Why Learning Languages Gets Easier Each Time Posted by meaghan on May 5, 2014 in Language Learning
Ever heard that less is more? That may be so when it comes to applying makeup, but not when it comes to learning languages.
The best way to become a great language learner is to learn more languages. For those of you learning your second language from scratch right now, this probably sounds extremely discouraging or overwhelming. But have faith: once you learn a second language, it’s a gateway to a third, a fourth, and so on. What sorcery is this?
You learn how to learn. Studying a second language is a time to experiment with different materials and methods. You need time to learn your preferred learning style and setting, whether it being self-instruction via books and movies, professional tutoring, or a mix of both. You also get to familiarize yourself with the highs—like your first successful conversation—and the lows—like the dreaded plateau in progress. That knowledge and experience will give you confidence and make it a lot easier to prepare and progress the second time around.
You learn shared vocabulary. Depending on your choice of languages, you may have a leg up on learning vocabulary. If you’re learning multiple languages from the same family, particularly the romance languages, you’ll recognize a lot of vocabulary from one to the other. Consider the white color in the major romance languages:
- branco (Portuguese)
- blanc (French)
- blanco (Spanish)
- bianco (Italian)
See how easy it would be to learn “bianco” once you already know “blanc” or “blanco”?
You learn grammar patterns. Familiarity with grammar rules will also transfer from one language to another. Learning about gender in Spanish will carry over not just to romance languages, but tongues around the world, from Hindi to Greek. The more languages you learn, the more parallels you will be able to draw between languages’ word order, verb agreement, syntax, and so on.
More resources become available to you. If you only speak one language, you’re limited to using resources available in that language. But imagine if you could learn Italian from a Spanish textbook? Or hire a Hausa tutor who can only instruct in French? The opportunities for both written and face-to-face instruction grow exponentially with each language you learn.
So, to those of you learning your second language now, my hat is already off to you. But don’t think about it as the end goal. If you love learning languages, your second language is only the first stop on a lifelong adventure!
To the polyglots among us, how has learning a specific language prepared you for another? Share your tips and stories!
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