Research shows that there are three essential processes to learning a new language: comprehensible input (hearing or reading content in that language and trying to understand it); comprehensible output (speaking or writing in the language); and review (going back over what you have learned, and – hopefully! – improving). The more you practise these three building blocks, the more your fluency and comprehension will improve in your chosen language. But what about when you want to learn a third – or fourth, or fifth – language? How can your existing skills benefit your future language-learning efforts?
In this article, we explore how learning a new language can speed up the process of acquiring more languages further down the line, and the tangible benefits to your brain – and to your business.
You have worked hard and devoted your time and energy to learning a second language. So why not go a step further and learn a third, or more? A polyglot is someone who can speak several languages. Before you know it your enthusiasm for languages may land you in polyglot territory, with a handful of languages to your name. (To be inspired by some famous polyglots, as well as discover some language-learning tips from renowned polyglots in the language-learning space, check out this article.)
If you aspire to learn multiple languages, remember this vitally important point to encourage and motivate you: you have already mastered a foreign language, so you already have the skills you need to acquire another one. You know what mistakes to anticipate, what learning methods work best for you, and what resources are available to help you on your way.
We recently explored some tips to help get you started when learning a new language, and these are just as relevant whether you are learning your second, third or fourth language! And if you need more encouragement to build from a second language, you may find that learning a third language is easier than learning your second (read on to find out more!).
It is fair to say that certain languages share certain characteristics, so learning a ‘similar’ language to the one you are now proficient in will hopefully prove easier this time around. For example, Latin is the basis for the ‘Romance’ languages, which include French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian. So, if you already know Spanish, learning Italian may feel like a natural next step for you, as the languages share many characteristics in their vocabulary and grammar.
Germanic languages (German, Dutch and English) are not quite so mutually understandable (many people are surprised to discover that English has its roots in German, although it has been heavily influenced by French and Latin). German and English follow the same word order, and many of the most common words in English are Germanic in origin – plus, they share some grammatical rules. If you are fluent in German or English as your second language, Dutch may be a good third choice.
So, if you want to expand your linguistic repertoire, choosing a language from the same ‘family’ is a good idea, as you may find that you are already familiar with the basics. And if your appetite is whetted for all these fascinating language links, we explore the connections between different languages in much more detail in this article.
A word of advice before we move on: only start learning a third language after you feel confident with your second, otherwise things can get pretty confusing! (However, if you are determined to tackle two languages at once, check out this weigh-up of the pros and cons of doing so here.)
A Journey for Your Brain
In a previous article, we explored the amazing benefits to your brain of learning a language, such as improved information processing, multitasking and memory retention. If you invest in language learning for your employees, the subsequent impact on your business is not only measured in smoother international operations and communication – you may find you are quite literally improving the brains behind your business!
Some more good news to end on: research shows that people who can already speak two languages (bilingual) find it simpler next time around to learn a third, and those who can speak multiple languages (multilingual) find it easier to acquire another new language than bilinguals. Prior experience of moving through the stages of learning a new language makes it easier to do so again – a phenomenon catchily entitled ‘the cumulative-enhancement model of language acquisition’. Try translating that into your chosen new language!
If you feel inspired to find out more about learning a new language, contact us today. We provide a range of training courses and can offer all our courses online, whether you are starting with a second language or looking to build on a multilingual base!