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How does learning a new language affect your abilities in other languages

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Showing 1-14 of 14 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 14, 2009 8:56:30 AM PDT
Aviva Lynne says:
I am teaching myself Hebrew with a combination of methods. It is a lot of fun but I find that suddenly I seem to be remembering a lot more of my high school Spanish (and that was almost 40 years ago). Granted in the last decade I have been exposed peripherally to Spanish more; on packages, on tv, music, etc. But it really does seem to have become more pronouced in the 5 months I have been learning Hebrew.

Anyone else have the same experience?

Posted on Aug 24, 2009 10:43:48 AM PDT
book lover says:
Kathy Rich here, author of the book, Dreaming in HIndi, which is a lot about learning languages. When I first started studying Hindi, I had the same experience you're having--suddenly, I was flying in Spanish, which I'd studied off and on for a long time. Turns out, there's actually a linguistic theory that proposes when you activate one second language, you rev any others you know. A lot of linguists don't subscribe to this, but you and I certainly are arguments for it being true. Good luck with your Hebrew!

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 25, 2009 2:31:06 PM PDT
Aviva Lynne says:
The plural of anecdote is data. So our anecdotal evidence may be on to something then.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 2, 2009 2:46:46 PM PDT
book lover says:

Posted on Sep 12, 2009 2:35:51 PM PDT
Ronald Craig says:
Hi. How many other languages do you (plural) know besides Spanish (and your native English, of course)?

It may be that when learning Hebrew/Hindi, your mind automatically accessed any available (even if long dormant) non-English knowledge.

Another anecdote: I did an English/Arabic exchange once for a few months with an Egyptian acquaintance at the Japanese university where we were both studying. I kept getting interference from German and Russian, both of which I have only a minimal reading familiarity with, but not from Japanese. Go figure. :)

Posted on Sep 17, 2009 3:56:51 PM PDT
Opposite with me. I was in Yemen this summer and found that when I wanted to speak French or Spanish with some of the Europeans, it was Arabic that came out instead.

Posted on Sep 27, 2009 5:22:27 PM PDT
Keith Massey says:
Learning a new language energizes those places in your brain where you have stored second (or more) language learning. I have frequently encountered the phenomenon you describe. While working on my Arabic, I found that my Spanish and Romanian were suddenly sharper. This is all good news!

Posted on Oct 13, 2009 8:29:27 PM PDT
So it's not just me! I'm learning Dutch, and yet I keep throwing in equivalent Spanish words (which I learned back in High School in the 80s!). I'm glad the OP brought this up because it's been driving me crazy. Didn't realize other people were experiencing the same phenomenon.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 13, 2009 10:59:24 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Oct 13, 2009 11:02:09 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 13, 2009 11:01:47 PM PDT
Mila Alesi says:
Hi Ms. Rish forgive me for contacting you through this forum. Im a new writer on the verge of publishing my book of short stories about Israel. I am an African American and the book delves into the world of secular Israel. I have read Dreaming in Hindi and would like to contact you in hopes you could share some of your wisdom with a struggling first time author... sincerely drednotboi@yahoo.com

Posted on Jul 18, 2010 3:05:28 PM PDT
S. Pool says:
LOL I wonder why everyone keeps remembering their HS Spanish and not their native English, that is something worthy of studying more. Perhaps the reason so many of you keep remembering Spanish when learning a second language is because Spanish is a derivative of Latin and we all know a lot of the languages spoken in the world today stem from Latin. I know that when I was in college I studied Latin for 2 years and after and during my studies, my ability to grasp other Latin based languages increased dramatically. I speak four languages as of right now, but every time I learn a new one I always end up taking it to Spanish or Latin to find similarities and make it easier for me to get the jist of things. I have never studied Hindi or Hebrew so I don't know how close they are to Spanish but I know that the pronunciation can be a factor. Most Latin based languages are pronounced stronger than English and in the case of Spanish you say everything as it is written and pronounce every letter in a word, with a couple of exceptions. Maybe Hebrew is the same? I noticed this also happens with Arabic, since a lot of Spanish words are Arabic in root and were adapted into the Spanish language during and after the Arabic and Moor invasion of Spain which lasted 800 years I believe.

Posted on Dec 23, 2010 3:44:11 AM PST
Me too. Studying Hebrew and Arabic and Spanish somehow keeps showing up.
We have also used Sign Language with our last 2 babies and with my 20 month old I have used the Baby Can Read program. He was reading words at 11 months using sign and early words. Now he can say anything. He is like a sponge and will repeat anything and uses full sentences and big words in the right context. Why am I mentioning this? Because I think the more ways you explore a thing, then the more your brain grabs onto it.
If you are learning the word "ball" in any language, wouldn't you remember it better if you see the word ball written in the language of choice alongside a picture of a ball as opposed to just the word?
What if you added hearing someone else say the word in your chosen language and you then held a ball and repeated the word for ball?
What if you did worksheets or maybe have a CD Rom where you could do multiple choice and matching for the word and object you are learning?
What if while you said the word ball in English you made the sign for ball so often that you began to sign it without thinking about it. Then while you say the word ball in Spanish you also do the sign for it. Additionally while you say the word ball in Hebrew or Arabic or whatever language you then can sign the word and say the word in the various languages and still you, and your little one, knows that you are talking about a ball!

I think the Spanish comes back to us because it is just one more way to explore the new words we are learning. Our brains like it. Also Spanish, Hebrew, and Arabic are all gender specific languages so it is a matter of familiarity.

My little one that I referred to can sing the Alphabet and count to 14 (sort of), sing the Alef Bet and count from achat to eser, and sing the Alif Ba Ta. He also uses various words in Hebrew and Arabic. He seems to go between the languages with ease and I tell him also if a word is Hebrew or Arabic. He seems to understand and will talk about watching Arabic School or Hebrew School videos. Stuff from Youtube.

When we were in Israel recently I was amazed at how easily our Arabic driver could switch between the English, Hebrew, and Arabic and he taught me a lot. I asked him what happens if you get the two languages mixed up and he said " You have an accident!" Not something you want to do over there.

Posted on Jan 26, 2011 10:13:43 AM PST
For me, studying Latin linked to English in my mind but studying French got mixed up with Spanish. So for me, it depends on the language.

Posted on Mar 6, 2011 4:44:37 PM PST
Red Irish says:
Unfortunately, I do not have that luck with languages. I am a native English speaker. And, I have studied Spanish, Latin, Greek, and Chinese (Mandarin). I have completely lost Latin and Greek. And, now that I am focused more on Chinese, my Spanish is slowly slipping away. -- Best of luck.
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Discussion in:  Language forum
Participants:  11
Total posts:  14
Initial post:  Aug 14, 2009
Latest post:  Mar 6, 2011

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