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Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Simultaneous Language Learning

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Many people say that it is better to learn one language at a time. I can't say if it is better or worse or just OK because it really depends on the individual. Some people learn two or three languages simultaneously because they have the capacity and the time to do it. Some source says that it takes 750 hours to master a foreign language--but 750 hours may not be enough for some people due to a lot of factors such as concentration and different levels of comprehension.

It takes a lifetime to fully master a foreign language. If you wait until you are completely fluent in one language, you may never get started in the second language.

As of today, Aug 30th 2014, I am learning 10 languages at the same time. My ongoing simultaneous language learning is aimed at identifying some psycholinguistic questions that may one day be answered in my dissertation:
1) How many languages can a man learn at the same time, before he cannot take it anymore? 10? 15? 20?
2) Why do words (i.e. lexicons) from various languages get mixed up in a simultaneous language learner's mind? This is evident in the code mixing (at both intrasentential and intersentential levels).
3) After the formal language training is over (in the next 15 months), what are the most effective ways to keep up with the languages learned?

In my experience with simultaenous language learning, there are four variables that determine the degree of success:

1. The complex nature of each foreign language.
At the moment I am simultaneously learning

three Latin languages: Français, Español and Italiano
two Germanic languages: Nederlands and Deutsch
two Altaic languages: 한국어 and 日本語
one Slavic language: Русский 
one Semitic language: العربية 
one Sino-Tibetan language:  汉语     

My first vernacular language (Betawinese)  is simpler than most of the foreign languages I am learning. By simpler I mean the writing system and the grammar are less intricate than European languages. There are no tenses, no conjugations, no cases, no gender nouns and no gender adjectives in my first language. You basically put words together in the right order and voila... it's a sentence!


My first official language is Indonesian, which I learned in school and which I actively use at work now. It is pretty much like Betawinese language. The grammar is easy just like Mandarin--only without pictograph writing. Both Indonesian and Betawinese languages use Latin alphabet, like English.


Understanding European language grammar, in my perspective as a native speaker of a much easier language, means a lot more work. There's a great deal of things to memorize, watch out for and pay attention to, for example verb and noun agreement, as well as noun and adjective's gender agreement. It is easier for speakers of European languages to learn Indonesian, as there are fewer things to memorize.



2. The study materials.


3. The teaching methods.
Please refer to this page for complete information.

As an adult learner and a language teacher myself, I know how to direct my own learning. I am also able and not shy nor embarassed (like the stereotype of Asian students) to articulate my learning needs to the teachers. What I still need to do is making adjustments to different kinds of teachers, because every one of them has unique behaviors and diverse teaching methods.


4. My metacognitive strategies.

(A) Language learning strategies and acquisition strategies combined.

Experts believe that second language acquisition is natural and almost effortless, thus language acquisition strategies do not exist. I will argue that one can make strategies for second language acquisition. Yes, I agree that acquisition is natural and almost effortless, but there are ways to make a learning process become an acquisition process. One can intentionally create a condition or an environment in which language acquisition can occur. 


Learning is faster, but sometimes the knowledge gained do not last very long. Acquisition is slower, but the knowledge gained stick much longer in the memory (Krashen, 1978).

(B) Test-taking strategies



(C) Post-proficiency maintenance strategies 

I will find out these strategies after I graduate from all language classes, probably in December 2015.  




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About the author

Hening is a laid-back ENTP (by upbringing) and a solar-Scorpio-and-lunar-Sagittarius (by birth). She believes that thrifting is an art form that helps rewire our brain circuits for the better.

 

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