exist in everyone. And that’s great. But I think that you can do that with the skill rope metaphor, and it allows you to talk about all that stuff together. Businesspeople, people who are in the business of selling products and services related to language stuff, they don’t like talking about the inborn cognitive factors. Because it’s bad for business. It constrains the size of the market. People will say… Oh, that’s not me. But if you use the skill rope metaphor, you realize that it keeps that market open. Because everyone has the strands. They just have different sets of strands. So I’m not going to spend any time talking about specifically the aptitude or the cognitive factors or defining that. If you’re interested in that, you should definitely go to the talk by Loraine Obler and Peggy Conner later in the day. Loraine appears in Babel No More, and we had some interesting language adventures, and she did some really great research. So I’m going to spend the rest of the time talking about — just reiterating some of what you get and some of what polyglots get, specifically, with the skills rope metaphor. The notion that adult learning has these interrelated components. Right? That’s important. Relying on any one strand is going to fail. Some strands we come with. Some we’re given. No one can do the weaving for you. The learner has to be an active agent. Because ropes don’t weave themselves. Right? That would be a freaky rope. That was weaving itself. So using this metaphor in this particular way gives learners agency, because it focuses their efforts. And it gives them a reason for doing a task. I’m, I think, philosophically opposed to selling hope. And I think that the brain as container model sells hope to people. What you should be doing instead is selling agency. But if you’ve discounted aptitude and talent, it becomes very hard to do that. Another thing that good learners know how to do, and polyglots know how to do this — you can unweave and reweave the strands. There are specific components of a skill that you can take out and apply somewhere else. And that’s what happens when people — that’s one way to describe the process by which the next language that you encounter, the next language that you undertake, is easier than the previous one. So this is something that high intensity language learners, I think, know pretty intrinsically. Another thing that polyglots know is that ropes aren’t static. Right? That the ropes change over time. And so what you do with your ropes, where you store your ropes, right, is important. Because you want to keep those ropes supple and usable. And then this last point… You can have a lot of ropes. These last two things, that ropes aren’t static, and you can have a lot of ropes, are two things that I think the general population doesn’t understand about polyglots. And I hope that I changed their minds a little bit. That was the hope. When I wrote Adieu Babel. And I hope that you find this overall set of things useful, and we can talk about it in questions. Let me just close with this story. When I was researching a book, I went to Bologna, Italy, to look at the archives of Cardinal Giuseppe Mezzofanti, who was — if you don’t know him and haven’t read my book — he was this famous polyglot of the 19th century who spoke 30 languages or 60 languages or 114 languages. Very large numbers were attributed to him. And some people consider him controversial. Just kind of a fantastic figure, or maybe his life was Catholic propaganda. Who knows? But let’s just assume that he’s — that there’s some truth to his history. He didn’t talk about his methods at all. There were people that claimed to have found his secret. But when I was in the archive, I found this really interesting box that was labeled as miscellaneous in the catalog. And just as a note, if you ever get a chance to do archival research, and you come across a box that’s labeled miscellaneous, you should definitely open it. Because that’s where some really interesting stuff is. So I get this box, and I open it up, and it’s these packs of paper, and the pieces of paper are about yea big, and on one side is written… You know, like, a word in Persian. And then on the other side is written something in French or Latin or Italian. And I realized… Oh my God. This is Mezzofanti’s flashcards! And I tell this story for two reasons. I mention it every time that I talk, because I’m looking for somebody who knows the history of flashcards. I want to know — is this something that Mezzofanti invented? That he created? Or is this something that he borrowed from somebody else? So if you know an answer, please tell me. The other reason that I tell this story is just to say… That clearly Mezzofanti was a really good rope weaver. Right? He had a high aptitude for learning languages. He had opportunities to use them. He had materials. He had opportunities to sort of weave them tightly together. He had a drive to speak to people. And he obviously spent a lot of time doing it. So one of the things that I would have done in the book is — if I’d had this metaphor, I would have described — used it to describe Mezzofanti in this way. So my name is Michael Erard. I’m the author of Adieu Babel. And I would be happy to answer any questions. (applause)>>Thank you for that very interesting metaphor. I’m curious… I think you said something about using metaphors to change the way our brains program themselves. And if you talk about Mezzofanti, and you were to go back and rewrite it, then you would put a different story about him out there. And I’m wondering, with that kind of an idea, looking at the internet, and how people are changing their attention span, changing the way they communicate, if you think that the rope and weaving of the ropes metaphor holds up to the way internet communication is changing the way we think and communicate, and how that will apply to languages.>>Hm, yeah. Thanks for that question. Yeah, I think the metaphor… I think the metaphor still works. Right? I mean, what the internet does is it offers other opportunities for weaving. Just to live in that metaphor for a little bit. Right? It provides other opportunities for weaving. And that it provides opportunities for different kinds of social strands. Right? To be woven in. And, you know, people are talking about the change in attention span. Right? That an overly digital life creates. So you might talk about how some of those cognitive strands are different, because attention spans are changing.>>Hello. I had a question regarding metaphors. The difference between thinking about being a polyglot and just someone who speaks multiple languages… Do you think that influences how you go about learning languages? How you think about the languages that you know? Because I think in Psychology Today, Francois Groget has an article, and one was called the dark underbelly of being a polyglot. And it says… In Africa and Luxembourg, some people are just multilingual, and they don’t think about it. It’s just how they go about their day. But thinking of yourself as a polyglot — how do the two compare? How does the conception of yourself as — I’m a polyglot, versus… I just speak a few languages. Do you think that influences actually what you’re… How you’re learning them?>>Yeah. Um… So one thing that I’ve spoken about is the degree to which polyglots are a new kind of multilingualism. So I think the ways that some of those European-based scholars have of talking about multilingualism and bilingualism, and they always bring up the African villager, right? What they end up doing is they end up applying a European model of proficiency. Right? To these different situations. Without knowing very much about them. So these European-based people, with their European-based — certainly not to bash Europe at all — but it’s a very state-oriented, nationalistic, institution-based view of language proficiency. Right? And that’s not at all the situation that exists in places in Africa or villages that some of these people like to talk about. Right? So they’re saying… It’s not all that extraordinary in these places. Everyone speaks six languages. But the domains in which they speak those six languages are very narrow. Right? Are fairly narrow. So I think that in some ways, it’s… The polyglot has a lot in common with that African villager. Right? And that that’s an advantage that the polyglot type — sorry to generalize, but I just will — actually has, as an asset. Because it’s… Oh, I’m going to pick up enough strands, because I know that I can do it, and I have a very clear sense of the tasks that I want to perform. So to that degree, thinking of yourself as a polyglot, I think, is… I forget the exact nature… I mean, I think it makes you a more effective learner. Because it makes you targeted towards outcomes, towards a specific set of outcomes, of functional outcomes, right? More than if you were just going to acquire the identity of… I mean, somebody in the book was talking about… Well, you can’t really say that you speak a language until you are carrying the cultural baggage of that language. I mean, how high of a bar is that? And how appetizing does that make language learning? It doesn’t make it very appetizing at all. Did that answer your question?>>Yeah. It… Yeah.>>Hi.>>Hey, Tim.>>So as someone who’s done primary research on Mezzofanti’s documents, has also written somewhat extensively on him, I’m just curious… What’s your take on that debate? About his proficiency? About what his legacy should be?>>Oh, in terms of…>>Proficiency or… Yeah.>>In terms of… You mean propaganda? Or real? Or…>>Yeah.>>Propaganda or real? Uh… You know… I mean, on that question, specifically? So… If anybody’s interested in doing another research project, the other research project to do is to look at the letters that were written to the biographer, right? In which Mezzofanti’s proficiencies were attested. So they only appear in the book in a very edited form. But they apparently exist at the university. So I throw that out there, as a potential project. I think that would really kind of answer the question about — was there a church interest in making Mezzofanti seem larger than he was? Or was there something specific… Was there something happening at the time that made people want to inflate his character? There’s always the possibility that he was on the road to being canonized. And so at the time, in the church, people didn’t have to be performing miracles to be a credible candidate. You could just be a servant of the church or something like that. So it’s possible that that biography was in service of that. His body was also exhumed at one point. To… I think as another part of that sort of process. So it’s possible. But I didn’t come across anything else that suggested that he was… That anybody was thinking that he was a saint. So… I come down on… Real.>>I have a question. You talked a lot about how people weave strands differently.>>Who is that?>>Would you say that it’s possible to have a different number of strands? Or that there’s maybe an infinite number of strands? And if they were, what would they be?>>An infinite…>>Sorry, a different number of strands in the rope which you weave. More than the three which you’ve mentioned.>>So an infinite number of social strands? An infinite number of…>>Yeah, absolutely.>>Is that what you mean?>>Yeah.>>Yeah. I mean, I think that’s the point where you start going… Oh, metaphors, they don’t work, do they? Because you can’t have ropes with infinite strands. I think you don’t want to get into counting strands. Right? There’s a lot of strands. And there’s three types of strands. And you’re going to be putting them together. If I’m understanding the question right. So… Why would you be interested in infinitude? Is it because we’re mortal? Is it related to that? You only have so much time to acquire so many strands. Or is it about… Some sort of limit in the human ability to… Right. Well, from what I found, there are aspects of the cognitive piece that are theoretically infinite. Right? If you had enough time, you could continue to be weaving the ropes. Right? There are other things… For instance, about the architecture of working memory — which suggest that there are baked-in limits. So you can really only have a certain number of strands. Right? At one time. And then you just hit a wall. You could be alive forever, and with practice, you might be able to bend those limits a little bit, but it’s your genetics that’s really going to determine that particular strand. So you could go through and sort of isolate these pieces. What are the pieces? What do I have that’s stronger than yours? But what are you going to have to do, to compensate? And what am I going to have to add to mine, in order to compensate as well?>>I’m kind of curious as to whether you think… You would have any specific advice for people who want to apply this metaphor to their language learning, or whether you think it more appropriate to only speak in metaphorical terms and let people draw their own conclusions and apply those metaphors in the way they see best fit for them?>>Can you give me an example of each?>>Uh… What do you mean?>>Well, just lay out which is… Which would I go for?>>So maybe… Do you think there are specific strategies that everyone could use when they’re learning languages that kind of fit every aspect of these metaphors that you think everyone could benefit from?>>Oh, so… Regardless of your learning profile, are you always weaving? Is that it? to answer that.>>Could you re-ask the question?>>Yeah. Do you think that there are practical applications of this metaphor that everyone can use? Or is it going to be different for every person?>>Oh, I think the answer is both. Right? I mean, everyone is going to have to be involved in an active process of taking whatever strands they have, whatever strands they’re sort of given, right? And whatever strands they get along the way. And put them together. Everyone’s going to have to do that. What’s going to be different is that people’s access and willingness to have social opportunities is going to be different. And everyone’s given cognitive strands will be different. Right? And so though you are weaving, though you are weaving, the kinds of things that you have to weave together are going to be… Are going to have to be different. Are going to have to differ. But the overall… What’s going to be the same is you’re going to need the opportunities to practice, you’re going to be given whatever rope you’re going to end up with, just to live within this rope metaphor. I feel like a textile artist or something like that… Just to live within that metaphor… And I forget the train of my thought. We can talk later.>>You touched on it kind of briefly, but I was wondering… Do you think that there really is a limit for every person, in terms of how far — how many languages they can absorb? And how do you find out what’s your maximum?>>So you might have… I wrote a book. Adieu Babel. It’s interesting. I encounter people every once in a while who say… I want to try to learn as many languages as I can, so I can try to understand what the human limit is. There’s this, like, Neo quality. Like, I am the Chosen One. I will be able to do it. But I just sort of looked historically, and looked for situations where there had been someone who had been tested in a certain kind of circumstance, using a certain kind of standard, performing a certain kind of thing, right? A particular kind of, like, language task. And the number of languages that someone was sort of scored at in a competition was 22 languages. Now, those were not 22 big, huge ropes. Right? There were three big, huge ropes that you could ring a bell with. And there were a bunch of ropes that you could, you know, throw down a well. And then there were some shoelace-sized things. And then there were some yo-yo strings over there, but there were 22 of them. Over the course. So… You know, and that was someone who had a lot of time on his hands. Had lot of motivation. He was kind of neuroatypical. I mean, he had the brainpower for it. 22 languages. And to do that, he told me that he had to study… He had to spend time working really hard. Harder than he… All to prepare for this competition. So even that figure of 22 was something that was pretty special and unusual. Does that answer your question?>>Kind of.>>Okay. I see the lights dimming. Is that a signal?>>I didn’t notice that, but yes, we’re out of time. Thank you so much.

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