Learning Two Languages
My focus has been on Cantonese for the last 2 years. Now, I really want to learn more Mandarin. Obviously Chinese is a handful and to learn it you really need to devote all your time to it. However, I want to do both. I still need to work hard at Cantonese but I’m going to start putting some effort into Mandarin.
Anyone doing the same with other languages?
simonpetterssonDecember 14, 2009, 07:34 AM
In my experience, learning two languages in parallel adds difficulty to both of them, especially if they're related, compared to doing them separately. There are risks of mixing the languages up in your brain. The common advice amongst polyglots is to learn one language to a decent conversational level before starting to study another one, especially a related one. The second one will most likely be much easier to learn if you already know the first one.
I had some interference problems when studying French and Mandarin at the same time, my brain giving me a French word when I was looking for a Mandarin one. I stopped studying Mandarin then and focused on French. After having learned French to a satisfying degree, I resumed my Mandarin studies and have had little problems since then.
This is not said to dissuade you, of course, and there are many who have managed to study multiple languages at the same time. I do think, however, that it adds to, rather than subtracts from, the difficulty. If you already know one language to a pretty good level (Upper Intermediate, maybe), the advantages are great.
WillBuckinghamDecember 14, 2009, 09:03 AM
It does depend, I think, on how different the langauges are. I'm currently trying to learn German and Mandarin. There's not much cross-over (!), and so I don't often find myself saying strange things like "Ich will ins 电影院 gehen..."
But there's also the issue of time. I'm a relatively slack student of German, and manage a few hours a week, whilst I work on Chinese for a couple of hours a day if possible. And I think, even if studying in parallel, prioritising one language makes sense. Or it does for me, at least.
changyeDecember 15, 2009, 01:15 AM
It all depends on your needs, interests and ability. I agree with thinkbuddha. I don't think "mixing up" is a big problem for you as you've already learned Cantonese for two years, but the allocation of time would be an important issue for you. Incidentally, I think you've already started learning Mandarin since you're here. Am I right?
pretzellogicDecember 15, 2009, 02:24 AM
FWIW, I would love to have Mandarin and Spanish under my belt, but I only have time for learning 1 language (and not much time for that). So Mandarin is getting my focus now, and after i've mastered Mandarin to the ground, i'll start on Spanish. It's really cool that you have the time and the focus to do both.
hkboyDecember 15, 2009, 11:51 AM
I don't have many young friends - haha. In my little area here in HK I don't think it is too popular. The kids seem to understand a lot though. What you didn't ask me was how do people feel about me learning Cantonese. If you have 6 minutes have a look at this video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18YX8zAbmeU Even my Hong Kong wife thinks I am wasting time trying to learn Cantonese.
Thanks for the comment. I used to speak fairly good Spanish. I lived in El Salvador for almost 3 years. Keep up the work with it. Mine is down deep in my brain somewhere. I think I do have the focus but not the time. I have a wife, 2 dogs and 3 cats and a full time job.
hkboyDecember 14, 2009, 07:40 AM
Yes, everyone says I will mix up Mandarin & Cantonese and listening to Mandarin, I do hear some very close sounds. Yes, I don't know know if that is an advantage or disadvantage right now.
hkboyDecember 15, 2009, 12:37 PM
She said something about the 2 languagues were related in some aspect. She should probably tell the story. She is sometimes on a radio show and also teaches Cantonese here in Hong Kong.
andrew_cDecember 21, 2009, 06:56 AM
I would check out the blog of John Biesnecker. He has multiple posts about this very issue. I think he's simultaneously learning Mandarin, Japanese, and Cantonese. I really enjoy reading his thoughts, as they are very insightful, imo. He's on twitter as well.
hkboyDecember 15, 2009, 12:08 PM
Yes, never had a problem with that here. The video is about a lady from Finland or Norway. She has lived in HK for years and speaks very good Cantonese but no one wants to speak with her. At least she wants to express that in the video. It's a bit tongue and cheek but a bit real.