Why Spanish Should Be Your First Step to Becoming a Polyglot
Polyglots are cool. But what are they?
Well, that’s the topic of this article, and it has to do with speaking several languages.
However, if someone plans to become a polyglot, which path should they follow? Which language should they start with?
Keep reading to learn about polyglots, what the term means, and why Spanish is considered the perfect language to learn first.
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What’s a Polyglot?
A polyglot is “a person who speaks or understands many languages.” These days you may also hear someone referring to polyglots as “multilingual people.”
There are a few famous polyglots out there that explain and promote the benefits of speaking several languages.
People such as Lydia Machová, Olly Richards, and Benny Lewis share their love for languages and their personalized methods to learn them.
But why would someone want to become a polyglot?
Well, think about all the benefits and impressive reasons to learn Spanish, and then just multiply them by the number of languages you decide to master.
The real question is, why would someone not want to become a polyglot?
Why Is Spanish Considered a “Gateway Language”?
Let’s say that you have already decided that you want to become a polyglot. So now, the next question is where to start, right?
Spanish is the perfect departure point on your quest to become a polyglot, as it’s long been considered a “gateway language” for several reasons.
Studies have shown that Spanish “functions as a gateway to the rapid acquisition of the cognate languages of French, Italian, and/or Portuguese.”
That’s because when you learn a language from the same family as another language you already speak, the acquisition time is shortened as you’ll find many grammar similarities.
Furthermore, for Benny Lewis, a.k.a. “The Irish Polyglot,” “Spanish is the gateway language to the global self.”
Those are some big words right there!
A Bit of Language History
Linguists have discovered that all languages “may be able to trace their roots back to a common tongue spoken thousands of years ago,” which is impressive.
But, if that’s true, how come we ended up with this diverse and eclectic mix of so many languages spoken throughout the planet? Well, that’s because languages also evolve with time, just as natural species do.
Let’s take Latin, for example. Latin was the language spoken in ancient Rome, which was simply one of several Indo-European languages.
The importance of the Roman Empire in the ancient world can’t be underestimated. It was huge, imposing, and played an important role in Antiquity.
The culture of Rome was exported all over the Mediterranean basin in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. As a result, the people conquered by the Romans adopted their customs, traditions, and language.
With the fall of Rome in 476 a.D., this cultural domination ended, but Latin stayed.
Over the centuries that followed, the Latin spoken by the people living in the Iberian peninsula and Romania started changing from the Latin spoken in Italy.
Eventually, these differences grew so big that people started considering their versions of Latin as new and unique languages in themselves.
The Romance Languages
In a nutshell, that’s how romance languages were formed. These languages evolved from ancient Latin; their names simply mean “Roman languages.”
The main languages of the family are “French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Romanian,” with Catalan, Galician, Sicilian, and other non-national languages also included.
Because all these languages evolved from a single ancient language, mainly Latin, they shared many similarities.
Lots of words are basically the same, there are plenty of cognates too, and their grammar functions similarly.
Spanish as a Stepping Stone to Other Languages
With about 500 million speakers worldwide, Spanish is “the second most spoken native language globally,” and according to MIT is also spoken “by nearly 15%” of the U.S. population.
It’s also the official language of 21 countries, providing “a gateway to the histories, cultures, and societies of peoples on four continents.”
However, the value of the Spanish language isn’t limited to the number of people that speak it worldwide but also by the opportunities it opens to learn other languages. Mostly romance languages.
My personal experience may help you to understand what I mean. I’m a native Spanish speaker who recently moved to Portugal without knowing a thing about the language.
After a year or so, I was speaking Portuguese with the locals without any problems.
Nowadays, I watch TV and read the newspaper in Portuguese every day, and I have yet to receive proper lessons, except for a couple of months, in the beginning, just to get the basics of the language.
When I visited Italy, the experience was even easier as I didn’t feel the need to learn the language. I understood almost everything Italian people said, and they also seemed to understand me.
Learning a Language After Learning Spanish
So, when considering what languages to learn after Spanish, the question isn’t “Is Italian easy to learn?” or “Is French easy to learn?”.
The real question is, which language is the easiest for Spanish speakers to learn?
This blog tried to answer that specific question by selecting the seven easiest languages to learn for Spanish speakers:
Although I disagree with the order (I think that Portuguese and Catalan should be above French), and have to admit that I wasn’t expecting Tagalog and Dutch.
I think it’s a pretty good list to use as a guide to becoming a polyglot once you’ve mastered Spanish.
Which Language Should You Choose First?
This is something you decide. Because if you want to become a polyglot, it’s not only about finding out which language is easier to learn but about your overall strategy.
Are you looking for national languages spoken by many people and with high cultural value? Maybe French should be your first option.
Or do you prefer a language that will serve you better in the Americas? Then, Portuguese should be the next choice.
Do you want to learn another language in the fastest possible way? Then, I recommend you try Italian, which after mastering Spanish, shouldn’t take you more than six months.
Learn Spanish and Start Your Path to Become a Polyglot
As the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”
If you want to become a polyglot, you need to start with your first language (besides your native one, obviously), and for all the reasons explained above, the ideal language, to begin with, is Spanish.
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