Native Bilinguals

A question to any linguistics experts out there, or any others who grew up speaking two (or more) languages fluently. I grew up speaking German and English. Sometimes, I feel like the mnemonic for a new kanji reading on WaniKani doesn’t quite work, and I can think of a better one in German. So, is it better to learn a third language based on only one of your original languages, or is it okay to mix both old languages when learning the new one? Would this help your brain or just confuse it?


There have been multiple times throughout my experience here on WK where I was able to come up with a better mnemonic for a reading based on a word from another language, and I actually found it to strengthen my recall of that word during reviews – it’s really all about whatever method and mnemonic will bring up the reading/meaning the best for you!

For me there was no “mixing” and was solely that language --> JP


I mix them all the time. In the example you gave, the important thing is that whatever you choose to associate with the reading should always be the same. For example, I associate きょう readings with something happening in Kyoto. Wanikani does this all the time with しょう (from shogun, Japanese word). Other times, I add some Portuguese for example for the reading かい (“cai” which means “fall” in Portuguese).

Use that to your advantage :slight_smile:


Simply put, your brain isn’t going to confuse anything, especially as a native bilingual.

Whatever helps you remember best is really the only criteria.


English and Italian here :raising_hand_man:t4:. As others have already stated, as a native bilingual, using an alternate language to help in mnemonics shouldn’t be an issue, and in fact may be an advantage that monolinguals do not have. In the case that another language (other than English) isn’t at a native proficiency, I imagine it would be an issue. But if that’s not the case, then I’d say to go ahead and use whatever helps you best retain the information.


Native bilingual (Spanish and Galician), I use mnemonics in Spanish, Galician, English, French, Japanese and even sound effects, whatever makes my mind trigger when recalling it.


Thanks all. Everyone who has answered has pretty much corroborated my feelings, but I wanted to check. :slight_smile: I remember that when I switched from learning French “from English” to “from German”, it confused me at first, but mainly because we were covering exactly the same grammar points, using two different languages that have somewhat different grammar. My feeling is that mixing languages could be very helpful for pure vocabulary/kanji learning, as you have access to more comprehensive word banks, while it might be confusing for grammar studies…

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Yeah, as for mnemonics, I think mixing it up helps a lot (native bilingual - Polish and German). I feel you with the grammar though. I’ve done most Japanese grammar up until recently in German and only now switched to English, since there are way more resources. It can get difficult with grammar since you build on different bases as you already said. And people even group things differently sometimes, so it gets even more confusing.

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I’m not bilingual or anything, but I have a couple readings I use other languages for. For example, I use the word “with” for the reading こん, taking from Spanish. I even use Japanese sometimes, like, I use “want” when the reading is たい. For example, I just learned 隊, and my mnemonic is “I really want to join this butchering SQUAD that hunts down the rare horned pig”. It really is a “whatever works” type of situation for mnemonics.

Turkish mixes very well sometimes with some words.
Like 送る which is read like Okul in turkish and means school. (Totally different meaning but it works for me!)
So for me it’s okay to mix them all!


Personally I use any language that comes naturally when creating mnemonics. I used “aba” which means “dad” in hebrew for 暴れる・あばれる - to act violently (a father acting violently) for example.

However all of my translating is done from English to Japanese and vice versa when studying.
I keep Swedish out of the equation unless there is an English word that I don’t know of or if there is a grammar point that might make more sense in Swedish rather than English. This happens rarely though.

Personally I feel like studying Japanese with the help of English works best for me. I don’t mix.


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