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Does scientific knowledge of English help in learning other languages? For example, scientific knowledge of Sanskrit makes it easy to learn Hindi and Gujarati, while scientific knowledge of Arabic makes it easy to learn Urdu (which I believe is basically Hindi but it has different letters).

English obviously does not help much in learning French, Spanish or German, but if we learn French, it becomes more easy to learn Spanish. By the way, I am bilingual (Hindi and English) and just wanted to know the extent to which a good knowledge of English will help me to learn another language (I just want to learn 1 more language to set myself apart from rest of Indians who also are mostly bilingual).

Can you tell me the language to which English relates the most?

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  • I used to learn words of French and Spanish on Babbel . But I could take a course soon .
    – Argot
    Apr 8 '14 at 17:55
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    It is pretty well-known that it goes the other direction, that learning Latin or another Romance language will help an English speaker with medical or legal language (in English).
    – Mitch
    Apr 8 '14 at 18:03
  • Might help you learn Scots.
    – MetaEd
    Apr 8 '14 at 18:08
  • English does help to some degree for French or other Romance languages because of the vocabulary. But the language closest to English is Frisian, after that Dutch, then probably the Scandinavian languages, then German. Apr 8 '14 at 19:18
  • Knowing English will help you in any of the Romance languages, as about 25% of our words are from a Romance language. The easiest Romance language (imo) is Spanish. Apr 9 '14 at 5:41
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    Why is this question on meta? It's not a question about the main site. Apr 9 '14 at 13:21
  • Hi @Argot it's been awhile. Did the comments and answer help you any? You may also want to ask over at English Language Learners or [languagelearners.se]. Rereading your question I notice that you ask about 'scientific' English. Do you mean technical English, things you read in scientific articles like for research? Yes, a lot of vocabulary in technical (or scientific) English is the same or similar (and recognizable) in most European languages. eg 'hypertension' for chronic high blood pressure, is 'hipertensión' in Spanish, 'Hypertonie' in German, and 'гипертония' in Russian.
    – Mitch
    Aug 9 at 13:12
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    @Mitch I think languagelearning.stackexchange.com might be a better resource in this case than ELL because it’s asking if knowledge of English could be helpful when learning a third language, and not asking for help with English.
    – ColleenV
    Aug 9 at 19:29
  • You would have no trouble with Dutch; it already sounds like English. Only the spelling is different. After that, German should pose less problems. English has indeed stolen vocabulary from everywhere, but we've changed the sounds and the meanings at random, so that's more of a distraction than a help. Aside from other Indo-Aryan languages, you may find Indo-Iranian ones easier. Everybody's different, though -- individual differences swamp differences between languages. Aug 10 at 22:29
  • I’m voting to close this question because it is based on a faulty premise and is not about English. I myself speak three languages fluently besides English and find that what works across the languages are Latin and Greek words, prefixes and suffixes. English plays on role in this.
    – Lambie
    Sep 15 at 15:01
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Firstly I should say that I write this as someone for whom English is the first language. People from other countries may have a different view.

I take it that by scientific knowledge you mean the analytical study of the structure of the language in which case the short answer is "up to a point".

In terms of vocabulary, English has borrowed words from so many other languages that it does not always help.

In terms of language structure, other languages tend to be more rigorous in their grammar and syntax. Also, you will find declensions and conjugations that either don't exist in English or do so only in a simplified form. However, the principles are transferrable.

I don't think that my knowledge of English has been of great help in learning other languages. However, the process of learning other languages is of great help in understanding all languages, including my native language. Your scientific knowledge of the language will help enormously when trying to make sense of a new language. You will know what to look for and how to use what you find.

I have been fortunate enough to travel widely. I can say that landing in a country where you don't know the language, nobody there speaks English and the alphabet is strange is a challenge. The fact that I learnt French and Russian at school enabled me to cope with Korean and Lithuanian, amongst others. I picked up the key elements by watching the television news.

So to return to your question, yes a scientific knowledge of English will help you learn another language. Not necessarily because it it English but because it is a different language to your own. Then, as others have commented, you naturally feed that back into your knowledge of English and all the other languages that you know. From my experience of travelling in India, I believe that the widespread Indian experience of speaking local language, Hindi and English means other languages will come more easily.

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English was heavily influenced by Greek, Latin and French. If you want to leverage your knowledge of English to learn other languages, some (though by no means all) of your English-language intuitions and vocabulary would carry over to learning Greek, Latin and French, as well as other languages heavily influenced by them.

You speak of a 'scientific' knowledge of English. If by that you mean that you have memorised particular paradigms and vocabulary but haven't internalised the language, then that knowledge will be less useful in helping you learn another language.

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