Being Bilingual: Learning a Third Language
A curious thing happened to me after I’d spent months learning my first additional language.
Part of this was the simple thrill of realising that I could, in fact, learn a language. Even though I’d always been a Word Nerd, I’d always thought – as many do – that learning to speak a second language is a gift that only a few lucky souls can manage.
As with many things, actually diving in and doing the work showed me how easily it can be done. It’s easier for some, this is true – but anyone can do it. More importantly, once I’d done it with a second language, I knew that I could apply all the skills and disciplines – and tricks – that I’d acquired to learning a third!
Not only was this personally very exciting, but there are clear advantages to learning a third language – or more. Language skills inform every other aspect of our lives. Additional languages have been demonstrated to improve problem-solving skills, abstract thinking, and awareness of world cultures and attitudes. Put simply, the more languages you learn the smarter you actually are! And the work of learning languages builds on itself.
As with my experience, when you work through your first language you acquire the skills to learn a third, and your improved language skills make it easier to learn that third – and so on through a fourth, fifth or more languages! Naturally we don’t all have time to spend every waking hour studying languages, but the fact is the skills gain momentum that even wraps back and improves your native language skills. By studying Spanish, for example, you actually end up improving your English!
As with many things, the unknown is what scares people. People assume, for some reason, that they are incapable of learning additional languages. Invariably they discover that if they put a sincere effort into acquiring a second language, they are able to do so quite successfully. And, like me, once they have that first language out of the way, they are often then able to apply what they’ve learned to another language. It’s hard work, but so is any endeavour that is worthwhile.