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La Academia News

How many languages is enough?

Posted on : November 20, 2015

In previous blogs la Academia has discussed whether British people should learn a language (yes! Read our previous posts to see why!), but today we are wondering how many languages we should learn – how many is enough?

English and Scots people have an odd relationship with languages – there is a strong resistance to learning languages and a feeling that they are “difficult”, or that there is “no need” to learn languages, since people in other countries learn ours. The situation in Wales is a little different, as there the teaching of Welsh in schools is a given, so having 2 languages is more accepted). On the other hand many British people are excellent linguists and in the past people posted to far-flung corners of the Empire had to learn languages such as Chinese, Hindi, Urdu, Arabic and African languages for example, seemingly without the angst it cause us these days.

Despite this proud history of learning languages, the current tide in language learning is against the idea of learning many languages. Schools are limiting language choice with the idea of getting children to “focus their efforts” on just one language. Unfortunately, many students only get a taste of one language – learning the language that suits the school, not them, so how can they perform their best?

At the other end of the scale we have language super-learners; people who learn multiple languages, proving that given enthusiasm there is no limit to the languages we can learn. The current world record score of languages spoke is disputed, but seems to be around 50-60 languages – so if there are people out there learning that many languages, what’s holding the majority of us back?

It does seems to be the case that once someone has learned a language, learning a second and then a third, fourth or fifth, becomes easier – do we develop language learning pathways in the brain, a  better understanding of how to learn  vocabulary and grammatical structures, or do we simply lose the fear of learning languages?  Maybe a combination of these it what leads some people to be able to answer the question “how many languages do you speak” by counting on more than one finger!

Want to learn an additional language? Share this post and let’s see if we can find the person locally who speaks most languages! And don’t forget – if you want to add to your language portfolio, La Academia is the place to learn!

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