Are women really better at learning languages? (The Telegraph)

Title & Link: Are women really better at learning languages?

Date Published :  01/13/2014

Publication: The Telegraph

Photo credit:dok1

2 thoughts on “Are women really better at learning languages? (The Telegraph)

  1. I didn’t know you wrote for The Guardian! Wow.

    Anyway, there are some things I think might apply to your question. In my time teaching in Korea I’ve noticed a general pattern with boys’ classes and girls’ classes, I’ve seen a pretty reliable tendency for the boys to have higher variability, more male rockstars, more male dunces. Granted, my teaching style is very highly skewed away from the theoretical and strategic methods your article suggests girls exceed in using and toward the practical, sense-based methods your article suggests boys do better with, but I also wonder if this might not be a factor.

    Further, I really wonder how much gender roles play a part. It’s been much easier for me to recruit boys into out-of-class, practical activities using a second language than girls. Things like my racecar-building project, my egg drop experiments, my nature excursions and aquarium building activities. When I’ve asked girls why they don’t take part, by far the most common answer I get is “because I’m a girl.”

    I wonder if boys might do better with less “feminized” language instruction (more male teachers, more practical instruction) for the same reasons girls would profit from more female science teachers.

  2. Thanks for the comments, Ben! I’ve done a fair bit of reading on language and gender, and there are several fascinating studies in which schoolteachers in mixed-sex classrooms are found to engage more with male students, both in a positive way (calling on them for answers) and punitive way (reprimanding them for disobedience). This touches on your rockstars/dunces observation, and it’s something I’ve certainly observed in Korean classrooms as well. In my university classes, male students tend to do more talking. Not drastically so, but it’s noticeable. I don’t get the feeling that this is an issue of language aptitude or classroom involvement. Rather, the female students seem comfortable ceding the floor to their male classmates, and the males seem comfortable taking the floor. This says more about gender and culture than it does about gender and language ability, but perhaps they overlap. If you’re looking for a thesis topic, Ben…. 😉

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