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When learning another language, one will often have to wrap their head around sentence structures, conjugations, and other quirks not found in their native language. Such things can include word order (such as the Spanish subject-object pronoun-verb: "Él lo come." versus the English subject-verb-object pronoun: "He eats it."), modifier placement (Spanish is often noun-adjective: "chica bonita" versus English adjective-noun: "pretty girl"), unique sounds/pronunciations, etc.

In what ways can such skills/knowledge increase my skill with my native tongue?

  • I haven't VTCd or downvoted yet but this doesn't seem to really be a question about language learning and rather a general question about effects of language learning. Which I'm not sure whether or not are on-topic. I don't know why they are two downvotes other than monkey-see monkey-do. – Downgoat Apr 6 '16 at 1:36
  • @Vihan It could be argued that it's about learning my native tongue, but I guess I'll vote to close it in favor of the majority. – Hatchet Apr 6 '16 at 1:38
  • This question need not be opinion based. I've cited three specific ways (with examples) how one or more "second" languages help a native one. – Tom Au Apr 6 '16 at 1:53
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I've found that learning a second language helps my native language.

The first area is etymology. Most English words have origins in foreign words, and learning those foreign words helps my understanding of the corresponding English words. For instance, there are words like "doubt" with "strange" spellings, until one traces them back to their Latin origins. "Window" means "wind's eye" in Scandinavian languages where it comes from.

A second area is grammar. Learning foreign grammatical constructions helps me understand what is and isn't present in the English language.

A third area is where nouns and adjectives have different roots. For instance, "hand," "heart,""kidney," and "lung" have Germanic roots, while their adjectival forms, "manual," "coronary," "renal," and "pulmonary," have Latin roots.

  • It might also be helpful to distinguish what can be gained depending on the relation between L1 and L2. – virmaior Apr 6 '16 at 5:15
  • this only applies when the second language has a relationship with your native one. This is not really true if the one you learn is distinct or even disparate from your language. – Ooker Apr 6 '16 at 6:13
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    @Ooker That isn't necessarily true. English and Chinese are not related at all, yet English has measure words (and classifiers to a certain extent) as does Chinese. Learning about something that you may not be aware exists in your own language will influence your understanding of your native tongue. – callyalater Apr 6 '16 at 16:56
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Some national curricula (for example The French new national curriculum for compulsory education - primary and secondary) now states that learning a L2 should help the learner reinforce the acquisition of his mother tongue. This has not always been the case but it has been a growing movement since the 1970s, when Eric Hawkins1 started his studies in "Language Awareness". The movement spread outside the UK, notably under the influence of Michel Candelier who directed research in the field of l'Éveil aux Langues. You can read this 1999 paper by Eric Hawkins if you want to learn more.

1 See his book Awareness of Language- An introdution.

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This is a rather subjective answer:

Learning some languages helps your mother tongue, but it depends on the language and teaching methods.

I found that learning Latin and doing translations from Latin to German improved my German. Learning Latin makes you aware of grammatical structures that were previously subconscious. Translation from Latin also sharpened and enlarged my German lexicon.

Learning English (taught by the modern immersion method) did do virtually nothing to my German. Maybe the two languages are too similar, or the immersion method isn't good in creating linguistic awareness.

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Learning a second language can help you by developing your metalingusitic knowledge of the first. Metalinguistic means thinking about a language. Whenever you study a language you different grammatical terms that you may have not learned about in your own language because you learned that language without the deep thought that was required to learn the second.

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