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*This is NOT a paid endorsement. It is a recommendation.*

The other day I looked at the Red & Black, fish-wrapper of the old alma mater. There I found this op-ed:

OPINION: Foreign language classes at UGA are not conducive to all types of learning

By: Anika Chaturvedi

A study published in 2010 at Cambridge University Press referred to a “critical period” during childhood as being the easiest time to learn languages. The study also shows that the language-learning process is very different for children and adults. College-age is in between these two periods and trying to learn a language can be a challenge for some students.

Area IV of The University of Georgia’s core curriculum is “World Languages and Cultures, Humanities and the Arts,” and UGA offers 34 foreign languages and American Sign Language which gives students a variety of options from which to choose to fulfill the requirement. While learning another language is an incredibly useful skill to develop in college, it is not always done easily.

Often, students have to take placement tests before taking language classes at UGA, and this placement charts the course for the rest of the language-learning to come. However, many students who have not taken a language since high school may have forgotten their prior knowledge from not speaking every day, and this can hinder them in classes where students have to immediately jump back in to an unfamiliar language.

Boy howdy! Was I ever aware of this stuff back in the day – so much so that I carefully chose a major devoid of any foreign language requirements.

Anika is on to something and then something more maybe. In grade school, I experimented with both Spanish and French. With both, I exhibited less than stellar performance.

The “why” I didn’t know or understand. Until later. Much later. It turns out that I have an auditory processing deficit. That’s a block in the brain wiring that inhibits hearing, and thus, understanding language. The hearing and understanding is kind of important when it comes to picking up a verbal language.

Here, I’ll note I do considerably better with written languages. Readers, here, may recall occasionally seeing French, German, Latin, and Catalan here and there. It’s considerably better than the spoken word but still not that good. Here, I rely heavily on electronic translation services and I still question and double, triple check those. Saps el que vull dir?

The English I couldn’t help but pick up, living in former America. The mind is capable of much, including compromise with blockages, when pushed.

The processing issue was explained to me as part of the debriefing on my results from the Highlands Ability Battery. A friend, a practicing psychologist, was working with the test, norming it, so to speak, and offered me a free assessment. I’m very glad I took it.

Says Highlands:

The Highlands Ability Battery (HAB) is a human assessment tool that objectively measures your natural abilities by asking you to perform specific tasks or exercises. As part of the Highlands Whole Person Model, the HAB is the foundation and starting point to identify the career best suited for you.

The HAB was founded on the work of research scientist Johnson O’Connor, who devoted his life to the study of human engineering. Almost a century of research that began with Johnson O’Connor and continues through the Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation has established that every individual is born with a pattern of abilities unique to him or her.

What Makes the HAB Assessment Unique?

The HAB is unique in that it measures your abilities based on performance rather than perception. Exercises such as recreating designs from memory, manipulating blocks in space, and putting images in logical sequence are some of the virtual tasks you are asked to perform within a set amount of time. Results based on timed performance are far more reliable than results based on self-perception or personal opinion. See the research, HAB Technology and Research.

Another friend, another professional author, disclosed a similar difficulty with language during an exchange over one of his articles – on translations of all things. Part of my supportive response (“curated”):

I too formally studied several languages outside of English, which I’ve nearly mastered… Anyway, no such luck with Spanish, French, German, etc. I found out several years ago that I have a mental auditory “block,” a resistance in the brain to “foreign” language processing. This, I’m told is relatively common, even, counterintuitively, among those of higher IQ and with wider vocabulary. (Sounds like you).

Highlands isn’t a raw horsepower test like Stanford Binet or Wechsler. If anything, it’s closer to a career/happiness predictor. Via somewhat unusual (seemingly, to me) methodology if measures the mind’s natural processing ability over a pretty wide range of application categories: vocabulary, spacial recognition, etc. If you’re older and think you know your own brain, the measurement and outcome may or may not make sense. That’s where the specialist comes in. With slight explanation, it all comes together.

The official explanation revealed a paradox: I have (had, Ha!) a higher than average IQ, higher verbal abilities, and a larger than usual vocabulary; yet I don’t “get” languages. Odd, yes, but more common than one might suppose. The processing block is a kind of tone deafness, for lack of a better phrase. It also reflects on my relative musical inability and concomitant paradox: I like music but don’t understand it and can’t formally track, read, or replicate it. If that makes sense. Anika’s article suggests it should to some.

The cure, I’m told, is available and pretty easy, a form of mental retraining. I actually declined such in keeping with my hardheadedness and burgeoning curmudgeonly disposition.

However, as I told my shrink friend, if the test and corrections were available 30 years ago – and they were not, sadly – things might have been different. I probably would have used the training to affect performance, to my advantage. Now, the issue isn’t so pressing.

If you or someone you know suffer a similar malady, then take heart. And take the test. On the open market, I understand the HAB is a little pricey but it would seem worth it to me. This seems especially true for a younger person or student.

One will also discover or have reconfirmed many other aspects of one’s own brain. Some instantly make sense, some only so with formal explanation. It’s all fascinating.

Give it a shot.



For once, self imporvement beats out guns, politics, cigars, and robots!