For centuries linguists and philologists have attempted to discover the origins of the languages of the world and find out a common ancestor they may share. They noticed certain similarities between Greek, Latin and Sanskrit (a language of India), which couldn’t be explained as a mere coincidence. This discovery led them to believe that these three languages must come from a common source and therefore must share a common ancestor. Since then the academic community has attempted to construct a language family tree, dividing all known languages into different language families.
What has all this got to do with language learning? The fact that numerous languages share many similarities makes language learning easier. In the case of Spanish, which belongs to the Romance language family, it shares a large amount of vocabulary and grammatical structures with other such languages such as Italian, Portuguese or French. As a consequence Spanish speakers have an easier time when it comes to learning other Romance languages. Another example of this can be found in the Germanic language family, in particular in regards to Norwegian, Swedish and Danish. These three languages are mutually understandable and allow speakers of all three languages to communicate effortlessly.
However, this phenomenon can be a double-edged sword. Learners of similar languages can come across vocabulary known as false friends. False friends are words which exist in both languages but which have a different meaning in each language. A good example of this is the Spanish word dormitorio (bedroom) and the English word dormitory (university residence for students).
Language learning is a fun and useful activity which, contrary to popular belief, anyone can do and remember the more languages you know the easier it is to learn more.