How to learn three languages at once using your high school Spanish skills

We all remember sitting in an entry-level high school Spanish class thinking, “What? Why is the word for ‘to eat’ not something like, I don’t know, ‘eatar’ or something? Comer sounds like the word for ‘to come’!”. Your teachers might have responded with a frown and a stern response to get over it or simply tell you “just because”.

Yes, there’s math in the background, but you get the point.

The real reason why “to eat” differs so greatly from “comer” is because English and Spanish are different types of languages. In better words, English is a Germanic language while Spanish is a Romance language. For now, we’ll focus on the Romance languages. Other languages of this type include French, Portuguese, Spanish, and Italian. These languages are all similar, because they each stem directly from Latin. This means that most of the words in each of these languages are words that in some way derive from a similar word in Latin or are Latin words that are still in use. We’ll take advantage of this concept when we’re discovering how to learn more than one of these languages at a time.

The Latin language tree

In learning more than one Romance language simultaneously, we must leverage the idea that many of the languages have strong similarities between their terms as it will help accelerate our language learning process. Think for example the words for “to eat” in French and Italian, which are “manger” and “mangiare”, respectively. The two share the stem “mang”. Here, we start to see very close similarities, or parallels, between the two languages. The concept applies to Spanish and Portuguese: the word for “to eat” is “comer” in both languages! So, we can now see that each of these languages are connected not only in origin but also in practical speaking. As an accelerated language learner, it’s your job to constantly discover these connections and use them to your advantage.

They’re all connected in one way or another

While learning two or more languages simultaneously by leveraging the similarities between each of them is very possible, there can be a few hindrances that slow down the process. The languages are definitely similar in many ways, but there must be words or phrases that differ, otherwise, they may as well be the same language! The parallels can be limited. For example, the term “dining room” has limited resemblance among the Romance languages. Check out the following picture.

Note the similarities and the differences

Notice how the root “sal” is parallel among Italian, French, and Portuguese. This can help us know that the word for “room” is very similar between the three languages. But, the term “dining room” starkly differs between each language in their respective version of the “dining” modifier. This modifier is “da pranzo” in Italian, “à manger” in French, and “de jantar” in Portuguese. Here, it’s obvious that the term for “dining room” is similar in each language, to an extent. The similarity is prevalent in the word for “room” in three of the languages, having the root “sal” present in the three. But, the “dining” modifier greatly differs among the three. In addition, the word for “dining room” in Spanish is one word. You can see that the connections between these languages can be somewhat inconsistent, and that might slow you down when trying to learn more than one language at the same time.

In the end, we can conclude that languages of the same family have many similarities, or parallels, such as root words that can help us learn more than one of them simultaneously. But, we also learned that said parallels are limited and that languages often have a few differences that can slow down our accelerated language learning process like certain terms and conjugation rules. Keep these facts in mind when learning more than one language at a time and you’ll be on your way to multilingualism!

Become a polyglot in no time!