The secret benefit of completing many trees
«The more languages you learn, the easier it gets»
That's what all polyglots say. So I was wondering, what if I'm curious about some languages, but not really interested in reaching fluency, and I decided to try and complete their trees?? Would that be enough to get used to different patterns and learn the languages I'm really interested in faster?
Many of you have already completed more than a dozen trees. What was your experience like? And do you think that completing, say, the Swahili tree, could help me learn a completely different language? Please let me know!!
Of course. It helps hugely. I've been learning French and German more seriously (outside Duolingo) and at the same time finishing new trees on Duolingo. Languages like Romance and Scandinavian seem extremely easy after you've done some harder ones. It is true both for trees and for learning outside Duolingo. You often use and recognise patterns you've learned from one language and it makes your learning of another much faster. Also it helps you look at languages in new more analytical ways, and makes learning much more fun.
That's exactly what I wanted to know, thanks!! Do you think it's better to learn an easy language after a hard one or the opposite?
It depends really. Do you mean learning seriously aiming at fluency, or doing trees on Duolingo? In general it's always good to start with easier languages at the beginning, like Romance or Scandinavian, and then try to experiment with other. But try to choose languages that interest you, not based on difficulty. After you've done two easy ones, you can easily choose anything you want. I've done almost all easy trees first and I wish I had tried some harder one earlier.
But most of the time it doesn't matter. An important thing to remember though is that it's really bad to learn very similar languages at the same time, especially at the basic level. I've done Italian and Portuguese on Duolingo simultaneously and it was a terrible idea. You confuse words more often and after some time they may just become boring.
You get better at analyzing languages - you start to get a sense of exactly what you should be learning in order to understand or communicate - but you won't necessarily find it any easier to master them. Every language still has tens of thousands of words and idioms, which you can only absorb over a long stretch of time, and that is usually what people are thinking about when they tell you it's better to focus on one and get the most out of it. The problem with that advice is that you can't possibly choose which one to focus on without trying them all...
People also try to denigrate it , as the saying goes 'Jack of all trades, master of none' , but to be honest, I wouldn't trade my shallow knowledge of dozens of languages for mastery in any single one of them. You start to see connections that other people can't see, you start to see familiar words in places you least expected to find them, and you start to see with your own eyes how language itself lives and breathes, it's a feeling you can't get by following the straightforward path :)
I couldn't agree more, in fact when I posted this discussion I was hoping for an answer like yours. Thank you so much!
I have only completed 2 trees, but I have always been curious about different ways of expressing thoughts in language, so I did the first lessons of almost every language here on Duo (I deleted some). Completing the trees takes a lot of work and time (and if it's a very complicated language like Russian, don't even bother unless you're going to learn it seriously). I wouldn't advise you to complete a tree for a language you aren't even interested in just to "get better" at learning languages. If you want to really learn a language, don't waste time and go learn that language.
Life is short and time is precious
PS: Seriously, some languages (i'm looking at you, Russian and Chinese...) you can't learn to a basic level unless you dedicate a GREAT lot of time and work (Esperanto is not one of them). I don't know about Swahili, but after having reached level 6 in Russian I realized that it's just not worth it unless you really want to learn it.
Thank you, I see your point. Chinese and Russian are in fact the languages that I'd like to learn the most, but the Chinese writing system makes no sense to me, and Russian is also pretty hard. Maybe I could try and do the same thing Gerardd88 did, and focus on Romance and Scandinavian languages first. Although you're right, time is indeed precious!
If you have certain languages you'd like to learn in mind, then certainly the quickest path to learning them is to, well, learn them. However, some languages are a lot more complicated than others, and I do think some super important things do transfer. For instance, I learned to speak French first. My brain having learned to speak and understand another language without translating to or from my native English, I have generally found this ability to apply to other languages, obviously in the measure of how much of them I actually knew. In this measure I could see how learning something "easy," an Esperanto or a Spanish let's say could help one come to speak Chinese fluently since the brain will have been trained to speak without translating. And, for instance, I didn't have much problem with Latin cases since I'd learned Russian cases fairly well, and although they're not identical or used identically, they're related.
Some lesser things can help, too, for instance Turkish I believe only uses third person plural verb forms for human subjects. For non-human subjects it always uses third person singular. This sort of phenomenon was unfamiliar to me, but having learned about it in Turkish, it made sense somewhat faster when the same thing cropped up in Georgian (which, incidentally, isn't related to Turkish although the countries border each other).
And it was easier to deal with Guaraní's omitting the verb "to be" since I'd long been familiar with Russian's doing the same thing. And having heard that Chinese doesn't have tense conjugations but rather uses time adverbs (forgive me, anyone who actually knows Chinese; I don't) I understood what was going on when I saw the same happening in Guaraní, even though Guaraní does also have morphological tenses. So, yes, certainly things only keep getting easier the more language study you've done.
That's exactly what I was referring to, even completely different languages might be similar in some ways. Thank you!
Here's another fun one: both Swahili and Guaraní negate verbs with circumfixes (that is both a prefix and a suffix), and... the suffixes are the same :) (well, in the present tense at least)
It depends on how close the languages are. When you complete the Spanish tree, you may or may not find the Portuguese tree easy. The Esperanto tree might help you with any of the Romance languages faster . . . or so I've heard.
Overall, once you get used to the idea of the structure of languages, nouns, verbs, adverbs and subject-verb-object order or Object-verb-subject order or whatever variation a particular language uses then I would imagine learning a new language will not be overwhelming.
Will the learning process be faster?
That really depends on how much work you're willing to put in.
Yeah I can see why learning similar languages might be easier, I was just wondering if different languages would also benefit. Although you're probably right, it might take more than one different language to get used to those things!
It really depends on the learner. From my experience on language learner forums, people complain because what they're learning is not easy, it is not quick or doesn't make sense from their viewpoint. If you're willing to accept that Spanish or Russian is different from your native language then that will really make the process easier and possibly quicker. However, once you begin to question, or complain about the subjunctive mood or genders in Spanish . . . you lose focus. You lose time. You make the process difficult.
When you learned your native language, you didn't worry about grammatical rules. You read, you talked, you wrote and you made mistakes. Hopefully some one corrected you or you learned more about your language as you continued to live it and use it. When you begin to learn a 2nd or 3rd language if you begin to worry about the rules of the language instead of living in it or using it . . . you begin to doubt yourself, question yourself without really giving yourself ample opportunities to make mistakes or simply have fun living in the language and more importantly using it.
The more you learn languages, the more open you will become to their inherit differences. That is important. French will never be like English. Russian will always be Russian. As long as you can accept that certain phrases you learn in Spanish are not generally expressed in English, you will be able to appreciate Spanish, Russian or Korean.
It is very true. Apart from seeing the obvious patterns emerge, you develop a better approach. Muscle memory comes to mind, if you understand this. It works the same way with languages. The more you learn, the better you get at it and adapt your brain. It isn't a coincidence that one of the best ways to get ready for the day in which you anticipate to use a set number of languages is to pick up a newspaper or open an online portal with thought-provoking texts in each language and read through it before commencing your day. It's all about adapting your brain to this process and tackling multiple languages triggers this process with more ease and better ability.
It is also useful to complete the possible language combinations, for example I started with Spanish from German and when I did Spanish from French it seemed much easier to learn because words are more often similar or grammar concepts. Talking about grammar concepts I think that the more you know the less surprises you and you'll adapt new concepts easier... just my own humble opinion :-)
Each language improves your skills. No work on any language is a waste of time unless you are trying to cram tables of verb endings or the like into your head. Don't bother, they come quite easily once you have been exposed to a language enough. Your brain's language centres are far better at that sort of thing than the conscious part of you is.
Well I am really good at Italian so I tried out Spanish and found them very similar
There are several aspects of that.
First, you need to learn how to learn a language and what to look at when learning one. What words are, how they're related to each other, why they are arranged that way and not the other in your native language, and so on.
Second, even unrelated languages share grammar features. If your native language doesn't have articles/cases/verb aspects/subjunctive/multitude of verb tenses/counter words/gender/vowel harmony, and you learn one language that has that feature, they you'll have an easier time learning another language with the same or similar feature.
Third, obviously, vocabulary. Similarities exist not only between related languages, which is obvious, but also between unrelated ones. If you're an English native speaker and you'll learn Spanish word biblioteca, meaning library, you'll be pleasantly surprised when learning Polish and encountering the word biblioteka. It can even stretch further than that: see German Arbeit "job" vs Japanese arubaito "part-time job".
Four, sounds. This is similar to language features. When you learn to differentiate sounds in your first foreign language, you can now deal with similar differences in other languages. For example, a native Polish speaker will have to learn the difference between French è and é (since Polish has just a single e), but after that it will be easy to learn German short e and long eh, which are almost the same as the French ones.
Having taken a couple of years of Japanese where I struggled mightily with Japanese particles, I found that Korean particles felt much easier. My brain had become compatible with the concept of particles. :)