Learning two languages at the same time

Nerds like me, for one reason or another, always end up wanting to add a new language, when already studying another one. Take me, for example; I have a strong desire to study Japanese and German, while I try to improve my Spanish and my French, but I decided not to start any new language.


My case

First I will explain how good my Spanish and my French are

I am in the intermediate level in both languages. I can read quite a lot in both languages. I can get by speaking and writing in both, however with grammatical errors; but I make much less mistakes in Spanish. I understand a lot of Spanish when listening if they speak a bit slower, about 90/95%, but French I understand much less about 60/70% depending on the subject.

And what is my goal? My goal is to be fluent (at least have the C1 level) in Spanish and French before studying another language. If I start to study another language I won’t be able to dedicate myself to French and Spanish.

That’s my main reason for not learning a new language at the moment. Some languages ​​I want just “get by” (B1 or B2 level), others I really want to speak well and French and Spanish are two languages ​​that are in this group.

So, before you commit to a second language, some points should be considered:

1. Experience

The languages ​​that you are studying are your “firsts”? If the answer is yes, it is a bad idea to start with two at once. Ideally, you should already know at least two foreign languages. Having once studied one or two languages, you know what material to use, the method that suits you best, how much motivation and discipline you have.

2. Languages Proximity

This is one of the first questions that you should do. The two languages ​​are of Latin origin? Or Germanic? You should  always give preference to languages ​​from different language trees. For example: Japanese and Spanish or German and Italian. By doing so, the chances of confusing vocabulary or grammar are greatly reduced.

3. Languages Level

Learning a language requires time and dedication. Another tip is to never start two languages ​​at the same time. Select one and study it at least to intermediate level before beginning another. Two new languages ​​require a great deal of effort from brain, after all, two languages means two ways of thinking; distinct vocabularies and structures. Once you have a language more internalized, what you need to do is strengthen the knowledge to not forget it and to introduce new information slowly. As this stage, the level and complexity of information decreases, so it becomes easier for the brain to retain new information without confusion or fatigue.

4. Time

Be sure you have enough time to study both languages. Calculate how much time you have available per week, count all the minutes that you are busy, even the most insignificant, as time spent bathing, lunching, dining. Separate the essential, which can not be reduced (work, time with family …) and nonessential (time spent with mobile phone, TV, internet …). Make an optimization plan and see if have enough time to devote to two languages at the same ​​time. The “optimal” time will depend on the objectives to be achieved. If there is no deadline to learn the languages, only 1 free hour a day is enough. However, if the goal is to read Japanese in 6 months, or speaking in German in 4 months the amount of study time must increase.

5. Motivation

When beginning a new project we feel excited. Invariably, we are overoptimistic; we overestimate the amount of time and motivation; we put before us great goals and a short deadline, minimizing the difficulties to be faced. Over time, the obstacles we encountered along the way discourage us and the will and determination to learn fade. So it is so important to have experience (tip nº 1) and self-knowledge to see if you have the motivation needed to achieve your goals.

When in doubt, always choose to study only one language.

About Nathalia

Polyglot Nerd creator, love foreign cultures and learning languages. Speak: English, Portuguese and Spanish. Learning: French
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