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The Multilingual Advantage: How Speaking 2 Languages Makes Additional Language Learning Easier

Hello there! I’m Katrina, a linguist specializing in bilingual language development and a coach specializing in supporting parents to raise their children with multiple languages. 

After years in academia (I have PhD Candidacy!) studying and working with a wide range of bilinguals and multilinguals I began to notice a pattern. While the majority of the world is bilingual, parents are seriously lacking the knowledge and support they need to successfully raise their children to speak multiple languages. That’s where I come in, through my work at Bringing up Bilinguals I’m on a mission to bring research-backed, data-driven, and evidence-based linguistic knowledge to support families on their unique bilingual journey. 

I’m so happy to be collaborating with Juliana and Language Mindset to be guest authoring a series of blog posts highlighting some of the science behind language learning and development. 

While there’s lots of benefits of speaking two or more languages (hello having an open connection to two cultures!), one of the most unexpected advantages lies in how speaking two languages can make learning additional languages considerably easier in the future. 

Let’s dive into the why behind the boost bilingualism gives when learning a third, fourth, or even tenth language!

The Role of Transferability

Learning a second language after your first language is established (called subsequent bilingualism) means that you have one language system in your brain. Learning a second language goes through this system and it acts as the base for all transfer to the new language. If the languages are similar (like two romance languages) than the first language has lots of features that can be transferred to the second language without needing to be reset or relearned. For example, a Portuguese second language learner of Spanish can transfer the grammatical gender system of Portuguese and an English second language learner of Spanish can transfer English word order. While there are nuances of language, Spanish has different genders than Portuguese for certain objects and Spanish has a more flexible word order than English, learners can use their language as a building block for the next language.

Bilingual learners of an additional language often discover that their existing language skills serve as a foundation upon which they can build additional linguistic competencies. Concepts such as verb conjugations, sentence structure, and word order, which may vary from one language to another can now be transferred from BOTH languages. The ability to transfer from not just one language but multiple languages makes it more likely that at least one of the languages has features that are the same or similar to the new language. This makes the baseline available for transfer much greater than in monolinguals learning their second language and makes the learning curve much smaller especially at early stages. 

Enhanced Language Learning Strategies

Language learning is a learnable skill. Having navigated the complexities of mastering their second language, multilingual individuals often develop effective language learning strategies that they can apply to learning subsequent languages. They understand the importance of practice, consistency and exposure to authentic materials and speakers, which are crucial components of language acquisition. Most importantly, they understand their own learning processes and strengths. They know what works for them, why, and how to apply that knowledge to learning another language.

Overcoming Language Learning Barriers

Learning a new language can be daunting, especially when faced with unfamiliar grammar rules and vocabulary. However, bilingual learners already know what it’s like to be a beginning language learner. They’ve mastered the art of making errors on conjugations , learned to overcome language shyness and just start speaking, and know that the best way to learn a language is to make mistakes. They no longer get held back by their limited proficiency but know that practice makes progress and one day they’ll be speaking with locals with confidence. 

In today's interconnected world, the ability to speak multiple languages is an invaluable asset. Beyond the practical advantages of bilingualism, such as increased job opportunities and enhanced communication skills, multilingual individuals possess a unique advantage when it comes to learning additional languages. By leveraging their past learning experiences, language learning strategies, and transferable skills, they can navigate the complexities of language acquisition with relative ease. Ultimately, opening doors to new worlds, opportunities, and connections with each additional language a person speaks. 


I’m Katrina and I’m a linguist specializing in childhood bilingualism and heritage language acquisition. Originally from Toronto, I’ve spent the last 8 years living between Canada and Spain where I’ve completed two degrees in linguistics and received doctoral candidacy for my research on English as a home language in multilingual children in Spain. ​As a bilingual parenting coach I work with families around the world bringing my years of experience and expertise to your multilingual home. Raising children can be stressful and with all the advice out there it can be hard to know what is relevant and applicable for your bilingual family. I’m here to take away some of the stress and anxiety that comes with bilingual development and help set your family on the best path forward (backed by science). 

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