Tag Archives: foreign languages

Foreign Languages in Kindergarten

Nanci Hutson in ctpost.com, August 31, 2013:

In the first week of school, Schools Superintendent Anthony Bivona went back to kindergarten and first grade.

And he learned a couple new words — in Spanish.

For the first year, Center Elementary’s 500 or so kindergarten and first-graders are learning a foreign language.

Brookfield hired Mikki Durkin as its first early language teacher, and her schedule is to teach each class three times a week for a 15-minute period. Bivona said he was impressed with Durkin’s enthusiasm and ability to grasp the children’s attention right away.

“What I witnessed was an introductory lesson of greetings to students — “hola” and “buenos dias” — and I saw how excited they were. Just the excitement in the classes and the expressions on their faces was amazing to watch,” Bivona said.

Brookfield is one of the few traditional public school districts in the Western Connecticut region to expand world languages to the kindergarten level. It is one of 10 in the state.

First-grader Sienna Katz, the youngest daughter of multilingual school board member Victor Katz, came home from her first day at Center able to speak seven different words, including her name. On the second day, she came home singing a song in Spanish.

“At that age, they absorb it like a sponge,” said Katz, who emigrated to the United States from the Ukraine in 1992 and works as a software engineer for an international company, where he is called upon to speak a variety of languages.

An outspoken advocate for expanding the district’s foreign language program, Katz said the benefit is unquestionable, with many studies showing proof that academic performance of children is advanced by early language learning.

The National Network of Early Language Learning suggests that all elementary school students have access to high quality world language instruction because it is the best time to learn.

Acquiring those early literacy and cognitive skills helps youngsters with standardized tests, teaches them positive attitudes toward different cultures and makes it easier to acquire broader language skills later in life, the network says.

Brookfield’s strategic plan as far back as 2005 identified the need to expand world language opportunities, and two years ago the district widened its offerings from starting at seventh grade to fifth grade.

In 2012, Brookfield’s school board hired Glastonbury Director of Foreign Languages Rita Oleksak. For decades, Glastonbury has had a model world language program including. She urged Brookfield administrators to expand elementary Spanish to kindergarten, introduce Mandarin Chinese in seventh grade and establish multimedia language labs.

“Learning a foreign language is an integral component to educating 21st century citizens to become productive members of our global society,” Oleksak wrote in a letter to the district. “Their study of a foreign language develops language and communication skills, cultural knowledge as well as critical 21st century skills that students need to be successful in the future.”

As a child growing up in a multi-language family, Katz said he often started a sentence in one language only to then finish in another.

“The brain gets wired in a different way,” Katz said of children who learn languages at an early age.

Not a luxury

For the last eight years in Danbury, students from across the region have attended the kindergarten through fifth-grade Western Connecticut Academy for International Studies’ magnet school, where the study of world cultures included teaching Spanish in kindergarten.

“It’s so exciting that they (Brookfield educators) are putting that into the program,” said Helena Nitowski, the academy’s tri-lingual principal.

Nitowski said her school has offered the early elementary language program since it opened as part of a broader theme of international and global studies.

“The understanding of customs and cultures is more exhilarated when you can speak the language,” Nitowski said.

Bivona is quick to say his administration’s push to broaden and expand the world language program is rooted in the reality of the 21st century as a global society. And he praises the community for backing the program financially.

Although the $150,000 to add Mandarin Chinese as a third language at the middle and high school levels was not funded, Bivona said the commitment to an expanded world language program is a priority for the school district. So the approximately $100,000 to extend world language to kindergarten and first-grade was approved.

In the coming budget season, Bivona said, he will seek the money needed to complete the elementary sequence to second, third and fourth grades. He, too, will again be pitching Mandarin Chinese, a world language that many high schools across the state and nation consider essential for a full-fledged languages program.

“The community is aware of the importance of having a global perspective in education, and how linked we are with other cultures,” Bivona said.

No longer do Americans only do business within the boundaries of their home communities or nation, he noted.

“We are working internationally, and companies and businesses are looking for people who are bilingual … communication is key to education,” he said.

Bivona said a robust world language curriculum is not just a luxury.

“I can’t place enough emphasis on the fact that we’re living in a global society. Our students need to learn the traditions and customs and broaden our perspective beyond the borders of Brookfield. To me, that is really important. I cannot stress that enough,” he said.

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Can Singing Aid Foreign Language Learning?

Jimmy Kilpatrick in Education News, July 19,2013:

Singing in a foreign language can make learning how to speak it easier.

It is a source of national embarrassment – despite hours of lessons and listening to foreign language tapes, most of us can barely stammer our way through a simple drinks order while abroad.

However, a new study suggests there may be hope for those who struggle to get to grips with a foreign language – they should try singing it instead.

Research from the University of Edinburgh found that adults who sang words or short phrases from a foreign language while learning were twice as good at speaking it later.

It is thought that by listening to words that are sung, and by singing them back, the technique takes advantage of the strong links between music and memory.

Although not clearly understood, music is known to help students when studying and can help to trigger memory recall.

Dr Katie Overy, who led the study at the university’s Reid School of Music, said singing could provide a new alternative to the traditional listen and repeat method of teaching new languages.

She said: “Most people have experience of remembering words from songs they have heard and songs are sometimes used by language teachers with young children.

“We thought we would explore whether there was a benefit and found singing was more much effective, particularly when it came to the spoken language tests.”

Dr Overy and her colleague Dr Karen Ludke, whose findings are published in the journal Memory and Cognition, used recordings of Hungarian words to teach 60 adults.

They chose Hungarian as they participants were unlikely to have encountered it before and none had any experience of learning this language.

The participants either listened to words that were spoken and then had to repeat them back, much like a standard teach yourself tape, or the words were said rhythmically or sung.

After a 15 minute learning period, they were then given a test to see how well they had learned the words. Those who had used the “listen and sign” approach scored highest.

They were also better at recalling the words correctly in tests of long term memory.

Importantly they did not sing the words when they recalled them.

Dr Ludke said the findings could help those who struggle to learn foreign languages.

She said: “The results suggest a listen and sing learning method can facilitate verbatim memory for spoken language phrases.

“It opens the door for future research in this areas. One question is whether melody could provide an extra cue to jog people’s memory, helping them recall foreign words and phrases more easily.”

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Scots Urged to Learn Foreign Languages

Stewart Paterson in eveningtimes.co.uk, June 21, 2013:

f you had to rely on a Google translation of the above introduction, don’t worry because that is where I went to check it was correct.

It says, ‘This week I would like to speak about languages’.

French, or any other language other than English for that matter, is not my strongest point and in that respect I am far from alone in this country.

Holyrood’s European Committee has just given its report on its inquiry into foreign language learning in primary schools.

It recommends we teach one foreign language from primary one right through to secondary school.

Wow. Radical or what?

How many times have you been left stumped in another country when faced with someone who does not speak English?

How many times have you heard someone from these islands speak in a slow, monosyllabic, child-like voice trying to get their point across to a native on a foreign holiday?

Then they bemoan the fact the person does not speak English, without a hint of irony.

As a nation we need to drastically improve our modern language capability.

The committee rightly raised concerns about the ability to deliver the ambition of teaching two foreign languages.

From where we are today it will take decades to get up to speed with most of our European neighbours.

It will require a massive investment in training primary school teachers to have the capability required to deliver effective language teaching to primary pupils that will allow further study.

There is also a need for a willingness to change the attitudes of some people that there is less of a need for our people to learn a foreign language because so many others speak ours.

This lazy attitude is holding people back because learning a language provides for a better educated population.

It will also make us more outward in our outlook, and mean more people will be able to grasp opportunities in a global world.

The benefits for foreign trade and investment are obvious in an international economy and the more people we have speaking other languages the better.

There is a certain irony that Glasgow is preparing to host the Commonwealth Games next year welcoming people from all over the world many of whom speak English because their ancestors were forced to speak a foreign language, English, as a result of colonialism.

The independence referendum means other countries in Europe and beyond are taking an interest in Scotland and following the constitutional debate with interest, many by reading our news online, in English.

It is about time we made a serious effort to catch up, even if it does take 25 years.

Au revoir, adios, arrivederci.

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The Benefits of Foreign Language Learning

Once again, there are a multitude of benefits to learning another language as this new article points out. How many more reasons do you need to start learning another (or more)? Anne Merritt in The Telegraph, June 19, 2013:

Physiological studies have found that speaking two or more languages is a great asset to the cognitive process. The brains of bilingual people operate differently than single language speakers, and these differences offer several mental benefits.

Below are seven cognitive advantages to learning a foreign language. Many of these attributes are only apparent in people who speak multiple languages regularly – if you haven’t spoken a foreign tongue since your A levels, your brain might not be reaping these bilingual benefits. However, people who begin language study in their adult lives can still achieve the same levels of fluency as a young learner, and still reap the same mental benefits, too.

You become smarter

Speaking a foreign language improves the functionality of your brain by challenging it to recognise, negotiate meaning, and communicate in different language systems. This skill boosts your ability to negotiate meaning in other problem-solving tasks as well.

Students who study foreign languages tend to score better on standardised tests than their monolingual peers, particularly in the categories of maths, reading, and vocabulary.

You build multitasking skills

Multilingual people, especially children, are skilled at switching between two systems of speech, writing, and structure. According to a study from the Pennsylvania State University, this “juggling” skill makes them good multitaskers, because they can easily switch between different structures. In one study, participants used a driving simulator while doing separate, distracting tasks at the same time. The research found that people who spoke more than one language made fewer errors in their driving.

You stave off Alzheimer’s and dementia

Several studies have been conducted on this topic, and the results are consistent. For monolingual adults, the mean age for the first signs of dementia is 71.4. For adults who speak two or more languages, the mean age for those first signs is 75.5. Studies considered factors such as education level, income level, gender, and physical health, but the results were consistent.

Top 10 best languages to study to get a job: in pictures

Your memory improves

Educators often liken the brain to a muscle, because it functions better with exercise. Learning a language involves memorising rules and vocabulary, which helps strengthen that mental “muscle.” This exercise improves overall memory, which means that multiple language speakers are better at remembering lists or sequences. Studies show that bilinguals are better at retaining shopping lists, names, and directions.

You become more perceptive

A study from Spain’s University of Pompeu Fabra revealed that multilingual people are better at observing their surroundings. They are more adept at focusing on relevant information and editing out the irrelevant. They’re also better at spotting misleading information. Is it any surprise that Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot are skilled polyglots?

Your decision-making skills improve

According to a study from the University of Chicago, bilinguals tend to make more rational decisions. Any language contains nuance and subtle implications in its vocabulary, and these biases can subconsciously influence your judgment. Bilinguals are more confident with their choices after thinking it over in the second language and seeing whether their initial conclusions still stand up.

You improve your English

Learning a foreign language draws your focus to the mechanics of language: grammar, conjugations, and sentence structure. This makes you more aware of language, and the ways it can be structured and manipulated. These skills can make you a more effective communicator and a sharper editor and writer. Language speakers also develop a better ear for listening, since they’re skilled at distinguishing meaning from discreet sounds.

Anne Merritt is an EFL lecturer currently based in South Korea. She writes at http://annemerritt.com/

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U.S. Foreign Language Deficit

Here is an excellent article by Kathleen Stein-Smith (from languagemagazine.com, June 2013) about the importance of foreign language learning and the dearth of language skills in the U.S..:

Why It Matters
In an increasingly globalized world, the U.S. is at an ever-increasing disadvantage due to the lack of foreign language skills among Americans.

Other than heritage-language speakers, it is estimated that only between one in eight and one in four Americans have the foreign language skills necessary to hold a conversation in a language other than English. According to the Modern Language Association, enrollment in a course in a language other than English at the postsecondary level stands at 8%, as opposed to 16% in 1960 — the same time frame in which globalization has increased.

Among executives in international business, the typical American executive may speak one foreign language at most, while European and other international executives routinely speak multiple languages at the business-proficient level. On an individual level, a monolingual English-speaking American runs the risk of being passed over for a promotion, or for a new job, in favor of an international applicant with the same professional skills but with the added advantage of knowledge of one or more relevant foreign languages. While exports are widely acknowledged to be an essential element of a sustainable economic recovery, companies struggle to find employees with the needed language skills.

As a consequence of the events of 9/11, the National Security Language Initiative was launched in 2006, and both the Federal government and the military have developed plans to increase language and global skills among their departments and branches respectively. However, many of these plans have taken time to develop, only to lose funding during the economic recession and subsequent weak economic recovery. As recently as 2012, congressional hearings were held to examine the language deficit at the federal level.

Challenges to Foreign Languages in the U.S.
Challenges to the development of foreign language skills among English-speaking Americans include the sense that English is the global lingua franca. While it is true that many internationals may speak English, it is estimated that 75% of the world’s population does not speak English. Those who do may have varying levels of skill and willingness to use English.
The lack of day-to-day exposure to other languages is another challenge, as most Americans would need to travel a significant distance to completely immerse themselves in a society where English is not the local or official language. Many Americans would even have to travel a significant distance to experience a large community of foreign-language speakers within the U.S. In many parts of the world, multiple languages co-exist, or travel to an area where another language is the predominant or official language is a matter of a short trip.
Even if an American has the desire to learn another language, challenges remain. Typically, foreign language instruction begins relatively late in school, at a time when other courses, social obligations, and even jobs compete for a student’s limited time and attention.
As has already been mentioned, at the college level, only 8% of students are enrolled in a foreign language course, and this relatively small enrollment is heavily concentrated in elementary levels and in the Spanish language.

Outside of a traditional school setting, challenges exist, as learning another language requires time and energy, both of which are typically in relatively short supply to adults. In addition, the adult learner also needs to select and determine the materials to be used in language learning and to resist discouragement as the inevitable plateaus in learning progress are reached.

Perhaps the most subtle and insidious challenge is a pervasive lack of interest in other languages and cultures among many Americans, as this interest, or intrinsic motivation, is the most effective driver of successful foreign language learning.

What We Can Do
As individual citizens, we can advocate for foreign language education opportunities for our parents, ourselves, and our children within our schools and communities. We can write to our government representatives at the local, state, and national levels. We can join groups to advocate for foreign languages, or even run for local office. On a personal level, we can choose to learn new languages and encourage our friends and family members to do so as well.
Educational institutions at all levels have the opportunity to offer more foreign language courses and to enhance classroom learning with experiential learning, ranging from the recruitment of local native speakers to the establishment of language living-learning environments on campus or during summer or short-term courses at all levels. Entertainment and social media, as well as other relevant technologies, can make learning more effective and more accessible.

Government can support language learning through policy and law, which tend to lead to consistent funding for language initiatives at all levels. Lack of a language policy in the U.S. has often resulted in inadequate or inconsistent funding for language learning initiatives, both for English-speakers wishing to learn another language and for new immigrants and others wishing to learn English.

Business can certainly support foreign language learning among employees through on-site classes or through partnerships with local educational institutions to support either international ventures or business within local multilingual and multicultural communities. Compensation and/or other rewards should be offered to those who develop the desired foreign language skills.

For decades, leaders in government, education, and business have confirmed the need for the development of foreign language skills in order for Americans not only to be secure and competitive, but also to live richer, more fulfilling lives.
Importantly, they have also provided a significant body of literature on what policies, procedures, and action steps are needed to achieve this paradigm shift. The following are just a few of the most timely and relevant examples.

• Senator Daniel Akaka held a hearing entitled “A National Security Crisis: Foreign Language Capabilities in the Federal Government” on May 21, 2012.

• The 2007 MLA report, Foreign Languages and Higher Education: New Structures for a Changed World pointed the way to a renewed approach to foreign language education.

• In terms of education for business, the Modern Language Journal offered a special issue on Languages for Specific Purposes in the U.S.in a Global Context in January 2012. This followed two research reports published by the Apollo Research Institute (University of Phoenix): The Great Divide: Worker and Employer Perspectives of Current and Future Workforce Demands, in 2011, followed by the even more language-specific Current and Future Language Demands in the Workplace: Proficiencies and Gaps, in 2012.

Conclusions
Interest in another language or culture, or intrinsic motivation, has been shown to be the most effective motivation for learning another language, even more effective than career opportunity or advancement.

In order to increase the desire among Americans to learn other languages, government, education, and business will need to work together to develop the language-learning mindset among Americans through language policy, increased and varied foreign language course offerings, and compensation and career opportunities respectively.

In addition, foreign language skills need to become part of the popular culture through movies, books and music, highlighting bilingual and multilingual celebrities ranging from Olympic athletes to Academy-award-winning actors, and making foreign language movies, media, and books readily available to a now-interested public. In literature, fictional characters can be depicted as having and using foreign language skills.

A strategic marketing plan, developed in concert by government, education, and business, can achieve results similar to those achieved in the European Union and other parts of the world.
As Senator Paul Simon wrote in 1980 in The Tongue-Tied American, we can either be tongue-tied or fluent.

Kathleen Stein-Smith, PhD, associate university librarian and adjunct faculty at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey, is the author of The U.S. Foreign Language Deficit and Our Economic and National Security: A Bibliographic Essay on the U.S. Language Paradox, Edwin Mellen Press, 2013.

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Is the State Department Failing to Spend on Foreign Language Training?

Very sad if this report is accurate! From The Washington Guardian, May 9, 2013:

The State Department, already blamed for lax security leading up to the Benghazi terror attack, is getting some additional uncomfortable scrutiny for the way it spent an estimated $195 million last year training its diplomats in foreign languages.

The department’s internal watchdog reported Wednesday – the same day State officials testified before Congress on last year’s tragedy in Libya – that the department is failing to spend its language training money wisely.

In some cases, the department continues to pay to train diplomats in foreign languages who actually do their overseas work in English, while shorting diplomats in other countries such as Afghanistan, Egypt, and Pakistan, where foreign language skills are mission critical, the inspector general reported.

Investigators “found that some positions identified as language designated do not in fact require foreign language skills; other positions are not language designated but should be,” the report concluded.

The lack of oversight and risk analysis has both safety and financial consequences because it costs State between $105,000 to $480,000 for each employee it trains in a foreign language, the IG said.

“Given a government-wide need to be more cost conscious, language training costs should be transparent and part of the LDP process,” the department’s chief watchdog said. “Eliminating language training for positions that do not require language skills would free up funds for additional language training elsewhere.”

The issue of how and where State spends money training its diplomats is especially sensitive because the internal review of the Sept. 11, 2011 terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya recommended making sure more diplomats in dangerous regions of the world have the ability to speak the languages of their host country.

The IG said State was failing to adequately assess needs and risks when spending training money, training too many diplomats in English-speaking European countries while shorting diplomats in more volatile posts where foreign language skills are essential.

“There are two language designated general services officer positions in Switzerland, three in France, and four in Italy; however, there are no language designated general services officer positions in Haiti, Thailand, or Indonesia and only one such position in Egypt,” the report said. “The latter four countries all have fewer English language speakers and more difficult working environments

The IG said it had uncovered instances in which the lack of foreign language training in some hotspots had set back U.S. diplomatic efforts.

“In Muscat and Kuwait, language limitations undermined political and public diplomacy outreach efforts,” the IG reported. “In Afghanistan and Pakistan, the shortage of language qualified officers limited the missions’ ability to participate in public debates with fluency in local languages.”

The watchdog also talked to State officials who said they intentionally kept languge skill requirement low in certain hotspots because it was hard to find people to serve in places like Iraq, Pakistan and other dangerous locations.

“Some bureaus—NEA, the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, and the Bureau of African Affairs in particular—acknowledge that they keep language requirements low to attract bidders,” the report said.

State Department officials did not immediately offer a formal response to the report, which echoes concerns raised by other watchdogs like the Government Accountability Office over the last decade.

The inspector general made numerous recommendations ranging from eliminating some foreign-langauge required posts in Europe and improving cost consciousness to requiring embassies, human resources officers and top leaders in Washington to review and better justify language training needs for every diplomatic outpost.

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Linguists Identify 15,000-Year-Old Common Words

Article by David Brown in The Washington Post, May 7, 2013:

It’s an odd little speech. But if you went back 15,000 years and spoke these words to hunter-gatherers in Asia in any one of hundreds of modern languages, there is a chance they would understand at least some of what you were saying.

That’s because all of the nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs in the four sentences are words that have descended largely unchanged from a language that died out as the glaciers retreated at the end of the last Ice Age. Those few words mean the same thing, and sound almost the same, as they did then.

The traditional view is that words can’t survive for more than 8,000 to 9,000 years. Evolution, linguistic “weathering” and the adoption of replacements from other languages eventually drive ancient words to extinction, just like the dinosaurs of the Jurassic era.

A new study, however, suggests that’s not always true.

A team of researchers has come up with a list of two dozen “ultraconserved words” that have survived 150 centuries. It includes some predictable entries: “mother,” “not,” “what,” “to hear” and “man.” It also contains surprises: “to flow,” “ashes” and “worm.”

The existence of the long-lived words suggests there was a “proto-Eurasiatic” language that was the common ancestor to about 700 contemporary languages that are the native tongues of more than half the world’s people.

“We’ve never heard this language, and it’s not written down anywhere,” said Mark Pagel, an evolutionary theorist at the University of Reading in England who headed the study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “But this ancestral language was spoken and heard. People sitting around campfires used it to talk to each other.”

In all, “proto-Eurasiatic” gave birth to seven language families. Several of the world’s important language families, however, fall outside that lineage, such as the one that includes Chinese and Tibetan; several African language families, and those of American Indians and Australian aborigines.

That a spoken sound carrying a specific meaning could remain unchanged over 15,000 years is a controversial idea for most historical linguists.

“Their general view is pessimistic,” said William Croft, a professor of linguistics at the University of New Mexico who studies the evolution of language and was not involved in the study. “They basically think there’s too little evidence to even propose a family like Eurasiatic.” In Croft’s view, however, the new study supports the plausibility of an ancestral language whose audible relics cross tongues today.

Pagel and three collaborators studied “cognates,” which are words that have the same meaning and a similar sound in different languages. Father (English), padre (Italian), pere (French), pater (Latin) and pitar (Sanskrit) are cognates. Those words, however, are from languages in one family, the Indo-European. The researchers looked much further afield, examining seven language families in all.

In addition to Indo-European, the language families included Altaic (whose modern members include Turkish, Uzbek and Mongolian); Chukchi-Kamchatkan (languages of far northeastern Siberia); Dravidian (languages of south India); Inuit-Yupik (Arctic languages); Kartvelian (Georgian and three related languages) and Uralic (Finnish, Hungarian and a few others).

They make up a diverse group. Some don’t use the Roman alphabet. Some had no written form until modern times. They sound different to the untrained ear. Their speakers live thousands of miles apart. In short, they seem unlikely candidates to share cognates.

Pagel’s team used as its starting material 200 words that linguists know to be the core vocabulary of all languages.

Other researchers had searched for cognates of those words in members of each of the seven Eurasiatic language families. They looked, for example, for similar-sounding words for “fish” or “to drink” in the Altaic family of languages or in the Indo-European languages. When they found cognates, they constructed what they imagined were the cognates’ ancestral words — a task that requires knowing how sounds change between languages, such as “f” in Germanic languages becoming “p” in Romance languages.

Those made-up words are called “proto-words.” Pagel’s team compared them among language families. They made thousands of comparisons, asking such questions as: Do the proto-word for “hand” in the Inuit-Yupik language family and the proto-word for “hand” in the Indo-European language family sound similar?

Surprisingly, the answer to that question and many others was yes.

The 23 entries on the list of ultraconserved words are cognates in four or more language families. Could they sound the same purely by chance? Pagel and his colleagues think not.

Linguists have calculated the rate at which words are replaced in a language. Common ones disappear the slowest. It’s those words that Pagel’s team found were most likely to have cognates among the seven families.

In fact, they calculated that words uttered at least 16 times per day by an average speaker had the greatest chance of being cognates in at least three language families. If chance had been the explanation, some rarely used words would have ended up on the list. But they didn’t.

As a group, the ultraconserved words give a hint of what has been important to people over the millennia.

“I was really delighted to see ‘to give’ there,” Pagel said. “Human society is characterized by a degree of cooperation and reciprocity that you simply don’t see in any other animal. Verbs tend to change fairly quickly, but that one hasn’t.”

Of course, one has to explain the presence of “bark.”

“I have spoken to some anthropologists about that, and they say that bark played a very significant role in the lives of forest-dwelling hunter-gatherers,” Pagel said. Bark was woven into baskets, stripped and braided into rope, burned as fuel, stuffed in empty spaces for insulation and consumed as medicine.

“To spit” is also a surprising survivor. It may be that the sound of that word is just so expressive of the sound of the activity — what linguists call “onomatopoeia” — that it simply couldn’t be improved on over 15,000 years.

As to the origin of the sound of the other ultraconserved words, and who made them up, that’s a question best left to the poets.

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