Multilingual Mastery: How Many Languages Can You Learn?
Have you ever wondered how many languages you can learn throughout your entire life? Multilingualism is a real thing!
You’ll be amazed at the capacity of the human brain to memorize languages and how fluent a person can be in two, four, or even more than five languages.
In this article, we will explore multilingualism, its challenges, misconceptions, and its benefits.
Let’s get started!
Join 559 million people on the planet who speak Spanish!
Sign up for your free trial Spanish class today. ➡️
What Does It Mean to Be Multilingual in Today’s World?
According to the European Commission, multilingualism is “the ability of societies, institutions, groups, and individuals to engage, regularly, with more than one language in their day-to-day lives.”
There are several reasons why multilingualism has evolved so rapidly with globalization.
Some of those are internal and external migration, climate change, increase in new technologies, and teaching languages in schools due to countries’ political, social, and economic history.
For example, the classes in the schools are much more diverse in linguistics than in previous decades since many students come from families whose members speak different languages.
Although multilingualism is mainly associated with migration, it should also be considered that some countries or regions speak more than two languages.
A clear example is Switzerland, which has four official languages: French, Italian, Swiss-German and Romance.
This is because Switzerland borders Italy, France, and Germany, and it’s in those specific regions that people speak these languages.
Being multilingual in today’s world offers many advantages and strengthens essential social and professional skills in people who embark on this path.
We recommend: Unpacking the Benefits of Translanguaging
The Ability of Human Brains to Learn Languages
The case of Nathaniel Drew and the interaction with his multilingual grandmother is one of the many that we can now see on social networks. In the video linked above, you can see him talking with his polyglot grandmother.
It’s a clear example that you can learn several languages no matter how old you are.
We know that learning a second or third language can benefit the brain. However, we can also experience that, in some instances, the grammar and accents can be mixed.
Researcher Mathieu Declerck, from the Vrije Universiteit in Brussels, has found that when a person wants to speak, all the languages they know become active at the same time.
So, when a person who knows several languages wants to say “apple,” at the same time, “manzana,” “mela,” and “pomme” pops in his head.
It becomes much more complicated when the languages are very similar, such as Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Italian.
However, keeping all the languages active is not as bad as it seems since it makes our brains more efficient and has greater cognitive control when engaging in a conversation.
In addition, scientists rely on the theory called cognitive compensation.
This theory argues that when a person knows two or more languages, it uses the neural connections it created when learning a language to compensate for brain deterioration.
Factors That Influence Language Learning
We all know that each person learns at their own pace; we saw it at school with our students or at the university with our classmates.
But some aspects influence positively and negatively when learning a second or third language.
It’s inevitable to change some of these factors that impact the learning process, such as the age at which you learn, what is your native language, or even your personality.
However, there are other factors that you can control, such as environmental, emotional, cognitive, affective, personal, and cultural factors.
Age, for example, plays an important role when learning a new language. The younger the people, the higher the level of proficiency they’ll reach.
Children have a more flexible brain and are ready to absorb all knowledge, naturally understand the language they’re learning, and even gain a native-like sense.
It doesn’t mean you cannot learn a new language as an adult, especially since you’ll have a more mature brain to understand complex grammatical structures that help comprehension and conversation.
The native language also impacts how fast you learn a foreign language.
Usually, languages similar to your mother tongue will make you spend less time learning them. For example, English speakers need approximately 600 hours of classes to learn Spanish.
Cognitive factors connect with your mind and help you learn a new language. Those who have high intelligence, memory, and language aptitude will be able to learn languages faster as they’ll have the necessary skills.
We will find feelings, values, beliefs, and attitudes toward language learning in the affective factors. Motivation influences your willingness to undertake and continue learning a foreign language.
Personality factors influence how much you want to expose yourself and interact with the new language you’re learning.
Your personality will dictate what language learning activities you prefer to be in contact with the language if you prefer to receive online, face-to-face, group, or individual classes, etc.
Environmental factors can influence where and how you’ll learn a language.
Some people prefer to learn in immersive situations where they gain fluency and strong communication skills but low levels of grammatical knowledge.
Some people prefer more traditional environments, such as face-to-face classes in academies. These persons manage to have good grammar and vocabulary but find it challenging to apply it in real situations or with native people.
And finally, there are the cultural and social factors that include feeling accepted by the community of the language you’re learning. This affects the motivation to learn the language and the level of success you’ll have.
Challenges and Misconceptions of Multilingual Learning
Many myths surround learning multiple languages since we have all experienced learning a second language or even dialects at some point.
But it’s important to know about these challenges and misconceptions to know how to demystify them and thus motivate people to continue learning.
One of these myths is that raising children with multilingualism causes language delay. This theory suggests that each language is stored in the brain in separate compartments with limited space.
This means the brain cannot retain as much information, so it takes out the other language learned, including its mother tongue.
This myth has been debunked and dismissed after decades of research.
Studies indicate that language delay is caused by other reasons that have nothing to do with the fact that the person or child speaks more than one language.
What this research has shown is that multilingual children achieve educational goals at the same time as monolinguals.
So, keep teaching them as many languages as possible!
Another misconception is that multilingualism causes identity problems. People have even said it causes emotional instability, split personality, and even schizophrenia! What?
This myth was caused by harsh practices where students were punished for speaking their mother tongue in school playgrounds or asking for help with translation during class lessons.
The result? Many children were forced to stop speaking their native language and thus hide an essential part of their identity and acquire an alien culture they failed to understand and recognize fully.
Through many centuries, language has encapsulated societies’ historical and cultural experiences.
And even more importantly, language reflects an individual’s internal emotional and mental state, allowing them to express who they are, their past, and where they’re going.
These are just a few examples of the challenges that language learners face and that, little by little, have been demystified.
Benefits of Multilingualism
Learning more than one language has many benefits in the globalized world we live in today.
Some benefits are mental flexibility with task switching, delayed cognitive signs of brain aging, and the onset of illnesses like Alzheimer’s.
You’ll also have socio-cultural benefits such as increased development of empathy, understanding of other cultures, global awareness, reduced discrimination, improved self-esteem, and better connections to heritage cultures.
In the economic benefits, we can mention having better job opportunities in private, public, local, and international sectors and greater opportunities to create your own businesses, among others.
In the academic and educational benefits, we find the improvement of academic performance that extends to university studies, better learning in subjects other than language, and promotes greater creativity, reasoning, and abstract thinking.
Tips for Managing Multiple Languages
It’s one thing to learn one or two languages, but if you’ve decided to learn many more and become a polyglot or even a hyperpolyglot, you’ll need to know how to be fluent in and maintain multiple languages at the same time.
So, we share some tips to manage all the languages you want to learn simultaneously.
A tip that will surely help you differentiate them is associating each language with a different routine. For example, you can listen to music in Spanish in the gym and watch movies in German on Friday nights.
Use different personalities when you’re practicing each language.
If you act or think a certain way when you’re learning Japanese, your brain will not identify it with the personality you have when you speak your native language.
Make a structured annual calendar and dedicate a defined time to each language.
You can spend two months learning and reviewing Spanish and then organize your summer vacation in Brazil to save three weeks in Portuguese.
Put in the balance the priority of learning several languages at the same time or if it’s better to learn one at a time. If you want to prioritize fluency, learning one language at a time is safest until you reach your desired goal.
If you decide to learn several languages simultaneously, then we recommend that you organize your schedule very well for the week and soak up as much as possible in each one.
For example, you can read the news in different languages. French on Monday. Danish on Tuesday. Spanish on Wednesday, and so on.
Make friends who are native speakers of the languages you’re learning and keep in touch to practice as long as possible.
Plus, by making friends worldwide, you’ll have a place to stay if you want to visit! It’s a win-win situation!
Learn Spanish and Boost Your Multilingualism Skills
Language learning can be fascinating! It’ll open many doors for you in the professional field.
You’ll be able to travel to all parts of the world and appreciate the different cultures and traditions of places you never imagined knowing.
Be sure to plan your next steps in multilingualism to make the most of your skills and meet realistic goals.
And if you don’t know which language to start with, we suggest you do it with Spanish since it’s the second most spoken language in the United States and the fourth worldwide, after Chinese and Hindi.
At Homeschool Spanish Academy, we can help you speak Spanish from your very first class through a first-rate, expert curriculum.
We have native Spanish-speaking Guatemalan teachers with student-tailored Spanish programs ready to teach you.
We’ve been teaching Spanish for over ten years, and that’s why our students love our 5-star instruction.
Your future is waiting for you! We’re here to support you!
Join one of the 40,000 classes that we teach each month and you can experience results like these
“This is the best way for your kid to learn Spanish. It’s one-on-one, taught by native Spanish speakers, and uses a curriculum.”
– Sharon K, Parent of 3
“It’s a great way to learn Spanish, from native Spanish speakers in a 1-on-1 environment. It’s been fairly easy to schedule classes around my daughter’s other classes. The best value for us has been ordering multiple classes at a time. All the instructors have been great!”
– Cindy D, Parent of 3
“HSA offers very affordable, quality, one on one classes with a native speaker. My son has greatly benefited from taking classes. We have seen his confidence increase as well as his pronunciation improve because he learns from a native Spanish speaker. HSA has quick, personal customer service. Our family has been very pleased with our experience so far!”
– Erica P. Parent of 1
Want more free Spanish lessons, fun content, and easy learning strategies? Check these out!
- Talk About Hurricanes And The Weather in Spanish
- Spanish Words with Multiple Meanings in Latin America
- The Beauty of Spanish Sign Language
- World Mental Health Day: A Vocabulary Guide for Mental Health Workers
- 7 Powerful Reasons Why Bilingualism in Children MattersPowerful Reasons Why Bilingualism in Children Matters
- Multilingual Mastery: How Many Languages Can You Learn?
- Expressing Appreciation in Spanish on World Teachers’ Day
- The Journey of Becoming Trilingual
- What Is the Hispanic Scholarship Fund? Is It Legit? - November 30, 2023
- The End of the Year Vacation Guide 2023 You Were Looking For - November 17, 2023
- How Did All Saints Day Celebrations Started? - November 8, 2023