Monday, October 14, 2013

Don't kiss while learning Chinese!

I read an article in The Guardian yesterday, entitled 'Eating popcorn in the cinema makes people immune to advertising'.

Simply reading the heading, even before I reached the article, made me think that eating popcorn is probably just distracting for the viewer, and so the advertising would be less effective. But when I actually read the article, there was one paragraph that caught my eye ...

The reason why adverts manage to imprint brand names on our brains is that our lips and the tongue automatically simulate the pronunciation of a new name when we first hear it. Every time we re-encounter the name, our mouth subconsciously practices its pronunciation. However, according to the study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, this "inner speech" can be disturbed by chewing, rendering the repetition effect redundant.

That immediately got me thinking about how we learn Chinese, and how a fair amount of learning (vocab, tones, 'flow' ...) is tied into this subconscious pronunciation that takes place while we're learning. Of course this affects all languages, but I wonder if it's even more marked for Chinese, given the tones that have to be mentally practised while learning too.

So, to avoid interfering with your "inner speech", don't occupy your mouth while you're learning Chinese.

No popcorn. No chewing gum. And certainly no kissing.