05 January 2012

Start small, or start big?

So, you're moving to a bilingual area, are you?  So which language do you want to learn first?  Well, in most cases, one of the languages will be clearly dominant. In the regions of Spain, that means Spanish. In France, French. In Italy, Italian. So it would make sense to learn the dominant one first, right?

...maybe, but just think about it for a moment.  The other day, I was talking about the dangers of falling into the "good enough" trap.  When it comes to bilingual areas, the same trap exists, because the dominant language will always be "good enough", making the effort required to learn the minority language seem not worth the bother.  And if you're having to live, you're always going to end up falling back on the dominant language in order to make yourself understood, meaning you're not going to get the opportunities to practice the minority language if you already know the majority one.

So if you're genuine about learning the local language, it's probably best not to learn the dominant language beforehand.  You'll succeed better if your minority language is stronger, so that you only resort to the dominant language when the minority language is unavailable.

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