I only have three years of school, and this year I wasted trying to learn French (a quickly made decision I have regretted). But I’ve always wanted to learn Mandarin, because of my fascination with chinese culture. But my dad says that I should learn Spanish because it’s so widely spoken. Plus, I want to learn it as well. I can learn two languages; would it be nigh impossible to learn both of these languages?
“?” I meant I only had three years of highschool left.
I would say that the main danger would be that your focus on Mandarin could take you away from focusing on Spanish, and then you might lose Spanish after a while. Linguists have documented that a person’s proficiency in a language they learned as an adult can suffer if they don’t get continued exposure to that language. In a talk that I heard at a semi-recent conference in linguistics, a researcher who studied what happened to language learners after they stopped getting exposure to the language discovered that, if people reach a certain level of language proficiency they are not likely to lose the language completely, but if they don’t reach that level then they can lose the language almost completely without exposure to it. In other words, if you don’t reach a certain level of proficiency in Spanish (I believe it’s high-intermediate level) and then stop learning Spanish because you are focusing on Mandarin, there is a danger that you could lose some of your Spanish knowledge. So I would say, if you are trying to do two languages at a time, just make sure that you are still working on Spanish stuff while you are working on Mandarin.
It is pretty well-documented that the new language will always be affected by the previous one, so that means that you can expect your Mandarin to be affected by Spanish if you follow your plan. However, I don’t think that there is any reason to believe that starting Mandarin ‘too soon’ would have any effect on the quality of your language in either Spanish or Mandarin that would be any different from the quality of your langauges if you waited a while.
on: 17th May 11