Learning French after Spanish, will I lose my Spanish?
Thread poster: David Jessop

David Jessop  Identity Verified
Spain
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
Nov 9, 2011

Hello fellow translators, linguists, and language learners:

I have a C1 level in Spanish according to the European Framework of Languages. It's not 100% perfect but it's certainly good enough to understand almost everything, speak with only a rare mistake, and express myself well in a wide range of contexts, including professionally, not to mention working successfully as a professional translator for more than five years. I've lived in Spain for a couple years and learned the bulk of my grammar base while studying in various countries in South America. While quite fluent in the language, I am always looking to increase my vocabulary in Spanish and broaden my knowledge.

Recently the opportunity has arisen to take an intensive language course in France. I'm really excited as I love French culture, have many French friends, and have long since been attracted to the language. The idea is to spend about a year in France with the course running for 3-6 months. I would work part time while taking the course.

I do not even have a basic level of French at this point yet it is clear that there is a lot of overlap with Spanish.

My concern is that in the process of learning French I will lose my Spanish or that once I learn French I will end up confusing the two languages to such a degree that I will use many French words in place of Spanish and vice versa.

I recognize this is highly dependent on the individual, innumerable factors come into play, and everyone would have a different experience. I am wondering about the experience of others, especially from other non-native speakers who have learned Spanish then French or the other way around or two highly similar languages as an adult.

Thanks for any thoughts.

David

[Edited at 2011-11-09 07:08 GMT]


 

Madeleine Chevassus  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 20:16
Member (2010)
English to French
between Spanish and Italian Nov 9, 2011

I had this problem between Spanish and Italian, but I was a beginner in both languages. I could never master one of the two languages.

It seems to me that French and Spanish are not so close, and since you master Spanish very well, this problem should not happen to you.

Bien sûr, I am not objective because I am French!

Marie


 

Maria Popova  Identity Verified
Bulgaria
Local time: 21:16
Member (2011)
German to Bulgarian
+ ...
go for the course Nov 9, 2011

Dear David,

I can share with you my experience regarding another two similar languages (German language family): German and English. As I started learning English I already made my living with German and I had the same fear as you. Yes, there was a period of time when I messed up on both languages - there were English words in my German sentences or my English sentences had a German structure. I got very confused at that time and the only thing I decided to do was to continue my English studies. I ended up at Level C2 in English - at same level as I already was in German and I can assure you that this high level of language knowledge made it possible for me to successfully differentiate between German and English. Somehow my brain was able to place them in different sections so that I can now compare them without confusion. My only advice is if you decide to go for the French course not to give up too early even if you are frustrated at some point. Just keep going and things will clear up.

Kind Regards


 

Gilla Evans  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:16
Spanish to English
+ ...
You only lose languages if you don't use them. Nov 9, 2011

Like you, I'm a native speaker of English. I learnt French first, then Spanish and Portuguese (much more similar to one another as you know), lived in Spain, then in France, then in Latin America. I have not really suffered from any confusion between the languages and I have found that the more languages I learn the easier the process becomes. I have been learning Italian for some years and I do experience a little confusion with Spanish, but I think it is because I have not spent long enough periods in Italy. I would say, go for it. I don't think you will lose your Spanish unless you neglect it.

 

Paul Harrison MITI
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:16
French to English
Not permanently. Nov 9, 2011

I learned French after Spanish (both as an adult), having achieved around the same level of fluency as yourself. It is made easier in some ways due to the similarities between the two languages, and you will pick up certain grammatical points (such as objective pronouns) intuitively.

There is some degree of language attrition, but I think that after a certain level is reached this is more a question of how much you continue to use the languages rather than any permanent effect of learning a third language. However, having lived in France for two years now I have to make a real effort to keep my spoken Spanish up to scratch, and I wouldn't class myself as having C1 level spoken proficiency any more.

I would certainly recommend joining a Spanish conversation group or making some Spanish friends, as even an hour per week will make a difference.

You can check out what the language boffins have to say here:

http://aix1.uottawa.ca/~clo/Tremblay.pdf

This may put your mind at rest: Joseph Conrad wrote Heart of Darkness, a classic of English language literature, in what was his third language!

[Edited at 2011-11-09 10:34 GMT]


 

Margherita Romagnoli  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 20:16
French to Italian
+ ...
Spanish vs Romanian Nov 9, 2011

Hi David,

I am Italian native speaker, I started my French course when I was 11 and my Spanish one when I was 15. I have a C2 level in both, but something very strange is happening now. I am living in Romania and, while my French is still good, even if I do not use it very often, I am having problems with Spanish. Of course I still understand it very well, but it takes me a great effort to speak or to write it. I think it is because 1) I am not using it now as an active language and 2) because Romanian and Spanish are quite close. Maybe point 2 is only in my mind, but I can not confuse Spanish with Italian, so I "need" to confuse it with another language. But not with French, I agree with Marie, I think French and Spanish are not so close, the sounds are very different and so the grammar. Maybe you will be a little confused at the beginning, but keep going! =)


 

neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 20:16
Spanish to English
+ ...
Carpe diem Nov 9, 2011

David Jessop wrote:


Recently the opportunity has arisen to take an intensive language course in France. I'm really excited as I love French culture, have many French friends, and have long since been attracted to the language. The idea is to spend about a year in France with the course running for 3-6 months. I would work part time while taking the course.
Thanks for any thoughts.

David

[Edited at 2011-11-09 07:08 GMT]


Go for it David. You won't "lose" anything, although some Spanish may get pushed back into the nether recesses of memory. Your working knowledge of Spanish should help understand the grammar and the main differences (apart from cultural) are really in the pronunciation and vocabulary. Your love of French culture, several French friends and liking for the language are more than enough positive pointers IMO.

I'd say you have everything to gain and nothing to lose. Bonne chance!

PS: Don't worry about making gaffes, or using Spanish expressions by mistake - potential paramours will most likely find it cute and attractiveicon_wink.gif And everything Spanish is currently fashionable in France according to my gallic chums...

[Edited at 2011-11-09 11:00 GMT]


 

Rosa Grau
Spain
Local time: 20:16
English to Catalan
+ ...
Astonished Nov 9, 2011

I have learned a number of languages (about 10) and never had this mixing-up problem. Of course you lose fluency if you don't use them. And so what? Language is not a posession.

 

Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:16
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Spanish after French Nov 9, 2011

My French has never been anywhere near professional level. I learned it at school and took it a bit further at evening classes later. In 1986 I took a two-month intensive course in Spanish, in Spain. At the end of that time my Spanish was not bad and certainly better than my French.
But after a lapse of several years not using either very much, I think my French is a bit better.
Je parle français comme une vache espagnol. Háblo español como una vaca francésa.

[Edited at 2011-11-09 14:43 GMT]


 

David Jessop  Identity Verified
Spain
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Nov 10, 2011

Thanks to everyone for their helpful responses. They make me feel more confident in doing the course.

Best,
David


 


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