route 5

A random bunch of thoughts I had on the 8-hour drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles:

  • The constant presense of mountains (in the fore- and background) sure must have a heavy impact on the mindset of Californians. Looming towering mountains tend to have a humbling effect on people; it helps them keep things in perspective. A person just driving to the local supermarket can always catch, in the background, the faint silhouette of overzealous hilltops. Contrast this with New Jersey. You can drive around, surrounded by a little 50 meter radius of Here and Now, with none of that giant perspective. Also, mountains sure are purdy.
  • The full-service gas stations we have sure are convenient. I personally am rather adverse to getting out and pumping my own gas. Gasoline does not seem to be the healthiest thing to breathe in every 700 miles.
  • This thought began somewhere in NYC, somewhere between 109 and 110th st and Broadway. I think most language programs are teaching foreign languages incorrectly. I have some friends with limited profiency in a foreign language, and they all testify that their foreign language ability is slowed because the Spanish/Chinese/etc translates into English first and then is understood. This happens because most courses revolve around the vocab list principle, the “in the left column you have the word and in the right column you have its meaning in English.” This seems very wrong to me. You want people to have that instanteous link between langage and their reality, not between language, another language, then reality.

    So the solution to this problem is simple. Teach foreign language like they teach English to elementary schoolers. Say “ball” and show them a round bouncy sphere. Say “caballo” and show them a picture of a horse. Say “gwut” and show some bones. Granted, this takes a bit longer, but not as long as it takes kids to learn their first language. The process is sped up by the fact that adults already have some experience with reality and little time is needed to actually explain the concepts behind the words. For instance, you would have to introduce to a child the idea of a large, predatious animal from the cat family before you say to them “puma”. But for adults, this step is not needed. The question may arise, well, how do you teach complex intangible words and ideas like “love”, “honesty”. You can shows pictures of balls and lions, but how would you depict “courage” or, say, “art”? I cannot find the answer to that question now; I am not really sure how I learned those such ideas in English. I’ll try to figure it out in future dialogue.


  • Incest is nicest when misspelled.

Well, I was not really too good at recording my trip. I still have LA, Las Vegas, and Death Valley to blog about. But I’m leaving for the airport soon.… I will figure something out when I get back.

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