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Will learning another language mess up your English? 🫣

Do you love languages? Or maybe you have to learn more languages out of necessity?
Wherever you find yourself – you might have wondered if learning more than one language at once could actually slow down your hard-earned progress in English.
And it’s a great question! That’s what I’ll be answering in today’s episode.


Podcast intro:

Hey, welcome to the InFluency Podcast. I’m Hadar, and this is episode number 382. And today we’re going to answer the question, “Would learning another language mess up my English?”

Hey everyone. Welcome to another episode of the InFluency Podcast. Today we are going to talk about fluency and learning languages. So, I used to get a lot of questions about learning languages, learning other languages, from my students who were learning English.

Now, most of the people who asked it were at a pretty experienced place in their English journey. So they were either intermediate or advanced speakers, and they wanted to explore new languages. And around that exploration, I noticed that there was a lot of fear. The fear of losing something, changing something, doing something that they might regret.

And today I wanted to address that, the question whether or not learning another language can impact your English, can affect your English negatively. So this is what we’re going to talk about today. I hope you enjoy it. Let’s listen.

Video transcript

Hello, hello, everyone. Welcome to our corner “Will this mess up my English?” Today, we’re going to ask the question, “Will learning another language mess up my English?” We already talked about whether or not listening to different dialects of English mess up your English and your pronunciation. “Would listening to different accents mess up your pronunciation?”

And today we are going to talk to all you overachievers and language learners who speak English as a second language, but you are passionate about learning other languages. And you want to learn another language, but you don’t know if it’s going to affect your English. So let’s talk about it.

And by the way, if you’re new to my channel, then hi, my name is Hadar. I’m a non native speaker of English, and I’m here to help you speak English with clarity, confidence, and freedom. You can check out my website hadarshemesh.com. You can also check out my social media accounts for daily content.

Alright. So let’s talk about it. If you are an English learner, that means that you weren’t born into English and you have learned English and you’re still practicing your English. And you want to learn another language. So I have a Canadian student, originally from Brazil, who speaks English. And she learned English and she improved her English significantly, and then she wanted to learn French. And she was wondering if learning French is going to affect her progress.

So, here’s the thing. It really depends on where you’re at on your English journey. So, if you are at the beginning or middle of your journey, which means that you don’t feel super confident communicating in English, you still struggle to retrieve words, you are not confident in the pronunciation and you often get stuck – which is a completely valid state to be in when you’re learning English or when you speak English as a second language – learning another language might affect your progress in English, and it might hinder your progress.

If you are very experienced in English, you are very confident, you use English fluently, maybe you still need to work on minor things and a little bit about pronunciation and a little bit on small grammatical nuances, it probably won’t affect your progress so much, okay? So, mainly it’s going to affect people who are still in their learning journey.

Now, remember that there are pros and cons to everything. It does not mean that you shouldn’t learn another language, and I’m going to talk about why that is at the end. But first, let me tell you how it might affect your progress. First of all, it’s a question of commitment. Unless you are a polyglot that you get paid for learning languages, you probably don’t have hours and hours in the day to practice languages. So obviously, if you want to learn a new language, you’ll have to devote time and energy into learning that language.

And if you focus on learning French, for example, then you won’t have as much time, or you won’t have time at all, to practice English. And if you’re not very, very experienced in speaking English, then obviously daily practice is still something that you need and that is useful, and that would help you progress and thrive. So that is one thing. It’s technical, how much time you’re going to invest.

Now, this is solvable. You can solve it by still devoting a few minutes a day, even if it’s just 10 minutes, to reviewing things in English, practicing English, speaking English, even if it’s every other day. And you can organize your time that you focus more on the new language, but still maintain your English.

Now another element that you might notice is that when you communicate in English and you’re learning another language, what might happen is that you will struggle with retrieving words. A lot of times in these situations, you would want to say something in English, let’s say, and the words would come up in that new language that you’re learning.

So, everything might get a little bit mixed up in your head. Or vice versa: you would want to speak in your new language that you’re learning, and words in English – actually not your first language, in English – would come up instead. Because your brain already knows what it’s like to retrieve words of your second language.

So that is something that you might experience. Things will get a little messy – the sentence structure, and also the sounds. If you studied English pronunciation and you practiced it, and now you study French. And in French you have completely different sounds, you might be focused on those new sounds, working on those new muscles, placing your voice in a different place. And that might affect your progress in English.

Now, is it something that is reversible? Absolutely. Is it something that you can figure out? Absolutely. Stick to your 5 minute practice every day or 20 minutes every week, where you remind yourself what those sounds of English are. You remind your muscles, you practice it, you use it. That should be enough. And of course, continue learning the sounds of the new language and practicing them.

And also, even if you say to yourself, “I can’t do both. I’m going to focus on the new language first”, that is okay ’cause everything that you’ve learned in English is still going to be there. It’s just going to be a little rusty, so you can come back to it really quickly. And by the way, I do have a video about what to do when your English gets rusty if you don’t use it frequently enough. So I’m going to link to it in the description below.

So, I talked about all the things that might mess up your learning curve and your progress in English. But here’s the thing, while it may have small impact on your English in the short term, in the long term, you are going to benefit from learning other languages tremendously. So when we measure the pros and cons, obviously learning another language would have a lot more impact on your confidence, on your communication skills, and even on your English, than not learning another language.

Now listen, I only speak English as a second language. I’ve tried learning other languages. I am planning to learn more languages in the future. So, I am not the person who would tell you, “You have to learn other languages”. But if you’re thinking about it and you’re worried that it might affect your English, don’t worry about it. Because learning a second language develops your brain. It helps you hear new sounds and that will affect and help your abilities in English. It makes you a better communicator.

And ultimately, everything you do to invest in yourself and in your brain and in your communication skills is valuable, a lot more valuable than not doing it. So, bottom line, do not worry about it. And even if you feel that it might impact your English, still go for it. And the benefits are huge. And as long as you keep English as a part of your life, even if it’s just listening and sometimes repeating it, you’re good.

I hope you found this helpful. If you want to submit your questions to our corner “Will It Mess Up My English?”, just write your suggestions in the comments below.

If you enjoyed this episode, consider subscribing to my YouTube channel or podcast, the InFluency Podcast that you can find on your favorite platform. And check out my website, hadarshemesh.com, where you’ll find so much content and a ton of resources for you to speak English with clarity, confidence, and freedom.

Have a beautiful, beautiful rest of the day. And I will see you next week in the next video. Bye.

The InFluency Podcast
The InFluency Podcast
382. Will learning another language mess up your English? 🫣

Are you learning more than one language at once? How is it going, have you learned any tips or tricks to maintain both languages at once? Let me know in the comments!

Did you like this episode? Check out the episode “Will Learning Other Accents Mess Up My English?”.

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