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August 13, 2012 |

Why be a beginner in multiple languages?

So, as I learn more Swedish, my Norwegian reading comprehension improves exponentially. It's really quite incredible. My knowledge of Dutch also helps a ton in this regard, for all three are Germanic languages. I'd say about 1 out of every 3 words in Swedish looks/sounds close enough to its Dutch equivalent that I can recognize it immediately. But Norwegians are cheaters! When they don't want me to understand them, they just switch to writing or speaking nynorsk instead of bokml. D:

I want to take this post to explain why I've switched between a lot of languages lately. This is my personal learning style, and it works quite well: I learn a few languages to beginner level, then maintain them before upping to the next level. In the meantime, I get myself comfortable with another language. What is the benefit of this? Language intelligibility. A fantastic example would be Norwegian and Swedish, or even Dutch and Swedish; if you learn one, your knowledge of the other increases simultaneously. Knowing and recognizing basic words and phrases in a lot of different languages means I can recognize the Latinate or Germanic origins of tongues that are closely related. My Spanish greatly aided my French and Esperanto; my English helped significantly with my Dutch.

For the most part, however, I prefer to stick with one language for multiple months while occasionally working on maintaining my knowledge of the others. For example, I still learn a Dutch word or two every now and then, but I'm mainly focused on Swedish. If I was seriously handling more than just one - especially two very related languages - I'd get very confused! This is why I advise to maintain your lesser tongues, but to stick with one main language at a time.




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