Why You are Better Than a Baby

Oh babies. They are the kings of language learning. They’re often referred to as sponges for their ability to pick up knowledge. Many of them even learn multiple languages at the same time. How many babies do you know that fail to learn a language? Studies show babies even start learning their mother’s language in the womb. Who could possibly compete with such linguist masters?Why You Are Better Than A Baby 1

You. You’re not a baby (I assume) and this is great because:

Babies suck at learning languages

What? But what about all that stuff that babies can do?

So what? Babies take forever to learn. It takes them a year to start talking, and even that is really basic stuff. That’s a full year of fantastic and inescapable immersion and that’s all they have to show for it. Another year later and they know 50 words or so. Pathetic.

And that’s just speaking. For reading, it takes them years to even start. And when do they finally start reading things at an adult level? When they’re an adult.

How you compare

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How long does it take you to start speaking another language? Five seconds.

“Konnichiwa” = “Hello.”

Boom! You’re already a year ahead of a baby. And that’s just the first five seconds. A power-leveler could learn 50 words a day. How many words did you know again two-year-old? And reading? The kana might take a couple weeks. Kanji a few months. Are you even trying babies?

Why you are better

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Babies are impressive, but you are just way better. It’s not even fair for babies really. Here’s why:

1. Babies know nothing. How can you learn the word “duck” if you don’t even know what a duck is?

2. You already know a language. Languages are more similar than different. You know the concepts. Babies don’t.

3. Babies are way busier than you. They are learning how to eat, sleep, grab, sit, crawl, and other endless things that you know but take for granted.

4. Babies aren’t even trying. They don’t wake up and think, “I’m going to learn five words today.” More likely, “I want food!” Why do you think parents ask their kids questions like what sound does a cow make? The kid wouldn’t try to learn it otherwise.

It’s not even a competition.

Your language baby

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With all that said, it can be fun to compare to a baby. Whatever day you started learning a language is when your language baby was born. If you started two years ago then that’s how old your baby is. This doesn’t include any studying breaks you took during that time though (babies don’t get to take breaks). Whatever is the average language ability for someone at that age is how good your baby is. Don’t be surprised when you’re miles ahead of them.

How does your journey compare to a baby’s?

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Drew V.

Majoring in Computer Science and mastering in Japanese (in spirit anyway). Was blind to my love of Japan until age 19. Seriously Japan, where were you all my life?


Why You are Better Than a Baby — 14 Comments

    • Glad I made you laugh, it wasn’t my plan at first to make it funny but humor always creeps into my writing.

  1. Haha, this is great. Sure, learning a language when you’re young is great but I guarantee if I was taught Japanese at a young age I would have not kept up with it in adulthood. Which is what happened to my friends who learned Chinese from birth… they can speak somewhat, but not read or write.

    Babies also don’t have the same facination for languages that adults have!

    Thank you for all the baby pictures. They’re just too precious.

    • I remember when they taught us Spanish in elementary school. I probably learned about a couple dozen words; I had no drive to learn it.
      It’s a shame when people learn a language from their parents but they get stuck at a lower level like that.
      Looking up baby pictures was the best part of making this articles ;)

  2. Wow really puts things in perspective. I can read a Manga at 8 months old compared to the 8 years it takes a ‘native speaker’

  3. Ha, excellent article! My favorite points: “Babies are way busier than you” and “Babies aren’t even trying”. Bunch of lazy ingrates, babies are.

    And joking aside, this is pretty much true to life. People compare their language abilities to native-speaking children, but in reality most kids sound like idiots for at least the first decade of their life. Imagine how great you’ll be after a decade of immersion!

    I also like the idea of a “language baby” (though admittedly it raises some disturbing imagery, at least in my mind). My language baby is 2, going on 3 years old now, and he (she? it?) is already reading Murakami novels! Take that, stupid real-life babies!

  4. Hah! Great article. It’s reasons like this, that make me scratch my head when people say they’re too old to learn a language. We’re adults, and have Google. We can learn anything in record time.

  5. This is one of those things that leads me to the most hated compliment that I still regularly receive.

    “Wow, you can read the kanji off the sushi menu? You probably read better than my (Japanese) 8 year old.”

    Uhm… thanks? I think? That was a compliment, right?
    I always just reply “yeah, maybe” when I want to scream that I don’t probably read better than them. I DO read better than them! Can they read adult fiction and news articles understanding new topics upon first glance despite not having learned the words?!

    Can they read chemistry related documents in Japanese with full comprehension?

    Oh, can they read the sushi menu? No? Then shut it. Yes, I’m better than your 8 year old. Harumph.

    Or maybe that’s just me? lol

    • That sounds really really annoying.

      Then again no ones ever told me I’m better than an 8 year old. *cries*

  6. Funny yet true article!! Thanks for this gem haha!
    It boosted my motivation a lot. I’m still young (24 years old) but I felt down many times comparing my brain to a baby one, especially when it came to memorize new kanjis every day. You got good points and I should stop overthinking and worrying too much about something that can’t really be helped. Instead, if I enjoy my studying time and I realize I have much more potential than a kid, I’m gonna become a Japanese language king! Lol

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