(What are the best language learning strategies to learn multiple languages at the same time for business?)
As the world and business globalizes more and more, it really becomes clear that the more languages you can speak in life, the better your chances in the business arena. And before I answer the question posed, I really would like to acknowledge some of the younger generations now who are proving to be successfully multilingual. In particular young students and young workers from Eastern Europe who not only speak their mother tongue, but also Russian, English and often another language like German or Italian.
So how can we use language learning strategies to speak and learn different languages in parallel for business purposes? Firstly I think both the language coach and the client have to establish the motivation behind the learning or the need to learn – as the more the client is motivated the more likely he/she will want to get ahead and learn.
It really should be recognised that learning one language requires great effort, so learning multiple languages will really require much more time and effort. Certainly it will help if the client has daily exposure to all the languages and if the target languages are all similar (for example, Italian, Spanish, French and Catalan).
This will also help for greater understanding but potentially there is also a real danger there of getting totally confused. In fact if the different languages are so similar there will defintely be a certain time where the brain will mix them up until the client reaches the point where he/she does in fact “box” each language into the right “boxes”. So the language coach must always try and assist the client to get into the right boxes.
One of the best language learning strategies to start with is to be to totally an dutterly dedicated to learning the language. That would mean no interruptions, no telephone or email beeping in the background during language learning sessions. Absolute focus on the language learning. Ideally the language sessions would be programmed on two entirely different days; so Spanish on Tuesday and Italian on Friday. At the start of each session I would ask the client to totally disconnect from all his/her work thoughts and focus entirely on the language for the session.
I would make it clear which language we are doing that day. I would even go so far as to have a colour code, like red for Spanish and have a red folder, red books etc and blue for Italian. All the timem I would try to assist the brain to categorise and box each language separately in the brain. Whenever the client makes a mistake and confuses the languages, I would stop the conversation and explain that what they had said was actually Spanish and not Italian and then ask them to think what the word is in Italian.
Language learning requires making new connections in the brain, like all new activities and it really helps to chunk down the topics and take steps in bitesize chunks. In addition, there should always be a reconnection with the material learnt a couple of days after to try to move the new material into the long term memory of the brain. So, it is highly recommended to give the client some work to do alone after sessions or even to skype the client for ten minutes two days after the session and just do a ten minute review.
Learning languages is like anything in life: it requires time and effort, but it certainly is not impossible.