How much space do we have?

May 26, 2011

When it comes to learning languages, many difficulties get in the way. New pronunciation, spelling, different characters, unknown words, sometimes new alphabet and often different syntax. Not to mention learning grammar rules, words and conjugation.

Assuming you can take the challenge and decide to give it a try. You learn and practise thoroughly, religiously even, a foreign language of your choice, possible with an extended stay in a country were you can speak it on a daily basis. Fair play to you, it is a daunting task and, albeit rewarding, very demanding. Now, you can proudly claim yourself bilingual and indeed, you should be proud of yourself.

Now eager to learn more and deeply in love with languages, you decide to learn another one and repeat the same process. Is it easier or more difficult? Do you face new difficulties that you did not encounter whilst learning your first foreign language?

I am currently going through this stage. After four years in Ireland and what I would modestly call a good command of English, I have been living in Hamburg for the last 8 months speaking mostly German, sometimes English and occasionally French. Because I am emerging myself into German, learning, speaking and reading it as much as I can, I noticed that it somewhat influenced the way I spontaneously speak English. having German syntax patterns in mind, I tend to use them when speaking English, even though I realise it sounds wrong the moment I utter the sentence.

I cannot help but wonder how this will evolve and to what extent German, English and perhaps French and Spanish will blend and confuse my mind. Furthermore, how many words can you have “on top of” your mind, ready to be spoken?

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