Rocket Languages Blog Is it Possible to Learn Two Languages at the Same Time?

Is it Possible to Learn Two Languages at the Same Time?

jason-oxenham-ceo

jason-oxenham-ceo

Maybe you've been studying German for years, but now need to know Spanish for an upcoming business trip to Mexico. Perhaps you're a college student studying French, but an interesting Arabic class has caught your eye. Or maybe you're just impatient and would like to learn both Chinese and Japanese as quickly as possible for an extra challenge.

 

Either way, you're faced with an interesting situation: You want to learn two languages... at the same time.

 

Learning one language is hard enough, so the very idea of learning two languages at once is enough to make most language learners tremble. For the more adventurous, however, learning two languages at the same time sounds like the perfect way to satisfy their language-learning appetite.

 

In this post, we'll look at whether it's possible to learn two languages at the same time and, if so, how you can do it.

Learning Two Languages at Once

Whenever I’m asked about learning two languages at the same time, my answer is always the same: Learning two languages at the same time is definitely possible. Starting two languages at the same time, though, is not a great idea.

 

When you first start learning a language, it can take a little time for you to get a feel for how it works and how it should sound. So if you’re starting to learn two languages at the same time, the things you’re learning can quickly begin to overlap and become confusing!

 

This confusion can get even worse if you're learning two languages from the same “language family” - that is, a group of languages that are linguistically related to one another. The Latin-based (or “Romance”) languages are a great example of a language family. They are made up of Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, and Catalan, among others.

If you start to learn two Romance languages at the same time, their similarities can quickly trip you up. You might find yourself confusing similar-sounding Spanish and Italian words, for example, or mixing up the different pronunciations. 

 

But if you already have a basic understanding of one Romance language when you begin to pick up a second one, those similarities can become life-savers! For instance, if you’ve already worked hard to understand the difference between the “knowing” verbs connaître and savoir in French, then understanding the difference between the “knowing” verbs conocer and saber in Spanish becomes a cinch.

 

When you do it right, learning two languages at the same time can actually be a very rewarding experience. It teaches you to be more alert, flexible, organized, and proactive, and refines your language-learning skills in a way that makes learning future languages even easier. Plus, every language you learn carries the benefits of language learning. 

 

So whether you are looking for a challenge or are required to learn two languages at the same time, we’re here to tell you that it is possible! And we want to give you a few more helpful tips on how you can do it. 

How to Learn Two Languages at the Same Time: 10 Helpful Tips

1.    Start with a maximum of two languages. It is actually possible to learn two, three, or even more languages at the same time! When you’re first starting out, though, it’s best to stick to just two. This helps to keep things manageable and will increase your chances of success.

 

2.    Try to reach the survival level (A1) in one language before starting on the next. By the time you make it to A1 in a language, your brain has already started to map out a picture of how the language works. This means that you’re less likely to start confusing the grammar and vocabulary of this language with another one.

 

3.    If you MUST start two languages at once, try to choose two very different languages. Learning two languages that come from different linguistic families will help keep you from overlapping the vocabulary and grammar rules of each language. 

 

4.    Try to choose an easy language and a difficult language. Choosing two languages with different difficulty levels will make it easier for you to differentiate between them. Plus, your progress in the easier language will give you a confidence boost!

 

5.    Set a priority language. If you make one of your languages a priority over the other, you will make progress in it more quickly. This will not only give you greater motivation, but it will also help you to pick up your lower-priority language more easily.

 

6.    Stay organized. It’s important that you set out a schedule for yourself, make workable plans, and manage your time wisely.

 

7.    Set concrete goals as you go. Give yourself specific, achievable goals in each of the languages you’re learning. This will spur you on and ensure that you keep moving forward.

 

8.    Study both languages as often as possible. If you don’t use it, you lose it! So make sure to practice and use both of your languages as much as you can.

 

9.    Study each language in a different location and/or with different tools. Separating your languages physically and/or visually will help you to keep them separated in your brain. For example, you might try to always study one language in your living room and the other in your bedroom, or you might highlight your Japanese resources in yellow and your Korean ones in green. 

 

10.    Study each language separately. To help yourself keep your languages separate, it’s important to make a clean break between them as you’re studying. If you were to learn Russian color words and German color words at the same time and in the same sitting, for instance, then it’s very likely that you will start to mix them up! 

 

Learning multiple languages at once takes serious dedication, time, and motivation. However, it is definitely possible. These tips can help make it a little easier for you, and Rocket Languages is here to help!

NicholasL23

NicholasL23

I haven't tried learning two lessons at once, but I have tried to learn one while maintaining the other! I completely agree that the bigger the difference, the easier it is to keep them straight. I've been studying Italian for about 10 months now, and have a VERY hard time remembering any french if I don't concentrate very hard. They're very similar and I don't have much occasion to practice my french right now.

Kenneth-mH

Kenneth-mH

Excellent post Jason!  You have covered all the suggestions I have heard from other polyglots.  I can't wait to get to my other Rocket language (Russian) - it has been a wish of mine for some time.  But, I am holding on that so that I can keep the monemtum going on my first Rocket language (Portuguese.)  And, yes, my fluency in Spanish does interfere with my Portuguese at times. But, as I continue to practice I can separate them with greater ease.  Recently, I notice that learning multiple languages is getting easier because I can relate what I learned in one with the other (Spanish, Portugese, and Esperanto.)  I have heard that learning multiple languages gets easier - that might be the case.  It may not be so with languages that are quite different where there is no similarity.  Thank you for the post and encouragement!

sebongela

sebongela

HI All

Have been thinking about this for awhile. I have found it challenging to keep up with German and Italian on an equal footing. What I am trying to do is once I can say something in one language I then ask myself how to say it in the second language. What I will say is that German words are easier to pronounce tham my Italian, that is only because I speak Afrikaans as well. I do speak Portuguese as in Portuguese from Europe and that does help in Italian and some words are similar. But yes it is challenging, but when I am tired of one I switch to the other. Having said that have added Swedish, but that I am doing very slowly.

sebongela

Elena812

Elena812

Sebongela: That's impressive! In particular the variety of languages you know!

To the original post, I would add that a lot also depends on the age of the learner. I grew up in Italy and did a scientific highschool where we were learning two foreign languages (English and French for me) plus Latin (of course!). I have never found it difficult because probably my brain was a bit younger than now :) 

Later on, I added Croatian and it was quite easy for three reason (1) the grammar is extremely logical and knowing Latin helped a lot (2) I was going to Croatia every summer so even if when I was not able to talk I was immerse in the language (3) [most important] I was older and I did not care to make any mistake so I ended up to talk more and learn more from my mistakes :)!

My husband is fluent in Spanish (native speaker), English, Russian, and Italian (at native speaker level) and German (enough to watch movies). And we do watch a lot of movies in all the languages we know/are learning to refresh them. 

sebongela

sebongela

Hi Elena812

Your language abilities sound amazing. People in Europe speak so many more languages that North Americans generally. I grew up in Mozambique and South Africa hence those languages. The others I am learning. I love languages and with the lockdowns and isolation it has been wonderful to have something that stimulates the brain. We live in BC on Vancouver Island. Where do you live? I would like to get my french and Spanish to a level where I can understand and make myself understood. My French is okay from a reading and understanding point of view, but freeze up when I have to speak it. 

Went to Quebec recently, was more French than France and very few people were prepared to speak English and all signs etc were in French. My husband hated it. I.m not shy to speak, so I was okay even if it was basic. Enjoy you learning

Sebongela

RobertC106

RobertC106

Sebongela, vous marquerez beaucoup de points au Québec si vous leur dites qu'ils sont plus français que la France. It is no accident. They wouldn't have it any other way.

Robert

Elena812

Elena812

Hi Sebongela, We are in Michigan now. 

Learning languages is indeed a good way to remain active during the pandemic. 

My only time to Quebec was for a Gran Prix en Montreal. There were Ferraris everywhere. Pretty amazing :).

 I guess it is the case also with Spanish and Portoguese: the languange spoken in Spain/Portugal diverges from that spoken in South America, where (I think) it is closer (more faithful?) to the old language.

sebongela

sebongela

Hi Elena812

Yes Portuguese spoken in Portugal and in Africa is fairly different to Portuguese spoken in Brazil. I can understand Brazilian Portuguese if the speak slowly, but it is quite and in some ways very melodic. I met a Brazilian lady who pronounced Mozambique as Mosambikkie and I quite liked that. I don't really read or write Portuguese as just learnt to speak it as a small child. There is a large Portugueses population is South Africa. My Aunt was Portuguese and lived in one of the suburbs in Johannesburg that was almost totally Portuguese. Shops everything. She never learnt to speak English, as everyone there spoke Portuguese. The best was going to the Portuguese bakery there, which we did regularly when we lived in Johannesburg.

A presto

Sebongela

sebongela

sebongela

Hi RobertC106

Quebec was lovely and very different to other part of Canada. I have signed up for the French too, the discount was too good to pass on. Am going to take it very slowly, as don't want to loose traction on German and Italian. Next time in Quebec, hopefully I will feel more comfortable speaking.

Take care

Sebongela

RobertC106

RobertC106

Yes, Sebongela, it seems to be an island in the middle of Canada. I wish it weren't just as hard for me to get to, as France. Although I have visited Quebec when I lived closer.

I think they do a very good job of managing their inherent cultural tensions. A much better job than so many other nations/states do of managing their racial/ethnic differences.  I have to wonder though, when there's an objection to the practice of shopkeepers greeting people with, "Bonjour, Hi." It's possible to be too strict.

There's a video on youtube in which a woman from Quebec is deliberately using French expressions that are peculiar to Quebec in order to mess with native French speakers in France. She's having a grand ol' time at their expense. I think I mentioned previously somewhere in the forum that an acquaintance from Montreal told me that movies made in Quebec had French subtitles for the benefit of viewers in France.

Robert

 

sebongela

sebongela

Hi RobertC106

Am  aware that French in Quebec is fairly different to the French spoken in France. Just haven't spent enough time there to be aware of the differences. I have a friend from Quebec and will ask her. It;s is like that in most places and prior colonies. We use certain words from Mozambican Portuguese that Portugal just wouldn't get and my husband is adament that they don't speak Portuguese in Brazil. He is quite snobby about it and it makes me laugh. What I loved about Quebec was the pride people took in their gardens and homes. So neat and beautifully kept, whereas a lot of other places in Canada were messy and unkempt and lots of junk in their yards. Just didn't see that in Quebec. 

Well I do hope you get to visit France or Quebec sooner rather than later. 

Sebongela

Elena812

Elena812

Sebogela,

Se vuoi esercitarti in Italiano mi farebbe piacere scambiare qualche messaggio nella mia lingua madre. 

In case you are insterested, I think however we should open a new tread just for Italian exchange :)

Ciao e buona giornata!

Elena

sebongela

sebongela

Ciao Elena812

Una buona idea ma mi rende nervoso solo a pensarci

Sebongela