Author Topic: Advice for a Journalist re French/Spanish/Arabic?  (Read 885 times)

Offline nphillips0304

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Advice for a Journalist re French/Spanish/Arabic?
« on: August 02, 2015, 09:00:55 AM »
Greetings all,

I come to you experts with a problem. I'm a journalist who is already highly proficient in two romance languages, French and Spanish. For professional reasons, I'm about to attempt to learn Modern Standard Arabic (and yes, I'm aware it's an elevated register that's not spoken on the street).

My question is this: If I try to maintain the first two languages and learn the third all on a daily basis, will I get them all mixed up? In other words, is it better for an adult acquirer to simply focus on one language at a time?

Thanks very much,

Nick

Offline Copernicus

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Re: Advice for a Journalist re French/Spanish/Arabic?
« Reply #1 on: August 02, 2015, 08:21:27 PM »
Hi, Nick.  Language learning is largely a function of age and mental agility.  There are linguists who can hardly speak any language other than their native language, and there are non-linguists who have good command of several languages.  It won't hurt you to try.  I'm a year away from 70, but I've picked up a pretty good passive command of Italian over the past two years.  That is primarily because I've worked hard on vocabulary and traveled to Italy several times.  Knowing French and Spanish definitely helped, but they get in the way of Italian.   :)  However, my ability to retain vocabulary, especially for active use, degraded steadily as I grew older. 

In my experience, the key to learning a new language is primarily in building up your vocabulary, because that gives you the ability to understand more of the language, even if your conversational skills are lacking.  If you keep at it, your progress will be steady, even at an advanced age.  Here's the thing, though.  Arabic is sufficiently different from the other languages that you know that your progress may be slower than you wish.  You won't have a lot of vocabulary from related languages to interfere or help.  So be patient and keep at it.
« Last Edit: August 02, 2015, 08:24:18 PM by Copernicus »

Offline Daniel

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Re: Advice for a Journalist re French/Spanish/Arabic?
« Reply #2 on: August 02, 2015, 09:09:32 PM »
You will always mix things up a bit, but that's normal, and it isn't a major problem in general. Languages like Spanish and French are much easier to mix up also, so you already know what that is like. Arabic is different enough that in general you won't mix it up much with the others. So I think this should be fine. Personally I find that studying languages at different levels makes it easy as well. If you're a beginning in Arabic and you know French and Spanish pretty well, it should not be too confusing. If you start Arabic and Hebrew at the same time, then, yes, you would confuse them a lot. But what you're describing shouldn't be a problem at all!

In general, the number of languages you study, especially at the same time, has a major effect on the speed you learn them, I think. So it depends on your goals. If your goal is just to learn the basics, there's nothing wrong with studying 5 at the same time (I've done that), but if you want to become fluent and speak a language really well, it's best to only study that one at the time and also to live somewhere where it is spoken.

In summary, what you're describing does not sound like a problem.
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