How do you know when you’re ready to move onto your next language?

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sporedandroid
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How do you know when you’re ready to move onto your next language?

Postby sporedandroid » Sat May 08, 2021 6:27 am

I’m sort of struggling with this. I studied Icelandic ten years ago. I never officially quit because I didn’t really have a regular study schedule to begin with. I just naturally lost motivation.

After several years of having no motivation for language learning I finally started learning Hebrew for a completely different reason. After maybe a few months I started getting intrusive thoughts about mixing it up with Icelandic. Even though they’re unrelated languages. At that point I haven’t even looked at Icelandic in several years.

In November 2019 I sort of got interested in studying Icelandic again when I was visiting Iceland. I guess I never truly lost interest. In November 2020 I tried to study a bit of Icelandic again, but I decided I wasn’t ready. I had too many intrusive thoughts/interference. I’m not even sure it could be considered true interference since they’re unrelated languages.

I don’t have any need to speak either language, so they’re both passive. I still get bothered by the intrusive thoughts. I don’t like that my brain mixes two unrelated languages together. For a long time I wasn’t even studying them at the same time.

Right now I’d say I’m intermediate in Hebrew. Since I haven’t gotten any languages to a high level as an adult, it sort of makes my level hard for me to access. I’d say my reasons for learning Hebrew were fairly vague, but good enough to motivate me. So I don’t entirely know which level I want to “stop” at.

I don’t really need any specific advice for my situation. I just want to hear about when you knew you were ready to take on another language. I’m also curious if anyone else has had intrusive thoughts about mixing up unrelated languages.
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Re: How do you know when you’re ready to move onto your next language?

Postby tractor » Sat May 08, 2021 7:21 am

Maybe not the most helpful answer, but I knew I was ready when I had enough motivation start learning.

Language learning is just a hobby for me. If I'm not motivated, I see no reason to force myself to study. I've left language learning several times, and then come back after a few weeks, a few months, or a few years.
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Re: How do you know when you’re ready to move onto your next language?

Postby Iversen » Sat May 08, 2021 9:21 am

I don't feel that I "move on" - I just expand into new territory. OK, then some of my earlier conquests may become slightly rusty because of that, but then I can return to them and repolish them until they behave again. In fact Icelandic is one of the languages that might be a candidate for a wee bit of repolishing, and the reason is of course that it isn't a language that knocks the door down with new experiences every other day. I have to decide to read or listen to something, and then it is a struggle to find something interesting.

However right now I'm not ready to add new languages. I am still busy with the Slavic languages and Albanian and (on and off) Irish. I can more or less read most of those languages, and if I have a bilingual text it goes quite well. But I can't think fluently in any of them. I can write texts (as evidenced in my log thread), but I get stuck too often and have to look something up. Once that hurdle is passed I'll decide what to do next.

And for me languages is also 'just' a hobby, albeit an important one.
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Re: How do you know when you’re ready to move onto your next language?

Postby Jinx » Sat May 08, 2021 10:53 am

For me it's very much based around what my goals for the language are, if any. Once I've reached that goal, I feel ready to move on.

I know I'll never stop learning German, because my goal for it is "as close to native as possible" (which will easily take me a lifetime). I don't call my German studies "maintenance", because to me that would imply "I've reached a level I'm happy with and just want to stay there." But I will never be satisfied with my level in German! :) So I'm still actively studying, but in a slightly different way: talking to coworkers, reading books and websites, etc.

With Breton, on the other hand, I felt quite satisfied after learning only two or three words, because my goal was simply to show respect for the regional culture when traveling to Brittany. I got by just fine in daily life using French, but saying "Kenavo!" ("Goodbye" / "À la prochaine") to a bunch of Breton folks after a lovely evening chatting with them in French – and seeing the radiant smiles that emerged upon hearing that word – was a very meaningful ROI. (This was during a short visit to the region, barely a month. If I were planning to spend more time there, I would return to the language and learn a bit more.)

Those examples are two extremes, of course, and most language-learners have goals that fall somewhere in between. Some common goals include:
- having a comfortable conversation in the language ("comfortable" here meaning that the experience isn't so frustrating that you try to avoid it)
- comfortably reading a novel in the language ("comfortable" here meaning that you don't have to reach for the dictionary so often that you get annoyed and quit the book)
- etc.

So in a nutshell, I would say: try to recall what made you want to start learning the language in the first place – what did you visualize yourself eventually doing with that knowledge? – and compare that to your current progress in order to see whether you want to stay focused or switch to something else for now.

And my usual disclaimer: It's (usually) all just for fun, isn't it? Sometimes there are external pressures that require us to learn a certain language, but I think most of us here tend to do it for our own enjoyment. So in the end, feel free to switch to a new language whenever you're bored with the old one and not having fun anymore.
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Re: How do you know when you’re ready to move onto your next language?

Postby rdearman » Sat May 08, 2021 11:18 am

I'm a bit confused is the OP is asking about interference from language A on Language B? Or do you just mean when should you start another language generally.
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Re: How do you know when you’re ready to move onto your next language?

Postby Jinx » Sat May 08, 2021 11:25 am

rdearman wrote:I'm a bit confused is the OP is asking about interference from language A on Language B? Or do you just mean when should you start another language generally.

According to the last two sentences of the OP's post: both.
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Re: How do you know when you’re ready to move onto your next language?

Postby sporedandroid » Sat May 08, 2021 3:05 pm

Jinx wrote:
rdearman wrote:I'm a bit confused is the OP is asking about interference from language A on Language B? Or do you just mean when should you start another language generally.

According to the last two sentences of the OP's post: both.

Yeah. I’m just curious at which point I can stop worrying about interference.
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Re: How do you know when you’re ready to move onto your next language?

Postby rdearman » Sat May 08, 2021 4:20 pm

I get interference between French and Italian all the time. However, as I speak more often and use them the interference has lessened. I have noticed the interference happens mostly when I don't know or am unsure of the word in one language my brain promptly provides one from the other bucket.

I find that Italian interference from French is less than the other way around simply because I am better at Italian.

Edit: realised I didn't answer other part of the question.

I have only had a problem between French and Italian. The others I studied never interfere but they are not romance languages. Korean, Mandarin, etc. So I think you can move on immediately if the other languages is in a different family.
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Re: How do you know when you’re ready to move onto your next language?

Postby gsbod » Sat May 08, 2021 4:30 pm

I've learned from bitter experience that I can't really actively study more than one language at a time, mainly because it's too difficult to consistently find enough time to dedicate to language study to make noticeable progress for more than one language. On the other hand I have also learned that, at least for me, maintenance is overrated and as long as I've made some significant progress while actively studying a single language, I can put it to one side and move onto other things, before picking it up again at a later date. So for me, the conditions I need to start a new language are: 1) not having an ongoing language project I'm not ready to put down yet, 2) having no major commitments over the next few weeks that would take time away from languages, and 3) feeling almost unbearably curious about the language in question.

As for interference, it can be a problem, but mainly only when I'm actually speaking. Each time I add a new language, the range of possible false friends does increase, which may also effect my understanding when reading or listening, but the benefits of being able to recognise more similar words (with similar meanings) across languages outweighs the disbenefits.

Oh, and there was that one time that I signed up for JLPT N2 at the same time as signing up for a B1 French class and beginners German lessons with a tutor and nearly had a meltdown...
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Re: How do you know when you’re ready to move onto your next language?

Postby devilyoudont » Sat May 08, 2021 7:10 pm

sporedandroid wrote:Yeah. I’m just curious at which point I can stop worrying about interference.


You can stop worrying about it.

When you introduce your brain to a new language system, it will initially attempt to place it within a system which it already understands. This will happen no matter what, no matter how experienced you are.

By continuing to study your third language, your brain overtime will develop an understanding that this is a new system, and will separate them out.

At least this is my experience.

The problem is probably more severe for people who study closely related languages, but with Icelandic and Hebrew, I think you are in the same boat as me.
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