Will learning a new language interfere with the ones you already speak?

Montero

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I was particularly taken by this pop up article as I learned French at school - got there in the end, then when I learned German I found that I was mixing German vocab into French when taking a test - Grun instead of Vert for green.
Then I had a conversation with a friend with multilingual parents, who'd tried to raise both their kids multi-lingual and instead she'd finished up speaking English and Foreign (mish mash of everything) and her brother was genuinely multi-lingual and had added on more as an adult.
Anyway, it isn't just me that has problems.
 
Happened to me with a computer 'language' back in the sixties.

The machine I was working on was programmed in machine code. The code for 'add' was '17' and although I didn't speak it I started thinking '17' when I intended to think 'add'.

When I moved onto new equipment it took a couple of months for the habit to fade away.
 
Sometimes you get things mixed-up. It happens, just like you sometimes can mix up words within one and the same language.
When someone is asking me something in Dutch while I'm reading an English book, I am prone to answering in English. There's much that can go awry between brain and mouth.
Our brains work through association. It's not as if you can compartmentalize your brain into sections 'English' and 'Random Other Language' and make sure you have the correct reference or cross-reference.
It does get tricky when you have to translate from one foreign language into another foreign language.
 
Huh, that is really interesting on computer language and verbal languages. I know my mind works a lot on association - sometimes very sideways association - but hadn't quite appreciated that was standard (not saying I'm special or anything, but I can go sideways through association faster than almost anyone I know).


When I am tired my head does group words - so trying to ask "have you turned on the cooker" my head flips though all the rectangular kitchen appliances and there may be a pause while I frustratedly have a picture of the cooker in my head and wait for brain to go past fridge, dishwasher and washing machine and reach cooker. On occasion I might quit and say "hot thing that cooks food". (Shortly followed by "oh ****** cooker")
 
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I learned French at school and became competent enough subsequently to be able to have casual conversations when travelling in France. Very helpful.
I have learned Welsh as an adult to the point of fluency ( it is my wife’s first language.) The kids are all completely bilingual. At home we speak a Welsh-English hybrid, without really thinking. It works perfectly well with all the other welsh- English families we know.
The problem, however, is France. My French is badly corrupted by my Welsh. I invariably lapse into a Welsh French hybrid, which is of very limited utility. This is almost involuntary.

On the other hand, I know a number of translators who can switch perfectly between 2 or 3 languages other than their mother tongue.
 
I believe it helps if you learn multiple languages as a kid. As an adult it takes longer and it's advisable to stick to learning one language and constantly using it or it will fade. Some polyglots will say that the more languages you know, the easier it is to learn a new one. I'm not sure if any of them tried to learn Japanese!
 
I believe it helps if you learn multiple languages as a kid. As an adult it takes longer and it's advisable to stick to learning one language and constantly using it or it will fade. Some polyglots will say that the more languages you know, the easier it is to learn a new one. I'm not sure if any of them tried to learn Japanese!
Though not everyone is capable of being a polyglot - e.g. the lady I mentioned earlier up in the thread where she and her brother grew up in the same multi lingual environment, he is a polyglot, she is like @hitmouse

I do wonder though whether new hybrid languages like English, came into being because of people like @hitmouse and me. I do remember hearing a theory in a documentary that it came into being along the boundaries between anglo saxon and celtic England, and was often a trade language and gradually spread from there.
 
I'm currently lerning French by the totally unscientific method of reading French comic books and listening to French talk radio in the hope that some of it sticks. Surprisingly enough it seems to be working and I can now just about struggle through a simple fiction pulp paperback without recourse to the dictionary too often. I wouldn't like to inflict my spoken French on anyone and when I write to people it is always well filtered through spellcheckers and Google Translate before I hit send.
The one thing I have noticed is my understanding of English has improved immeasurably. A lot of English comes from French and pennies are always dropping in my head as to where english words and usage comes from as I learn their French equivalents.
 
A long time ago I was at Ostend Station (as in Belgium) on my way to Germany from England. I helped direct an English couple to their onward train. Then a German person (I'd learnt German from my mother). Then a French person (I'd learnt French at school). Then someone came along in what I can only describe was a mix of German, French and English and directed them to their train. I can only assume it was either Dutch or Flemish.

On another occasion I was speaking Swedish with a couple of strangers while on holiday in Sweden. They asked if I was from the district Skane in southwest Sweden. I told them I was English. It turned out I was speaking Swedish with a dialect veering towards German pronunciation.

Let's just say I've led an eclectic life!
 
@Serendipity a few years after school I had a weekend in Paris. I learned French and German at school, and then when I had to do a humanities module in the science course, I re-did German. So a year or so after that course, there I was in Paris managing to speak some basic French - and I was asked if I was German.
 
My stepmom (British) was a coloratura soprano. Among other places she studied at La Scala and had good stage Italian. Years later my family moved to France. The stereotype that the French are very parochial about their language was true in my experience.

An amusing thing was that on first meeting many French they KNEW that mom was actually Italian because they could hear the carryover of that accent. As I had lived in Paris as a kid I could sometimes get by in simple conversation .
They were a little confused however when we were together as a family as my dad actually spoke the best French of any of us - with a noticeable Oklahoma accent.
 
Though not everyone is capable of being a polyglot - e.g. the lady I mentioned earlier up in the thread where she and her brother grew up in the same multi lingual environment, he is a polyglot, she is like @hitmouse

I do wonder though whether new hybrid languages like English, came into being because of people like @hitmouse and me. I do remember hearing a theory in a documentary that it came into being along the boundaries between anglo saxon and celtic England, and was often a trade language and gradually spread from there.

I had a friend - I haven't seen him for years so I guess the past tense is justified - who grew up speaking one of the Frisian languages and I think also spoke Danish (and possibly Dutch) and had lived in Germany for many years. His English was impressively good too but, whenever he couldn't think of the word he needed in English, he seemed to have this knack of fishing in his memory for the name of the thing in whichever language he had first encountered it and translating that into English. There were some real creative word salad moments but they always made sense. You understood what the thing he was talking about was.

I wish I could remember more but the only one that has stuck and become part of my vocabulary, and by association and usage, part of my family's was a word he created while were doing a plumbing job. We found we needed to connect a larger diameter pipe to a smaller one.

"What we need," he said, "is a reducimiser."
 
I speak several languages and have definitely experienced this phenomenon where I get “stuck in the wrong gear.” Like if I have been mostly using Spanish and then need instead to speak Russian I find that Spanish words pop into my head and have to stop myself from making some horribly incomprehensible mongrel sentences. Once I get back into the flow of a particular language the intrusions stop.

I have a secret worry that when I am old and demented (which I will be, runs in the family) no one will understand anything I say.
 
A long time ago I was at Ostend Station (as in Belgium) on my way to Germany from England. I helped direct an English couple to their onward train. Then a German person (I'd learnt German from my mother). Then a French person (I'd learnt French at school). Then someone came along in what I can only describe was a mix of German, French and English and directed them to their train. I can only assume it was either Dutch or Flemish.

On another occasion I was speaking Swedish with a couple of strangers while on holiday in Sweden. They asked if I was from the district Skane in southwest Sweden. I told them I was English. It turned out I was speaking Swedish with a dialect veering towards German pronunciation.

Let's just say I've led an eclectic life!
I’ve had similar experience in Germany. Germans accuse me of being from all sorts of places based on my accent in German, but won’t believe i’m just from U.S. Once at a party some guy kept making jokes about Bavaria kind of targeted at me, and I finally asked what he was on about and he refused to believe I was not Bavarian and had never been there.
 
The one thing I have noticed is my understanding of English has improved immeasurably. A lot of English comes from French and pennies are always dropping in my head as to where english words and usage comes from as I learn their French equivalents.
That is the bit about learning languages I really enjoy. I remember it was probably in German class, the teacher talking about the word "window".
French fenetre (with circumflex), German fenster, Latin fenestrum, English window - seems to be some disagreement as to whether it is a wind eye or a wind door (internet says the first, teacher said the second).
I like learning things like sinster is left, and sinister derives from that and a suspicion of left handed people, and then that leads into a left handed Scottish family that built their castle's spiral staircases the other way around, so they were suitable for a lefty in defence mode.

While I grew up with English as a primary language, my father was of a generation that tended to drop French and Latin phrases/words into the conversation and that actually helps with working out what unknown words might be. (He'd use things like: Vis-a-vis, bon mot, and many more that my mind just can't remember this morning)
 
I’ve had similar experience in Germany. Germans accuse me of being from all sorts of places based on my accent in German, but won’t believe i’m just from U.S. Once at a party some guy kept making jokes about Bavaria kind of targeted at me, and I finally asked what he was on about and he refused to believe I was not Bavarian and had never been there.
Actual occurrence,
My former boss, born in the USA, whose family had never spoken anything but English in his experience, had to hospitalize his mother.
The family origins were Slovak. In the hospital his mother suddenly started to speak accentless Hungarian. While Cleveland has pockets of just about every imaginable ethnicity, they had never had any Hungarian neighbors that he had heard of, even in his mother's childhood. The person who they called in said that the mom's Hungarian had a rural accent. After three weeks she reverted to English. When asked about it (she wasn't too rational) she denied ever having had any Hungarian connection or having heard the language.
 
My dad was from Hungary, and he could speak fairly decent German too. But even when he was in his 80's he still had a difficult time with English.
He never taught me Hungarian or German.

On another true-life event, my good friend and his parents all spoke Ukranian, Russian (And yes, they are different.) Spanish, Italian and English.
His dad was Ukranian and also spoke German and Russian. Mom was Argentinian and spoke Ukranian and English. He was Born in Argentina, raised in Ukranian, and schooled up to his mid-teens in Russa before they moved/escaped/fleed to the US.

Every conversation with his mom is mainly in English, maybe Spanish or Ukranian. But just one language and mainly English.

With his dad, on the other hand, every conversation had each sentence a mixed-up mash of Ukranian, Spanish and English. Very interesting to listen to. But if in all that something was lost in translation, the two would switch to Russian or Italian or a mix of the two. Then back to the Ukranian, Spanish and English mash-up they went.

His dad would never speak German here in the States. Nor would he speak English on its own, but he fully understood English when you spoke to him. But he always answered me back in Ukrainian or Spanish. I should have taken Spanish in school.
 

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