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If you have already read the entry on complexity, you are familiar with how difficult the language learning journey is. But don’t worry — we have some good news! Every language you learn is likely to have some Cross-over with a language you already know—and you can use this to your advantage.


Cross-over refers to the idea that you don’t need to re-learn every aspect of your target language because you already know one, and they likely share some common elements. When an English speaker learns Spanish, for example, they only have to learn a few new letters (compared to a completely new alphabet system with, say, Japanese). Once you are aware that Cross-over exists, you can take advantage of it in your language learning process. Cross-over tends to be more useful for languages that have a shared history, like Latin languages do, but even distant languages share common characteristics due to globalization.

Take cognates, for example. Cognates are words from two different languages that share the same origin or root. English and Spanish have many perfect cognates, meaning the words are spelled the exact same—like actor, alcohol and central. Often times, we can find patterns among words to easily remember cognates. Again, with English and Spanish, most words ending in “tion” in English have a nearly identical “cion” cognate in Spanish (Accion/Action, Aplicacion/Aplication, Celebracion/Celebration, etc.). If you are aware of this rule, your Spanish vocabulary instantly increases by hundreds of words — with no extra studying! No matter which language you are learning, always check to see which cognates/cognate patterns exist.

Ever since the world began interacting due to increased globalization, words have been adopted by languages in all corners of the globe. Every language in the world has the same word for Netflix, just make sure when using this trick that the two words aren’t actually False Friends, or two words spelled the same but with very different meanings in each language, respectively.

There are many other linguistic components that might have Cross-over and save you time! Grammatical structures can resemble one another. Identical sounds can be used in both languages. And verb tenses can have similar temporal relations.

A quick Google at the beginning of your language learning journey can save you a lot of time and confusion: Cross-over is your friend!

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