Posted by learnitalianfortravel  |  August 6, 2018

Learning a foreign language is exciting and can be easier if you've already acquired another foreign language, although in the initial phases, it may seem more difficult.. My grandparents are both Italian immigrants, but I never learned Italian until I went to UC Santa Barbara and enrolled in my first course.  I had studied French for three years in High School, and although I had done well in all of my classes, I had never achieved a native like fluency.  The accent was hard for me to master and so was spontaneous conversation.  When I first began studying Italian, interestingly, all of my dormant French knowledge returned with crystal clarity. I thought that I had forgotten all of the information I had studied because I hadn't used it in a couple of years, yet there it was, readily accessible and confusing me when I was trying to memorize the new formulas for learning Italian.  For a period of a few months, every test that I took, every writing assignment, and every time I tried to speak Italian, French would come out instead! After this short period however, the confusion dissipated and I was easily able to access my Italian knowledge from a different database that wasn't intermingled with French.

This summer, I was in Costa Rica for a month studying Spanish and I observed a couple of different things about acquiring multiple languages.  Firstly, every time I spoke Italian I would unintentionally add some Spanish words.  Because every day I was actively studying and speaking Spanish, when I tried to switch gears, it confused my brain.  However, I wanted to compare everything that I was learning in Spanish to the rules that I know so well in Italian.  Because Italian and Spanish are so similar, it really helped me to have Italian as a foundation that I could draw from and compare and contrast, rather than English which is so different than Spanish.  Another thing I noticed was that my German friend whose first language is German (and is also fluent in English), would unintentionally speak Italian when she was trying to say something in Spanish. She had never studied either Spanish or Italian formally, but has more knowledge of Italian from her time spent living in Germany and travelling in Italy.  The same thing happened to her as had happened to me as a new Italian learner-the knowledge of a previous acquired foreign language had returned and was causing some interference with the new language acquisition.  

I was pleased with how quickly I picked up Spanish at a conversational level.  After only one semester of a college course, and one month studying in Costa Rica I was able to speak easily and understand most of what I heard from the native Costa Ricans.  I believe that this was made possible by my knowledge and understanding of Italian.  As I previously wrote, the structure of the two langagues is very similar, and although initially I did have some confusion between the two, my strong foundation in Italian inevitably helped me to integrate Spanish very quickly.  I wouldn't consider myself completely fluent yet in Spanish, but I will continue to study and some day hope to be able to speak it as well as I do Italian.