Bilingual to Multilingual

I already speak Spanish with decent proficiency and now I'm learning Danish. 

Danish verbs are fairly easy, but I struggle almost always leaving the "-r" out on present-tense verbs, even though I know it belongs there. This seemed weird to me, but yesterday I realized something. 

The infinitive for "to talk"

    Spanish: hablar 

    Danish: at tale 

The present-tense "to talk"

    Spanish: habla (as in he/she/it talks)

    Danish: taler

So basically, I noticed that the present-tense form of the Danish verb has the "r" ending that only the infinitive would have in Spanish. I think that this has been subconsciously effecting me into saying the wrong thing. Now that I am aware of this, it seems easier for me to remember to say the verb correctly in Danish. 

Has anyone else had a similar problem working on their 3rd (4th, 5th, ect.) language? Are there any tricks to minimize the language transfer from one language to another? 

---Thanks in advanced for your opinions :)

Dec 7, 2015 7:42 PM
Comments · 3

Transfer will happen accidentally without a lot of focus.  It's happening to me now where I will accidentally slip into Chinese when I'm doing a Korean class.  Some of the words are similar so that makes it a little more difficult.


The only way to stop it is to really put yourself in whatever language mode that you need to be in.  This is harder when you're starting out because your vocab and mechanics are not enough to fully express thoughts.  But it gets better.


There's a lot of times where if I've been speaking Chinese most of the day I need to switch to Spanish at night time and I will stumble in my thoughts for about 1 minute and all that enters my mind is Chinese.  But then I just focus and put myself in Spanish mode and then it all comes out fine in Spanish.


I highly recommend mastering a language before moving on to the next.  And by mastering I don't mean get the ability to write a PhD thesis in the language, but I mean you can turn on any TV channel and watch any show or any newscast and do real-time translation with very little error.  When you get to that point, <em>then</em> learn your next language.  When you get two languages down to that point then you can start mixing around and perhaps learning two at a time.  But I don't recommend doing that before you get a few languages down solid.

December 7, 2015

Once you get a solid structure in Danish it will become easier.  Your mind is trying to express ideas and when it can't find words in your new language it will default back to what is familiar.


Just as a side note, "getting around in Mexico" doesn't require a very high level.  You're using basic sentence structure, to from, when, where, how much, what time, etc.  To have a strong grasp you would need to be able to speak for 30 minutes about abstract topics, or like I said be able to do real-time translation for any content that comes on the television or be able to pick up a newspaper and translate the whole thing.


Obviously the choice is yours how far you want to take it, but I recommend mastering one before you move to the next when it's your first couple of languages.

December 8, 2015

Thank you for your comment Nico! It's very encouranging. I guess I will need to just keep practicing. 


I've been studying Spanish consistantly for seven years and have gotton around in Mexico on my own for awhile using only Spanish so I am confident in my ability to use Spanish. I guess with more time I will be able to sort out the Danish. I think right now my brain has "English mode" and "not English mode" when it needs to have a mode for each of my languages haha. 

December 8, 2015