June 30, 2012 | Review Period

My Review Period Ends

There are pros and cons to studying multiple foreign languages at once.

I have just spent the past three months reviewing four languages simultaneously. For sure knowing things in one would often help with the others.

As I have documented rather extensively, I was often confused. But I could also sometimes guess at vocabulary in one language based on my knowledge of it in another, without actually having learned it. For example, knowing Venezia (meaning “Venice” in Italian) helped me guess correctly that it would be Venecia in Spanish. Maybe that’s not the most exciting example in the world, but there have been numerous such experiences that I just can’t recall right now and that were quite helpful.

What sometimes pained me over recent weeks is when I would drill myself on words from one language to next. You know, like how do you say “horse” in four languages? Or “sofa”? Or “rug”?

I have gradually learned that for me at least, doing that kind of switching/vocabulary self-quizzing can be harder than if I just launch fully into a language in conversation, where my brain kind of relaxes into the vocabulary. Trying to switch around, translating sentences in quick succession into multiple languages, sometimes led me to smash into mental brick walls, thereby causing me to believe that I remembered and knew less than I really did.

There is no reason to demoralize oneself unnecessarily!

Language Learning as Weight-Loss Strategy?

Language Learning as Weight-Loss Strategy?

On a random note, I just noticed the other day that “lavatory” and lavar (Spanish for “to wash”) are etymologically related. I don’t think I considered it before, in part because I do not associate lavatories with cleanliness. The World English Dictionary informed me, via, that “lavatory” has 14th-century origins and derives from the Late Latin word lavātōrium, which in turn comes from Latin lavāre for “to wash.”

I sometimes wonder if language learning increases your metabolism. Lately I have lost weight. Maybe it had to do with studying four at once?

I can test that theory by seeing if I gain it back when I switch back to studying a single language at a time, starting tomorrow. This is the end of the review period. I am going back to new languages (new for me, anyway).

Next up: Portuguese!

Comments (5)

Jared Romey • Posted on Thu, August 02, 2012 - 12:38 am EST

With your Spanish and Italian knowledge (and French?? , I can’t remember), you’ll find Portuguese extremely easy.  You’ll just need to learn a few pronunciation sounds.  And maybe some grammar deviation…maybe.


Melissa Johnson Carissimo • Posted on Sun, August 05, 2012 - 4:55 am EST

Hey!  As to lavs, here’s another: in Italian, the word for raccoon is “lavatore”, because he likes to wash stuff with his funny little hands.

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Sun, August 05, 2012 - 8:37 am EST

That is so funny, Melissa! Thank you!

mimi • Posted on Thu, August 09, 2012 - 1:34 pm EST

you might try Latin!
the mother of so many languages, and the root of so many english words..

Michelle • Posted on Sat, August 11, 2012 - 7:24 am EST

Ooh can’t wait to see how you get on with new languages again :oD as interesting as the review months have been, I have really missed reading your adventures into the unknown. Good luck! Hope it’s going well x

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