Interferences between (similar) languages

Hi folks,
When you learn several languages, do you also have the problem of “interference”, especially with languages that are quite similar among themselves?

I did Italian for some time and then added spanish. The spanish came fairly easily, but I had to pay a heavy price: I could not uttter one word in Italian any more.

It took me a few years ( about 5) and some forgetting of spanish to retrieve my active (spoken/written) italian. The understanding of the language was not affected.

Did you have similar experiences? How do you cope with it?

For the most part, mine don’t get mixed up. But when I’m uncertain, I tend to borrow (be it a word or phrase) from a language I’m stronger in.

I believe this problem is most acute between languages within the same family - e.g. Italian vs. Spanish or German vs. Dutch, etc.

(Having said that, during one of the early weeks when I was living in Germany, I can remember being in a conversation and hearing myself say right out loud “wir sprechiamo”…!! :-0)

I’m studying both Spanish and Polish at the moment.

I don’t confuse nouns so much, but I’ve noticed that I often mix up conjunctions and grammar rules, such as “que” in Spanish and “że” in Polish, and also occasionally when writing words which sound the same in both languages but spelt differently. For example, I often spell many Spanish words with Polish “j” instead of the Spanish “y”, which of course sounds completely different.

I’ve been studying Polish for 3 years and it took some time to get used to the grammar, lack of articles, the cases. When I started learning Spanish a few weeks ago, I found it really hard to adjust to the much more English-like grammar of Spanish and again using articles. So at the moment, I actually have a problem of mixing grammar up and I’ve found myself saying phrases such as “no tengo un perrego” instead of “no tengo un perro” :wink:

In time, I’m sure I’ll separate the languages out. I’m sure it would be a nightmare if I was studying Italian and Spanish at the same time though

In the case of Spanish and Italian, I can’t imagine it being a nightmare. Perhaps if you’re focussing on learning grammar and trying to memorise things, it might get a bit complicated. From an input-based learning standpoint, I look at it as creating two distinct worlds (distinguished mostly by the sounds and rhythm of the languages). Once you hear one language being spoken, you access the ‘world’ that relates to that particular language. The problem, I find, is that I don’t always have the words in Spanish (so I’ll might borrow from French, which can be hit and miss). But the same thing happens with French, if I don’t know something, I’ll borrow from English and hope for the best :slight_smile:

Same as Peter. I’m studying Portuguese and I know some Spanish, but I never mix them up though the two are very similar.

As Peter said, I think that it depends on your learning method.

The problems i get, by learning similar languages are no so much as i mix up and confuse Words and idioms in similar languages, but how when after I have been focusing on language A really hard, and then start focusing language B again. language A has managed to shred my reading-voice in language B to pieces, as well as heavily affect my Accent with language A traits.

I’ve experienced this problem when I tried to learn french and italian at the same time. I’ve kept mixing the personal pronoums “il” and “lui”, in addition to some other words. But my knowledge of both languages was just superficial at the time.

To cope with that I simply decided to focus my studies in one of these languages (french in my case).

Now I intend to study italian only when I feel I have an advanced level of french, but I imagine that I wouldn’t have had this problem if the two languages weren’t similar, e.g., italian and english.

The only problem I have is when I don’t know a word in one of the languages. I’ll stumble and a word from the other language will come into my brain. But, I don’t confuse them, when I know the appropriate word in each language. Even obviously close ones.