The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Monday, June 30, 2003

How does the brain process language? It's probably one of the most complex exercises we put our grey matter through, and it's even more complex if you speak a tonal language like Chinese.

As far as I can understand this, tonal languages--those that rely as much on sound inflections as on context and pronounciation--run you through a two-channel mental process. Therefore, you utilize more of your brainpower on a regular basis.

The "ma" example is the one I remember most vividly when I was first exposed to Chinese language studies. Never in a million years do I think I could pick it up well enough to be fluent. I find Japanese and Korean to be hard enough, and they're non-tonal (like English and the rest of Europe's languages).