Learning a New Language

March 10, 2010


I’ve been studying Japanese on and off, for years now. I went through phases of learning basic greetings and conversation starters, to days of the week and how to tell time. At this point I can read and write in two of the three alphabets (Kanji will probably take the rest of my life). However, in high school I took 4 years of Spanish. Now I’m nowhere near fluent but I do understand some basic stuff like sentence structure and some vocabulary. The problem I have is because for so long my brain was programed to view “Spanish” as THE foreign language that I speak, it was my default. So now because I’ve been learning Japanese and not using my Spanish my brain is fried. If someone speaks to me in Spanish I’ll have a Japanese answer pop up first. This is no good. A friend of mine is currently taking a French course and he speaks both English and Spanish. Since I told him of my issues with two foreign languages he’s answered questions in class using Spanish instead of French. Much to the dismay of his teacher I’m sure.

So have you ever experienced such a thing? What’s your second language and what’s the third one that gives you trouble.

SPEAK OUT! (c) Martin “Raw Dawg” Payne

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4 Responses to “Learning a New Language”

  1. Heather P. said

    I most certainly have had this problem. I learned Spanish in high school. Freshmen year in college, I learned Italian. Spanish would always pop out and for a while I would always pronounce Italian like Spanish. Living in Italy broke me of that. Junior year in college, I learned Portuguese. Italian would always pop out and I would pronounce Portuguese words like Italian words. Living in Brazil broke me of that. However, I was so adjusted to speaking only Portuguese when I was in Brazil that when I returned to the States, and people asked me things in English, Portuguese would pop out. Crazy. Some people know like 5 languages fluently and have no trouble going back and forth in between them. I know 4 alright, but don't ask me to switch back an forth between them–Lord knows what's liable to pop out my mouth. :-)A side note is that every language I have learned (particularly Italian and Portuguese, which I had to speak in a native speaking country to get by) taught me to think in a little different way. It is one of the beautiful things about learning a different way to communicate–it definitely make you look at the world through a different lens.Anyhoo….my two cents.

  2. Steph said

    How are you teaching yourself Japanese? I am interested in learning this language too.

  3. @Steph Well I have some mp3s from a company called Pimsleur. They help, plus I have a little book for people traveling to Japan. The book taught me sentence structure and basic phrases. I also learned to count from that book and the days of the week. My big boost came from a website called http://www.smart.fm Go there and thank me later.

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