I am learning Italian right now. I've heard many people say that learning multiple languages at once is a risky idea, since you can easily confuse them. However, would that apply to ASL?

I've heard ASL has its own grammar, but I would not lose any Italian accent I develop, right? I also don't see it interfering in my conversations, since I couldn't accidentally say a word in ASL. Overall, is it safe to learn ASL with another spoken language?

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    Certain linguistic processes are utilized when learning ASL just like any other language, but the complete answer is more involved and complex. I'll work on a complete answer for this. There are many parts to this... Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 22:46
  • While learning more than one language can be confusing, I've read evidence that the mental effort to overcome the confusion of learning more than one language is what's behind the cognitive benefits of being bi or multilingual. The research wasn't about learning more than one language at the same time, but it's possible it applies as well.
    – T. M.
    Commented Jan 19, 2019 at 1:22

2 Answers 2


One advantage of sign language is that the it is learned differently from spoken languages. The only thing sign language has in common with more "traditional" languages is "vocabulary." But in sign language, you "speak" with your hands and "hear" with your eyes, rather than with your mouth and ears. That makes languages harder to confuse than two languages that are spoken and heard with mouth and ears.

It's possible that the use of more parts of the body will help you learn sign language and a spoken language more easily than two spoken languages.

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    'Vocabulary' is not "the only thing that sign language has in common with more 'traditional' languages". To quote from an article in the Wikipedia: "In linguistic terms, sign languages are as rich and complex as any spoken language.[...] They have complex grammars of their own," e.g. "a high degree of inflection by means of changes of movement, and a topic-comment syntax."
    – J.Past
    Commented Jul 31, 2016 at 7:57
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    The above mentioned Wikipedia article also states that sign languages "use the same language faculty as do spoken languages", but I still agree with you that learning two languages which use different means of communication will probably make it easier to differentiate between them.
    – J.Past
    Commented Jul 31, 2016 at 8:02

Yes, when it comes to ASL or any language, I get interference from all the languages I've ever studied. As for ASL, like this sentence, it is a topic comment grammar. So experience wise, you can expect interference.

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