On learning many languages

The following is an exchange on The Linguist Forum.


a question from your book
Posted: Mar 12, 2005 12:22 PM

My name is Zhen-ting. I bought your book about six months ago and found your

language-learning journey fascinating! I read your book “the linguist” from cover to cover

and totally agree with your point of view. You said that one has to learn his or her target

language intensively so that he or she can master it in short time. This is exactly what I

do when I try to master a foreign language as quickly as possible.
But a question emerges. Let’s take you as an example: how can you maintain the

fluency of your already-learnt language(s) when you’re are involved and

devoted in learning your new one(s)? Since you spent most of your times learning

Chinese in Hong Kong, what did you do to prevent your French from getting rusty?

Please be so kind to reply this mail to me because I want to learn French and Italian

well without forgetting English. I thank you in advanced.



Posts: 60
Registered: Sep 24, 2004

Re: a question from your book
Posted: Mar 12, 2005 8:04 PM

Hi Zhen-ting,

The more languages you learn, the better you get at languages. If you do not read or listen in a language it will get rusty. However, when you go back to studying it again, it will come back quickly. If you have been studying other languages in the meantime, you may even find that you are better in those languages that you have been neglecting.

I always keep lots of material around in different languages, books, CDs etc. These are my language worlds for different languages. When I lived in Japan in the 1970s I never spoke Chinese. When I got back to Vancouver I started to listen to my tapes again and read my books again. Chinese came back stronger than ever.

Do not worry. Learn as many languages as you want. Create your own little language worlds in each of these languages and go back to them from time to time.

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