Book Review: The Language Instinct

One of the things I was able to do on my holiday was catch up on some reading. I managed to finally finish a book someone gave me for my birthday, The Language Instinct. A friend gave it to me because they knew I was learning German at the time and thought it’d be a very appropriate read for me.

The book has an interesting premise, surmising that humans have an innate ability for language, much like other animals have other skills that are unique to them. Whilst other animals can communicate, the author describes many bits of research and points of views to help explain how people acquire language. Although the author talks predominantly about English, he does delve into a number of other language examples to demonstrate consistent approaches across people from different cultures.

I found a number of the facts and studies he cites really interesting – such as the ability for young children to formulate a consistent grammar by the time they are only four, even though no one has even taught them explicit rules. And that we lose our ability to learn new sounds and language fairly early, with one theory being that keeping that language learning ability isn’t particularly helpful from an evolutionary sense because we have enough of an ability to communicate. This is a pretty worrying thing about learning languages later in life.

A lot of his book is apparently based on a number of his other books, so now I’m quite keen to read a couple of them including, “How the mind works

Doors to Marrakech

With some holiday to burn before the end of the year, my initial thoughts of simply staying in London and being a local tourist went out the door and found myself on yet another plane trip. This time, to my first trip to Morocco, destined for the warm and friendly city of Marrakech.

When arriving in Marrakech, it’s not long before you realise you’re in a different part of the world. Motorcycles ride next to bicycles, cars overtake randomly though with some amount of order. I even saw one local riding unicycle on his motorbike though guessing that even he was not a common sight by the way that people looked.

I had organised with my Riad, an apparently popular way to stay in Morocco a taxi to pick me up. A good thing too as they are often hidden away from the main drag. This can be a strange experience for some, and one that I was puzzled with at first. Winding corridors under dark corners with potential for dangerous actually provide a certain amount of privacy and solace from the busy, dusty main streets.

I remember distinctly waking to the 6AM religious chants. Marrakech is mostly Islamic so ritual prayer is a very common sight, and the chanting a very common sound. Throughout the day, you’ll hear a loudspeaker blaring in arabic tones though what they’re saying i will never really know. Unfortunately Riad’s aren’t really made to keep the noise or the air out, as I found out how chilly and noisy they can become. It’s a good thing that the Riads only allow guests and have a quiet policy to allow people to sleep. It’s so easy to hear things outside that I even woke up to one lady screaming early one morning several streets away and I’m guessing they weren’t particularly religious moments she was having.

I titled the blog doorway because I remember thinking about how interesting many of the different doors were. It’s easy to get lost in the souks and winding roads. In fact, that is what I did most of the time – simply wandering around waiting to be asked, “Where do you come from?” or more simply named, “Jackie Chan” or strangely enough the name of countries or towns. “Hey, China,” was a common one just as much as “Tokyo,” and “Osaka.” Growing up in Australia means you kind of shrug these things off although these were definitely on more friendly terms.

Besides the many souks and market places, I ate at the huge market place that is disassembled and reassembled every night. Though very touristy, it’s also where a local of the locals eat. Justice is swift and brutal in the markets as well as I noticed when a kid, who I think stole something or did something to some of the vendors, was chased down near to where I was sitting. The friendly faces of some of those enticing you to the stall darkened, and it wasn’t long before a few swings and even a kick connected with the boy who was given a telling off before running away in tears.

I even was recommended to have a local hamman – quite the experience at literally being drenched by buckets of water, covered in clay, before being steamed in a hot room and then being scrubbed down with some rough gloves to remove the dead skin. A cup of mint tea (essential Morocco flavours) and a bit of relaxing before a massage to relieve the muscles.

It was a great time to escape and I think I even got a little sunburned from the whole experience.