Either way, you've been faced with an interesting situation: You want to learn two languages... at the same time.
Learning one language is hard enough, and the very idea of learning two languages at once is enough to make most language learning tremble. For the more adventurous, however, learning two languages at the same time sounds like the perfect way to satisfy their voracious language-learning appetite.
In this post, we'll look at whether or not it's really possible to learn two languages at the same time and, if so, the best way to do it.
Learning two languages at onceMy French ESL students often ask me if I recommend that they take Spanish classes while taking English classes. Since their companies offer them classes in both languages for free, they want to know if it's possible for them to learn both Spanish and English at the same time.
My answer is always the same: Learning two languages at the same time is definitely possible, but it is not recommendable.
In general, learning two languages at once is a lot like needing to give two speeches on the same day: by practicing one, you're automatically taking away from your time to practice the other, and any similarities between the two can just be confusing.
In the end, you risk either giving one good speech and one bad speech or two mediocre speeches. If your goal is to give two excellent speeches, the best option is to focus on one at a time or start working on them both well in advance and with plenty of patience. The time needed to prepare two good speeches at the same time will, in the end, exceed the time needed to learn and perfect one at a time.
The same can be said for learning two languages at once.
Our 21st-century need for instant gratification is harmful to language learning. The first few months of language learning is a slow, meticulous process that requires patience and dedication. If this process occurs for two difficult languages simultaneously, learners risk not being able to dedicate the necessary time and energy that each language requires. They jeopardize getting the basic grammar and vocabulary foundation that's needed for future progress.
This can become even more difficult if you're learning two languages from the same family at the same time. A language family is a group of languages that can be proven to be genetically related to one another (and by genetically, I mean linguistically, of course!). The Latin-based languages sometimes referred to as Romantic languages are a great example of a language family. This family is made up of Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, and Catalan, among others.
While these languages have some similarities that can make learning several of them easier, they also are just different enough to cause confusion, especially if you're studying two at the same time. When I started studying Italian after just a few years of high school Spanish, I found myself using many Spanish words unconsciously as I spoke Italian. This is one of the major disadvantages to learning two similar languages at the same time.
While there are many challenges and disadvantages to learning two languages at once, there are also several advantages.
Learning two languages at the same can be a uniquely rewarding experience when done correctly. It involves many of the benefits of language learning and teaches you to be more alert, flexible, organized and proactive in your language learning approach. It hones your language learning skills in a way that will make learning future languages even easier.
If you feel that the advantages of learning two languages at once outweigh the disadvantages, you're looking for a challenge or you're required to learn two languages at the same time, have no fear.
It is possible to learn two languages at the same time, and we're here to give you a few helpful tips.
How to Learn Two Languages at the Same Time: 10 Helpful Tips1. Choose a maximum of two languages at any given time. While it is theoretically possible to learn more than two at the same time, this amplifies the difficulty of learning each of those languages and negatively impacts your languages learning success.
2. Try to choose two very different languages. Languages that come from the same linguistic family often overlap in terms of vocabulary, grammar, associations and other factors, so they can be confusing to learn at the same time. Therefore learning Spanish and Italian or Dutch and German at the same time is not a good idea.
3. Try to choose an easy language and a difficult language. This will help you to further differentiate between the two.
4. Set a priority language. Even if your positive that you want to become fluent in both languages, make one language slightly more of a priority and dedicate a little bit more time to that language. This will help you to better see your progress and avoid becoming discouraged.
5. Stay organized. Set realistic goals, make feasible plans, and manage your time wisely.
6. Dedicate your time according to language difficulty. If one of the languages you are learning is more difficult than the other, dedicate 70-80% of your budgeted language learning time to the difficult language and 20-30% to the easy language.
7. If possible, try to reach a survival level (A1) in one language first. This well help prevent confusion when it comes to learning the most fundamental vocabulary and grammar for basic communication and travel.
8. Study both languages every day or as much as possible.
9. Study each language in a different location and with different tools to help you to differentiate between the two. For example, try to always study one language in your living room and another in your bedroom using different notebooks and different colored pens and flashcards.
10. Use a different methodology to study each language to help you to further differentiate between the two. You can, for example, study one using a cell phone application and flash cards, and the other using your computer and a notebook.
All of these tips can help you to successfully study two languages at the same time and to avoid confusing the two languages.
Overall, learning multiple languages at once takes serious dedication, time and motivation. However, it is definitely possible. These tips can help to make it a little bit easier for you, and Rocket Languages would love to help!
Are you learning multiple languages at the same time? Did you find these tips helpful? Do you have any other tips? Let us know in the comments!
By Andrea Reisenauer, guest blogger. Andrea Reisenauer is a language lover, ESL teacher Rocket Languages fan with a Master's degree in Translation. She speaks Spanish, Catalan, and Italian and is currently studying French.