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Video transcript

How do you use language in your life?


PROFESSOR ROUMYANA SLABAKOVA: Today, we are going to talk about language and
language learning. When we start thinking about what defines us as human beings, and we
ask people around us that question, most likely among the first answers that we will get is
going to be language or languages. The ability to learn and use languages is our most prized
human ability.
It probably played a decisive role in our evolving as a species. Also unique, and very useful, is
our ability to learn a second language, a third language, a fourth language. Not our mother
tongue that we grew up speaking. Not just lingualism, which would be the ability to acquire
and use a language, but multilingualism, the ability to learn and use many languages
throughout our lifetime, is another fundamental dimension of the human condition.
Indeed, available data indicate that there are more bilinguals in this world than monolingual
individuals. Me, for example, I'm a native speaker of Bulgarian. And I started learning German
when I was six, with private lessons that my mother took me to. Then at grade one, I started
learning Russian. And I learned it until the second year of university.
I started learning English when I was 14, and I went to the English media high school in my
hometown. When I moved to Quebec in Canada, I was taught French. And I still speak this
language with pleasure. So I can safely say that I speak four languages. And my story is not
uncommon.
I asked some friends about their own language experience. And here is what they had to say.
DR. WILL BAKER: In my personal life, I use two languages on an everyday basis. English is my
first language, and I was brought up speaking English, so it's my mother tongue. I also spent a
long time living in Thailand, so Thai is my second language. And my wife is Thai, so we speak a
mixture of Thai and English together.
ULLA HJERTING: I've lived in the UK for 12 years now. So I use it every day. Yeah, it's getting
to the point where it's got difficult for me to sort of find the right words in Danish when I go
back on holiday. Sometimes, if I'm over tired, or if I'm very angry, I split into Danish.

University of Southampton 2014

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Understanding Language

Video transcript
PROF. ROS MITCHELL: At the moment, I'm speaking French at home, because my lodger and
her toddler are French speaking. So I'm learning lots of new French for babies bottles, and
potties, and nappies, and all sorts of things that I didn't know about before.
DR. SARWAR JAMIL: Apart from English, I can speak in four other different languages, which
gives me the opportunity to use language in a varied set of circumstances. That I can speak to
people of other communities who live in this town. And I can even enjoy their music, their
play, their literature.
JON GORE: Particularly when I was living in Syria, I needed Arabic a lot for work. And in
Kazakhstan, I did have to use Russian occasionally because when I was there, I found a lot of
people didn't speak any English.
ANNA LI: Before coming here, I used Chinese daily. And I just learned English as a second
language. And now, since I came here, I use English on a daily basis, especially (since) joining
the British Council. I need to communicate. I need to write and read. Everything is English.
MARGITA HYDON: My Slovak reflects on how I use my English. Sometimes it may be a little
bit more flowery and a little bit different.
SARA PIERSON: So for me, language isn't just about fluency. It's about demonstrating that you
are willing to reach out to another culture.
DR. MARIKO KITAZAWA: I'm also interested in language, because it kind of, in a sense, can
represent us. So for example, people can read who I am, or what kind of person I am from how
I speak and what I say. So I am very interested in the role language plays.
PROFESSOR ROUMYANA SLABAKOVA: Multilingualism is diverse. It has many faces. What are
your experiences? Share them in the comments.

University of Southampton 2014

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Understanding Language