Our language learners often ask: Will I mix my languages up if I pick up a new one?
Although personal experiences always vary, human beings are designed to be good at ‘code switching’, and confusing your two languages is almost never as big a deal as it appears. If your goal is fast fluency, then perhaps stick to one and then pick up the other, once you feel good enough at your first, generally around an upper-intermediate level. At a minimum, you should be capable of continuing to study your first language without grammar lessons.
Is it possible to learn a language through a partner or friend?
Yes it s, but you should be careful. There are two pitfalls to avoid:
– Don’t let your relationship revolve around giving you language practice. This can become cumbersome for the native speaker and can lead to conflict over time. While it might be beneficial for you, your partner may find it tiring, and prefer to communicate with you in a way that is more comfortable to them.
– Don’t let your language learning be beholden to a single person. This can place an unnecessary burden on your partner and cause you to fail if they ever change their mind.
To avoid these pitfalls, language learning always needs to be both self-motivated and self-directed. If it isn’t, your language learning will depend on the other person and consequently your progress will be dictated by their willingness and availability to help you practice. Make sure you have multiple speakers whom you know and can can practice with, as well as doing plenty of study at your desk or otherwise independently from your partner or friend.
To avoid putting strain on your relationship, if you do ask for help, a good idea is to set aside set amounts of time for you to try to communicate in your target language. The extent in which you can spend more time in your target language will depend on both their willingness and your language level. Feel free to discuss and work out something that works for you both of you – every relationship is different.
There are at least three main reasons why multilingual skills give students an academic edge.
Multilingual skills help students to activate their prior knowledge, which positively affects the process of understanding new knowledge. Prior knowledge here refers to the knowledge and experiences that students have previously acquired at schools and home.
Much research has shown that this pre-existing knowledge greatly benefits them in understanding new knowledge. This is evidenced by a growing number of educational researchers and practitioners grappling with bridging the gap between home and school contexts.
Prior knowledge plays a critical role in increasing academic achievement mainly because it can harness students’ curiosity, increase their attention, and help them to interpret, evaluate and encode new information.
In other words, failing to activate this prior knowledge will likely result in the students being demotivated and less engaged in the lessons.
One pertinent question might arise in light of this explanation: how do we activate this prior knowledge? This is where multilingual skills play a crucial role.
Prior knowledge is encoded in the totality of the students’ linguistic repertoire, which consists of words, phrases and sentences from their first, second, third languages, and so on. To put it simply, to activate prior knowledge optimally, it’s a must to tap into your full linguistic repertoire. Imposing the rule of only using one language will only activate the knowledge embedded in that one specific language, if at all. This will make it a bit harder for to process and understand new knowledge.
Much research has shown that multilingual practices are effective in building and maintaining relationships. For example, a study has found multilingual practices in the classroom helped students to have a good rapport with their teachers and thus a better understanding of the materials.
Moreover, multilingual skills help increase our overall well-being, which is a key factor in successful learning. Well-being plays an important role in academic performance. This is mainly because positive emotions help us to be more attentive, persistent and focused.
Language and emotions are closely related. The more languages one speaks, the easier it is to express one’s emotions. This means that using rich linguistic resources in your learning will help you develop positive emotions and well-being.