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daydreamer

How to learn two languages at the same time

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daydreamer

Recently I started to learn Korean again. I had learnt it for about 1.5 month last term( very slow access) and found the more Korean I learnt and the more English I forgot. I was totally absorbed by Korean language and refused to read too much English. I was worried, because we Chinese student have to pass CET(College English Test) and I have to pass band 6. I cannot just throw English. So I thought it was sensible for me to stop learning Korean.

And this term I decided to try to start again. Because I've got a good teacher to help and learn from him once a week. The teacher is actully an international student in my university and now learning Chinese here.

So that I began to learn both English and Korean again. Because I'll take the risk to have CET-6 this December so I spend a lot of time in English. At the meanwhile I lean Korean slowly step by step.( Cause I really don't have too much time in it). But I really really want to learn it well. However I found that when I keep myself thinking English or speak to myself (in silence) in English( It's a way I practise English) and when I meet my Korean friends I want to say," Oppa where are you going? or Oppa have had meal?" I can hardly speak out, I just feel like forgetting everything to do with Korean. And when I practise Korean I found I have nothing about English in my brain. And if I have to speak any English I speak very bad. So, two foreign languages seem cannot exsist in my brain at the same time. And also some of my friends(neither Chinese speaker nor English speaker) told me that the more Chinese they learn, less English they can remember.

Is that really a problem for everybody? Is anybody have such kind of experiences? Any good solution of it? Thanks in advance

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wushijiao

Interesting post. :mrgreen: I was thinking of perhaps starting another language next year (Russian, French, Portuguese, Korean, or Turkish).

Anyway, I don’t think it’s easy to learn two languages at once. But, perhaps I can suggest three things that have worked for me. First, if you are just starting to learn a language, try to master the basics as quick as possible. This means the most common 1,000- 2,000 words or so, the most common few hundred nouns, verbs, greetings, colloquialism...etc. Second, try to get the most massive quantity of comprehensible input per day that you can. For me at least, this means using my time wisely. I always listen to tapes in Chinese whenever I’m going to the supermarket or whatever. I always read books on buses. In other words, of my two hours commuting per day, I try to make sure that every minute is spent in productive learning. I suppose that when you learn two foreign languages simultaneously, it’s probably doubly important to make sure that all your time is used productively. Third, at least for me, I notice that I almost never forget new words or grammatical structures if I use them in an active manner (usually speaking). For example, I just learned the phrase 熙熙攘攘 (xi1xi1rang3rang3, bustling with activity). So, I just went out to buy some fruit today. When I got home I said, “哎哟, 今天国庆节, 人太多! 街上熙熙攘攘的!” Sometimes those sentences seem a bit out of context, but still, I'm unlikely to forget the word if I have used it. So perhaps you can find other English/Korean enthusiasts (even if they are Chinese) to chat with. When I learned Spanish in high school, one of my fellow geeky, American friends and I used to always practice our spoken Spanish, which really helped my listening, speaking, and vocabulary retention.

In any case, you're at least doing a great job with your English daydreamer! :D

Why are you learning Korean, by the way?

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daydreamer

Thanks. I see the international students at my university do the same things as you. When they walk or go anywhere they listen to Chinese from their walkmans, and try to catch every Chinese words we native speaker say and learn them. I think you study English harder than most of us study English.

Your suggestions are very helpful. Next when I see my Korean friends, I will try to speak some simple expresions to them. Although I can't think of any at once. I think I should say to them," Please wait a moment,." then think hard and speak out some Korean, that maybe will surprised them a lot and quite helpful for me too.:)

There's not very special reason for me to learn Korean. I remember last winter I was listening to a Korean song and I found that Korean was such a nice language. On another hand, I have to learn a second foreign language, that's a part of my course. Since I've already learnt English for about 7 years, I want to learn an Asian language. And I think Korean might be helpful in my future career, because most Korean people come to learn Chinese. So, the reason is interest and a preparation for the job too. I hope I can handle.

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Long Zhiren

I was going to say that embarking on studies of languages #2 and #3 in sequence is easier than in parallel.

However, your written English looks impressive. You are obviously not "embarking" on a study of English at this point. Your English is quite advanced.

My only advice is to keep practicing both. Perhaps, you can recite something daily outloud in the languages that you want to maintain and learn...like the Lord's prayer. On occasion, watch some movies & read some literature. And whenever possible, think and converse in those languages with others.

English is my native language. The 2nd language that I began was Spanish at age 11. The 3rd & 4th were French and Russian at age 13. 5th was Mandarin Chinese at age 16. 6th was German at 17. 7th was Korean at 21. 8th, 9th and 10th are Greek, Hebrew and Vietnamese all beginning at age 35. Yes! I was pleasantly surprised to learn that an older dog [me] can still learn tricks!

Only English, French and Mandarin are strong enough to get myself into lots of trouble.

#3 was hard at first because it was so similar to #2 that the vocabulary confused me.

I've let #2, #4, #6, #7 & #10 fell to the wayside. They are weak and barely usable. I only had to learn them because of needs to interact with people in those languages. I consciously decided to maintain and continue learning only my three strongest to economize my efforts, unless work/travel put me in a different situation.

#8 & #9 studies continue in parallel at a very lazy but methodical pace. I can read them now.

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天峰

I am actually improving my Mandarin right now while starting with Japanese. I actually sit with 2 chinese students all class and sometimes get confused when looking for more words I don't know in japanese I always want to fall back on chinese. I think as I get more and more advanced with my japanese I will start to be able to totally flow through both with out confusion. I think once you become more advanced at korean you will be able to study them just like a subject in school and each one will inhabit a spot in your brain to be called upon when you need it.

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daydreamer

Thanks a lot.

I'm also wondering that how do you balance 2 languages at the same time?, Especially one you are in a much higher level, and the other you only know a little. And do I need a plan like 7:00pm--8:00pm is English time, no thinking about Korean, or somewhen is Korean time, no thinking about English? Or better mix them, think about both at one time?

Long Zhiren,you are really a language talent! How can you learn TEN languages?! Admire so much...I'm wondering how long do you spend in learning one language? I know someone who only has spent less than 1 year to learn Chinese, but now is already master it. That is such a high speed, isn't it? unbelievable for me...

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maxham

I studied Mandarin and Spanish at the same time at university - my Spanish was fairly strong at the time, my Mandarin almost non-existent. It took me most of the first year to stop myself answering 'si' to questions in my Chinese class. Then at the end of the year I came to China for 3 months, when I first went back to my Spanish class my instinct was to use Spanish words but with Chinese grammatical structures (things like quieres bu quieres.....etc). Very strange. I've got over all that now but I started trying to learn French a couple of years ago, I found it relatively easy due to the similarity with Spanish but then it started to screw up my Spanish. From my personal experience, I think it's better to get each language to a certain level before taking up another, especially similar ones like Spanish and French.

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nanyangguy

English, Korean... Both these two language are totally different in sentence structure and grammar. Although I haven't learnt Korean, I know that the sentence structure in Korean is SOV, unlike the sentence structure in English which is SVO. I am a Chinese who are not living in China, but in South East Asia. I am grateful that I have the chance to learn my native language. Besides learning Chinese, I also learn English and the national language of my country. So, basically I begin learning these three languages since I was a kid. It has been more than ten years. However, that doesn't mean I am good at these languages. I still have to learn more. The more I learn, I will discovered the more things which I don't know. I think age is a crucial factor in learning languages. However, it doesn't mean that you are too late to learn new languages. When you use a language for a long time, you will get used to it. Therefore, it is possible that you face some problems when you use another languages that you know because there are differences in sentence structure between those languages. Just work hard. 天下无难事,只怕有心人。

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Long Zhiren

daydreamer,

10 isn't so impressive. Remember that 7 of them are nearly completely useless. It just means that I've repeatedly struggled to understand how my own head works. Starting at an earlier age probably helps. But more encouraging, yes, it can indeed be done later in life!

The humor of another language/culture seems to be the final ultimate hurdle. I'm not sure if anyone's a master until they can handle stand-up comics, etc.

If one language is far stronger than another, the following are my favorite tactics trying to communicate with somebody so far. When the two are related:

(1) My Spanish is much weaker than my French. When I speak Spanish, I use French vocabulary anywhere I get stuck. Spanish speakers look at me funny but figure out at least half of the French, thanks much to the context. Others have told me that Italian works even better when struggling with Spanish...

Vietnamese has been heavily influenced by French, Chinese and English. Switching channels hardly works at all. Many Vietnamese (less so for Korean) words simply sound like another Chinese dialect often with the nouns and adjective orders reversed. Compare "博 物 館" with "nhà bảo tàng" (박물관) or even "法 國 / 德 國" with "Pháp quốc/Đức quốc" (Korean's way different now...).

Warning: If you thought Cantonese pronunciation was harder than Mandarin with six tones to four, Vietnamese has eight! Hopefully, my Mandarin doesn't now sound like machine gun fire to native ears because of it.

If the two languages aren't related:

(2) Don't remain silent and tongue-tied...just respond in any (!) language [so the listener doesn't think that you're suddenly and unexplainably ill] ...then slowly try to re-express the same thought in the other language.

(3) Learn how to ask "中 文 怎 麼 說 <...>?;" "Comment est-ce que on peut dire en français <...>?;" etc.

Maxham,

Funny. When I live and work (speaking/thinking in French all the time) in France for a while, I find my native English stuck with a distinct phrasing problem for quite a while. At this point, it gets crazy when I try to speak or write in English to friends/family back in the US,

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HashiriKata
If you thought Cantonese pronunciation was harder than Mandarin with six tones to four, Vietnamese has eight!

No wonder you find Vietnamese difficult! someone who's taught you Vietnamese must have invented extra tones just to confuse you:mrgreen: .

The fact is: Vietnamese officially has six tones, with many regions operate with just five tones.

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rmontelatici

I pay a tribute to Vietnamese for helping me out learning other tonal languages.

Mastering the vietnamese tones took me a certain time, but it definitely helped me for mandarin tones, that I find so easy with respect to vietnamese tones!

Maybe this was just a matter of unlocking my brain for tones and Vietnamese was first...

PS: I can imagine some people count 8 tones for vietnamese because dấu sắc and dấu nặng are a bit different for occlusive-ending syllables. Taking this into consideration or not also happens for cantonese and leads up to a different tones count (not mentioning the high-level/high-falling issue).

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Heyheyhey

Yeah Northern Vietnamese dialect has 6 tones, in the Southern dialect 2 of the tones have fused together, you pretty much get by with five.

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nnt
I can imagine some people count 8 tones for vietnamese because dấu sắc and dấu nặng are a bit different for occlusive-ending syllables. Taking this into consideration or not also happens for cantonese and leads up to a different tones count (not mentioning the high-level/high-falling issue).

It's not your imagination :wink: , it's the fact that

  • Hán/Việt follows the Middle Chinese system with 8 tones : shang4/xia4(thượng/hạ) + ping2/shang4/qu4/ru4 (bình/thượng/khứ/nhập),

  • Vietnamese follows the Vietnamese system with its own 6 tones : ngang, sắc, huyền, hỏi, ngã, nặng

If you study Hán/Việt , you use the sino-Vietnamese system with 8 sheng(thanh), if you study Vietnamese (which includes Hán/Việt as a subset :mrgreen: ), you use the Vietnamese system with 6 thanh.

Most people miss this duality .

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xuefang

I'm learning three languages now. English and Swedish at school and Mandarin Chinese by my self. I haven't found difficulties to learn these languages at the same time, but of course it helps that I learn those two at school. The only difficulty is that sometimes I don't have enough time for Chinese, and I froget words that I remembered before.

For me it's best that I don't think other languages when I'm learning some language. I wan't to concentrate one thing at the time.

P.s I have learned English for 9 years now, Swedish for 5 years and Chinese 2 years (but having long brakes in learning sometimes).

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HashiriKata
Most people miss this duality

I didn't miss it.:wink: I'm also aware that in Cantonese there's a similar phenomenon where the 9 tones can be counted as 6. Since these extra tones are basically variants (necessitated by the environments where they occur) of the others already counted, why make things unnecessarily more complicated by "double-counting"? I hope some Cantonese and Vietnamese speakers would give me some good reasons for saying that there are 9 tones in Cantonese and 8 in Vietnamese (instead of just 6 in both languages.)

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nnt
I didn't miss it.

Monty Python : you did ! :wink:

I hope some Cantonese and Vietnamese speakers would give me some good reasons for saying that there are 9 tones in Cantonese and 8 in Vietnamese (instead of just 6 in both languages.)

There are definitely 6 tones in Vietnamese, from the Vietnamese grammar point of view. If you study Vietnamese, that's the right count.

But when you study Chinese texts/characters from a Vietnamese view, you adopt a mixed point of view.

Example :

"Ngã" (我)is 下上声 xia4shang4 sheng1 in Middle Chinese, and is pronounced with a "dấu ngã" in Hán/Việt .

"học " (学) is 下入声 xia4ru4 sheng1 in Middle Chinese, and is pronounced with a "dấu nặng" in Hán/Việt .

There are (rather complicated) rules for correspondance between the 8 Middle Chinese tones to the 6 Vietnamese tones.

To study Hán/Việt is to study of 2 languages at the same time !

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HashiriKata

Ok, I might have missed it :mrgreen: , so what I want to know is the difference between "dấu ngã" in Hán/Việt (下上声 xia4shang4 sheng1) and "dấu ngã" in Vietnamese (ngang, sắc, huyền, hỏi, ngã, nặng); and the difference between "dấu nặng" in Hán/Việt (下入声 xia4ru4 sheng1 ) and "dấu nặng" in Vietnamese (ngang, sắc, huyền, hỏi, ngã, nặng). Without seeing the difference, I feel as if we're trying to preserve some old tradition which no longer applies, and which may therefore confuse the learner ???

Also, can some Cantonese speakers please tell me if Cantonese really have 9 tones, or just 6 tones in practice? Would knowing just the basic 6 tones be adequate for speaking Cantonese?

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nnt

Learning Hán/Việt is like learning Latin in Europe, or Hieroglyphs in Egypt or relativity theory in Physics: it has the same usefulness/uselessness .

Don't worry, the Hán/Việt/Restraint Relativity step is just the step before the final one, learning General Relativity/Nôm ( old Vietnamese writing, even more confusing :mrgreen:) .

Ok, I might have missed it , so what I want to know is the difference between "dấu ngã" in Hán/Việt (下上声 xia4shang4 sheng1) and "dấu ngã" in Vietnamese (ngang, sắc, huyền, hỏi, ngã, nặng); and the difference between "dấu nặng" in Hán/Việt (下入声 xia4ru4 sheng1 ) and "dấu nặng" in Vietnamese (ngang, sắc, huyền, hỏi, ngã, nặng).

The only difference lies in the referential adopted by the observer.

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Xiao Kui

If you learn a language and then abandon it for awhile to study it you don't necessarily lose it. If you're immersed in the environment of the first learned language this will often cause you to remember it. it triggers sth in you and it all comes back to you. this happened with me . . .

Learned spanish for 4 yrs in school, never used it. lived in China 5 yrs where i learned and used chinese. now i'm living in argentina. It took me abt 2 months to start thinking in Spanish again, but now it's flowing. I was worried abt my Mandarin since I never use it anymore. I found a Chinese friend here, and for the first 2 hrs we spent talking I felt like an idiot and wondered if i had ever really been fluent in Chinese. But after a while it picked up and I was even able to translate between mandarin and Chinese. (I didn't get the words mixed up so much as sometimes I ended up speaking Chinese to the Argentine and vice versa.) next yr I'm going back to China w/ some Argentine friends and will be doing the same kind of translating, and so I'm relieved to discover it's actually doable.

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nanyangguy

I am impressed, suddenly everyone becomes language experts. I have a question. Is it hard to learn the languages which sentence structure is subject-object-verb (S-O-V)? The sentence structure of English and Chinese is S-V-O and is very common, while the sentence structure of Korean and Japanese language is S-O-V. Why is the sentence structure of Korean and Japanese language S-O-V? Is it related to the history? Someone please tell me...我期待你扪的答覆。

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