As they say, ‘two is better than one’. But many people have concerns about bilingualism and learning more than one language at a time. Does learning two languages confuse the learner? Will learning two languages be less effective than just learning one at a time? If you are thinking of enrolling in Mandarin classes in Singapore on top of another language, here’s what you need to know.
The truth is, most linguists agree that bilingualism is not a disadvantage. Many children pick up two languages from infanthood, and do not exhibit an overall lag in language skills in either language once they enter schools. However, there could be reason to be concerned about learning more than one language at once, if you are deciding whether to pick up Chinese and another language.
Factors Involved In Simultaneous Learning
There is a concept known as ‘transference’ in language learning. This means that learners sometimes apply concepts from one language into another language they know. This could occur in a way that’s beneficial for learning, or to make learning more challenging.
For example, a person who has learnt a tonal language before, like Thai or Vietnamese, might find Chinese easier to learn because they can transfer their existing knowledge of tones to Chinese.
However, some learners may find language transference a hindrance. For example, a learner may have trouble with the grammar of Mandarin if they are constantly mixing it up with the grammar of other languages they know.
How To Learn More Than One Language At Once
You can make transference work for you, rather than against you. If you wish to learn more than one language at once, consider how closely related the two languages are.
Some people prefer to learn two completely different languages, as there are less opportunities for mixing them up. However, others buy into the idea of learning two similar languages at once, so that they won’t have to learn the overlapping parts twice.
Apart from the languages itself, you also have to consider the time required to learn a language – or two. Most people will find it challenging to even keep up with learning one new language. Thus, creating a schedule to stay on track is even more crucial when you are planning to learn two.
Some people split their week into different days for learning each language. Or, you could focus on one language for a few months, before alternating with the next language. However, do remember that you still need to practice language A in the months that you are focusing on language B, so that you don’t forget everything you’ve learnt before.
Usually, unless there is a pressing reason to pick up two new languages quickly, it might be a better idea to focus on one language first and grasp the basics before adding on another language. However, it is totally possible to learn two languages at once, if you so wish!
Thinking of adding Chinese to your language toolbox? There are plenty of Chinese courses in Singapore offering engaging and fulfilling ways to learn Mandarin. If you need a more personalised plan to complement your learning of multiple languages, you can enquire with us for customised, private classes.