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Is it true that once you know one Romance language, you can learn the others in half the time?

I've read this around the internet, and I was wondering if it is true. It sort of makes sense because they all come from Latin and they're in the same language family, but has anyone who learned a second or third Romance language been able to pick it up much faster than their first? I've looked at Italian and Spanish and I want to learn both eventually, but in my opinion the grammar is much more similar to each other between these languages than French. French grammar and, in some cases, vocabulary, seem to be somewhat more distant in the Romance family. If anything, Italian seems like a "bridge" between French and Spanish.

I've also read that the more languages you learn, the better and easier new language acquisition becomes, even if you learn languages which are not similar to each other. But I read that this is more to do with your brain recognizing different patterns and getting used to putting together information in a different way.

Can anyone who knows or is learning a lot of languages verify this?

May 22, 2017



Nope. Knowing one makes learning the others easier as a lot of shared vocabulary and certain aspects of grammar carry over, but you'll still need to spend a great deal of time in becoming fluent in Italian if you're fluent in, say, French.

Romanian is a totally different beast- it features a great number of grammatical features not present in the others.

Speaking one will accelerate your learning a lot when learning another, but it's not going to knock half off the time required to become fluent.

You're absolutely right that the more time you spend learning languages (and the more languages you can speak), the easier it becomes. Like any skill, practice makes perfect, and a good knowledge of grammar in general and the peculiarities of each language family mean that every addition to your repertoire is a little easier.


I wouldn't say I can 'verify' it in the whole sense of the word, but I can talk from my own experience as a native Spanish speaker who is learning Portuguese and German to tell some differences in the process.

For me; yes, it has been easier to advance in a language that is part of a family that I'm more familiar with. Learning grammar has not been so difficult when considering the 'jump' between Spanish to Portuguese, to German (which is my priority language at the moment). It does seem easier, maybe because the structure is so similar for ES-PT, that you only have to focus on smaller differences while still understanding whole messages. However, and I need to make special emphasis on this, languages that are so similar like these can (AND WILL DURING THE PROCESS) get mixed up, resulting in a temporarily unintelligible mixture.

So my verdict would be, based on what I just described from my own experience, that even though it does seem easier, you still have to gain experience in both languages separately, and set your mind to become a difference-detecting machine for you to do a clean job learning them.


As someone who's learned three Romance languages (Spanish, French, and Portuguese) to a reasonably high, if varyingly rusty level, yes it certainly makes it a great deal easier. My not-really-thinking about it notion would put half on the conservative side, i.e. it could easily be less. However, that doesn't really reflect a constant end point. If you speak Spanish, you can probably have mostly-functional Portuguese in a third the time as if you didn't speak Spanish, but polishing it off to real productive fluency is another matter. It's hard to actually know what you don't know because it's so much like Spanish so much of the time — until it isn't. This actually makes it a touch harder in some ways than learning Spanish knowing French. You can rarely just mindlessly Hispanicize French things with reasonable hope of being right, but when you see the legitimate Spanish things, you'll remember them easily nonetheless. But, having lacked as many opportunities to really employ Portuguese, I've found it a bit tough to really get it to stand on its own, and its almost more confusing to keep the unique Portuguese things straight than if it were a bit more distinct all around. With Catalan, I'm not at a high level at all. I still make plenty of mistakes in the top third of the Duolingo tree, for instance. However, I can pretty well understand (at least the clearly spoken parts of) things like movies, this with merely going through the Duolingo tree one and a half times. Obviously, nothing like that can be expected when learning one's first Romance language, and it might well make the process feel a lot easier than it actually is because there's so much more you can do at every point along the way (read novels after months, not years; read Wikipedia articles after weeks, not years, etc.) than you could with the first one even if the overall time to reach precisely the same point on the overall proficiency scale doesn't differ as greatly.

The advantages you have after learning the first one aren't just in the knowledge of common Romance grammar (which is huge) and vocab (which is also huge) but simply in knowing that other languages work differently than your own, so your mind has been trained (through a lot of hard work) to be able to apply unfamiliar rules and just to understand the basic notion that there ARE unfamiliar rules. This makes learning further unfamiliar rules a good deal easier. Granted, this isn't a Romance language specific observation, but it just applies all the more because, being in one family, they tend to be unfamiliar in ways that are sort of familiar. For example, Spanish and French certainly each have their own sets of quirks in tense usage and the like, but if you speak French, about the only think likely to strike you as out of left field different grammatically is the contrast between ser and estar. Everything else is merely different in a fairly straightforward way, the kinds of differences you're already used to learning about and mastering.


In my own experience, yes, kind of. I recently wrote about it, here: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/22594204


It is quite true, I know Latin from school and learning Spanish has been easier than I thought. I've heard the same about Italian and French.


While having a knowledge of Latin is a real help with many other languages, it isn't a Romance language- it's Italic. The Romance languages are descended from one of its dialects.


Well, not really. Vulgar Latin, that is, is an umbrella term to describe a vast array of dialects of Latin, not one in particular, because they varied greatly. As for Italic- yes, you're right.


I'm a native Romanian speaker, which is the mixed child of the Romance family (born from mother Latin and father Slavic) and that is often forgotten when it comes to Romance languages. I stayed in Italy for 3 summers and now I speak Italian quite well. My grammar sucks but I can say what I want to say and Italians understand me and I understand them. I'm starting the Italian course here on Duolingo because I want to learn the grammar and language properly. I say it can be quite easy but still difficult


If you speak Spanish, I'd say you can learn Portuguese in a quarter of the time.


It was very helpful for me to learn Esperanto faster by knowing basic Spanish, even though Esperanto is not classified as a Romance language.

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