Language Learning, Article 27: Keeping up one foreign language while learning another. By David Bolton
Memorization for Foreign Language Learning



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  Keeping up one foreign language while learning another

Today, there are more and more people who have already learned one foreign language – at least up to a certain point – and have decided to begin to learn another. Is this being overly ambitious? Hardly. I know some people who can effortlessly speak three or four languages, and of course, if they can do so, so could you, provided you invested the time and effort needed to reach fluency in each foreign language you take on.

Naturally, one problem you will face if you study even one foreign language is how to maintain the level you have achieved. After spending a few months in another country, for example, your skills in a language may be at their peak, yet if after that sojourn, you return home and don’t practice the language at all, you will soon find that you are forgetting words, expressions, and even points of grammar. Thus, it is a good idea to plan to maintain your level as much as you can by practicing your new language on a regular basis. At the very least, you can read a few pages every day in that tongue, just so you don’t lose contact with it.

I do this regularly for German, Spanish and French. In addition, if I meet people from a country where they speak German or Spanish, I automatically speak to them in their language (I only do this with French if the French person doesn’t speak English, for my spoken French is still very basic).

One tip I would like to give you here has shown itself to be very useful for me. When I learn a new language, I like to use a book that is based on a foreign language that I already know pretty well. For instance, one of the books I am using to learn Japanese is based on French – that is, it was written for French people to learn Japanese. Since I can read French very well, this isn’t a problem, and allows me to keep up my French while acquiring knowledge of Japanese.

By doing this, I not only learn Japanese, but can get in a lot of practice with French as well. Of course, at times I might see a Japanese-to-French translation that I don’t understand – one that uses a French idiom with which I am unfamiliar, for example. No problem: I just look it up, and have soon added that new idiom to my knowledge of French.

Another thing you might want to try to improve your foreign language skills is the opposite of this technique.

If, for example, you are relatively comfortable with Spanish, then get a Spanish-based book that teaches English to Spanish speakers. Naturally, you will understand all the English! The point here is that you will then see how English grammar, syntax, etc. can be explained to native Spanish speakers in their own language. This will increase your knowledge of Spanish quite a bit, and in addition, will prepare you to teach English to native Spanish speakers, which in turn can create new job possibilities for you - and teaching English as a foreign language can be both fun, and rewarding!

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