Language: Why Learning a Language is like Freestyle Rap

So when camping the other weekend, at around 1am, whilst Karl lay down a sweet beat, the group started freestyle rapping, and it got me thinking; Learning a language is a lot like Freestyle Rap.

Now I’m happy to admit I’m not Eminem, nor Wordsworth and my rhyming abilities are questionable at best, but I did find that the way I approached improvising lyrics was very similar to how I go about speaking in Japanese (and in French)

Spitting lines and verses, you think I rehearse this?…

So what do I mean? Well, as a non native speaker, when speaking I find myself consciously thinking about the sentence I’m forming as a whole, a strange mix of holding the subject, object, verb and meaning as abstract ideas in my head, as I speedily try and pluck out the vocabulary and rearrange the parts into the correct grammar form, whilst speaking the sentence slightly lagged to this thought process. My thoughts being on where the sentence is going and paying no attention to what is coming out of my mouth.

And it’s this idea, of your mind racing ahead of what you’re saying, quickly rearranging ideas and picking out vocab that makes these two things so similar.

To me it’s like a mouse in a maze, trying each and every route, and when hitting a dead end turning round and running back before a tide of water threatens to block its path and cut it off in the dead end section.

The tide is your mouth speaking the words, whilst the mouse is your brain searching for the the right words and grammar, and if it’s not quick enough, the conversation, or flow, gets stuck, has to stop.

I guess in native conversation, within the realms of the metaphor, the routes are well worn by the mouse, and it simply follows its previous footsteps, with knowledge of where all the paths lead.

So perhaps rapping, like native level speaking, eventually becomes so ingrained that your brain moves through the mental maze carefree.

But for now, I’ll stick with Japanese, and leave the rapping for the weekends.

By J.Molkenthin

James Molkenthin is an enthusiastic and energetic British Designer, with a background in Graphics, Website and Product Design.