Learning more than one language at the same time

A question most people ask me on my Blog and YouTube channel is the following: “Is it possible to learn more than one language at the same time, and if so, how should I go about doing it?”  Well, the answer is yes, it is possible to learn more than one language at the same time.  But, before I give tips and guidance on doing this, I want to share a few of my thoughts on this interesting topic.

Until recently, I never felt the need to learn more than one language at a time. Now that I think about it, my strict “one language only” approach was mainly for three reasons: (1) I was never in a hurry to learn languages; (2) once I chose a language, I was so involved in the learning process that I had no desire to deal with others; and (3) learning only one language at a time gave me the opportunity to polish the ones I previously learned.  Now, I’ll discuss these factors in detail.

1. Haste is your enemy

The modern world is obsessed with a “here-and-now” compulsion which is particularly harmful to language learning. It is no wonder that in Italian, as well as in many other languages, a long series of proverbs exist on the pernicious effects that haste has on our lives.  For example, “Haste is a bad counselor,” “Slow and steady wins the race,” and so on. The first six months of the learning process are the most delicate, and one needs to focus on a given language daily and dedicate to it quality work. Time is a luxury that modern men lack, so if you split it between two, three, or even four different activities, the quality of your learning will suffer.  Therefore, I personally recommend learning one language at a time.

2. Building a language core

The language learning process  involves the use and memorization of words, structures, and sounds; however, emotions, colors, images, and memories are also involved and contribute to what I call a “language core.”  Acquiring this language core is extremely important if one wants to keep the language alive in their head, even long after not having used it.  Moreover, it takes time to build a language core, so attempting to speed through the learning process with multiple languages can cause language cores to overlap, or simply prevent even one from forming.

3. Optimizing your time 

Picking up a new language doesn’t prevent one from keeping and even refining the ones he previously learned and are obviously at a higher level. The trick is having good time management skills.  By trial and error, you want to find a sustainable schedule to learn languages.

 

The two students' race

In order to better illustrate what I mean by “managing one’s time,” here’s a story I call “The Two Students’ Race.” Two students (both Italian) decide to compete for a challenging and ambitious goal: learning ten foreign languages. The judges give them a ten year “time budget,” and the rest is up to them.

Student A decides that he will pick up two languages every two years.  He starts by learning English and Spanish. At the end of the two years, he picks up French and German. While learning French and German, he enjoys conversing with native speakers in both English and Spanish, languages he now speaks with a certain level of fluency. He also loves reading books. By the end of the fourth year, he is relatively fluent in German and French, so he starts learning Portuguese and Swedish. At the same time, he moves to Pariswhere he gets the chance to use the four languages he learned and continue to actively learn Portuguese and Swedish. At the beginning of the sixth year, he decides to learn Mandarin and Romanian. Two years later, he finally picks up Japanese and Dutch. Then ten years later, when time is up, he speaks English, Spanish, French, and German fluently; Portuguese, Swedish, Mandarin and Romanian well; and Japanese and Dutch decently. He has weak languages, but he reached the admirable goal of building a core in more than five languages.  Moreover, he will never forget these five languages.  He could get rusty in them, but they will quickly come back to him.

Student B goes for the same languages, but opts for a completely different strategy—he starts learning the ten languages all at the same time. Over the years, he lacks the consistency and patience to hold onto all the languages he is learning. Sometimes he learns five, sometimes six or seven, but never ten per day. He might have brought some languages to a good level, but for the most part, his languages are at a basic level. He confuses languages such as Italian and Spanish, and Dutch and German. Many of his languages are destined to regress to a very basic level because the student did not build a linguistic core for any language.

Now, the example is a bit extreme, but it gives you the general idea. People delude themselves into thinking that doing multiple things at the same time will accelerate the learning process when, in fact, it damages the learning process. Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare?  Well, be the tortoise.  Patience and aiming for a long-term goal will bring you success.

Tips and guidance for learning multiple languages at the same time  

For the last 20 years, I was similar to Student A in that I picked up a new language every two years while refining the ones I knew.  Now, I learn two languages every two years, while refining the ones I know. 

So, although I suggest learning one language at a time, if you decide to take on this “multi-language challenge,” make sure you have the following:

  •  A fair amount of time to dedicate to language learning
  • Willpower
  • Some experience in language learning
  • Good time management skills

Guidelines

If you decide to take on this “multi-language challenge,” here are some useful tips.

  • 1
    Choose a maximum of TWO languages at any given time. Three languages is excessive and will impair whatever language core you’re trying to build.
  • 2
    Choose two languages that are distinct from each other. Languages that are similar can overlap by way of words, grammar, emotions, memories, and other factors, thereby causing confusion.  Therefore, learning Spanish AND Italian, Dutch AND German, or Portuguese AND Romanian at the same time is not a good idea.
  • 3
    Try to choose an “easy” language and a relatively “difficult” one (I explain this concept both in English and Spanish on YouTube)
  • 4
    If you choose two languages that are at fairly opposite ends of the complexity scale, give the difficult language 70-80% of your budgeted time, and give the “easy” one 20-30% of your budgeted time.
  • 5
    Study both languages every day.


Still interested in more?  Check out my new course at LinguaCore How to Learn 2 Languages at Once

Conclusion

Be the tortoise.  Language learning is a slow marathon that takes time, quality work, and patience. Every language is an adventure. I usually suggest learning one thing at a time, but there are no set rules. If you decide to embark on multiple adventures, contemplate the conditions you will face. If you think you can make it, keep in mind the above-mentioned five tips.  And good luck!

Written by Luca Lampariello

  • Fasulye says:

    Hi Luca,

    I got the info about this new article by e-mail, so my e-mail subscription to your blog works.

    This is an important topic of language learning and people often have questions about this.

    During my university studies of Romance Philology from 1992-1995 I studied in three years time paralell French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Latin, normally I had different languages on one day. My fellow students didn’t do this but I have a special talent which keeps my languages apart. That means that I can just switch my thoughts from one language to another – which is what I do regulary when conversing with my Skypies.

    Nowadays I am 20 years older (I was in my 30ies at that time at university, so I was at the same age as you are now) I am not willing to put so many hours of work into my language studies any more and I even can’t when I have a job, so I just pick one single language (or maybe two) and then focus on them. But this is due to the amount of time I want / can invest into my studies – I wouldn’t mix my languages up.

    Kind regards,

    Fasulye

  • Suyan says:

    你说的很对,卢卡,都是经验之谈。很奇怪为什么很少有人从前做这种研究。
    懂10种语言对于从前来说可能是很困难的事情,现在很多人已经可以做到,只要他们想,并且努力付诸实现。

    我对你对语言的天赋表示敬佩!

  • ИвαN says:

    Hello!
    It was very interesting to read about your experience!
    It is close to what I did when I started learning languages more extensively. I really think making a good base of language is important. The other very significant point is time. Sometimes I wonder how I have reached a certain level in a tongue without dealing with it regularly and for long time, then I realize that even not so regular learning throughout time builds up on the bases I have founded earlier.
    Best regards!
    Ivan

    • Luca says:

      Glad you liked the article. Indeed, a good base is key not only to learning further and move on the next stage, but also to maintaining languages, which is one of the secrets of polyglots. L

  • aarongmyersn says:

    Luca,
    Just came across your blog today. Great stuff and I really enjoyed the insight you share with this post. Learning two languages at the same time is not something I have ever needed to do. For you it doesn’t seem to stem from a need though as much as from a passion – a passion that rings true in your writing. Lots to learn from your journey and I look forward to continuing to read!

    • Luca says:

      Dear Aaron,

      thanks for swinging by 🙂 It is true, my language learning stems from sheer passion, and I am not in a hurry to show the world that I speak X languages. The main goal is to acquire the ability to talk to native speakers and embrace new cultures.

      On a final note, let me say that I took a look at your blog and I found it rather interesting. It is nice to have so many like-minded people sharing ideas on language learning and life in general.

      Luca

  • Wise words, Luca. I don’t think there is anything I could add to what you have written here. I love that you are out there, giving a realistic view to language learners. Sei un mito in forma corporale! Un forte abbraccio, Richard

    • Luca says:

      Grazie Richard, mi fa piacere che ti sia piaciuto il post, e soprattutto mi fa ancora più piacere che tu abbia trovato il mio articolo sensato, è un complimento venendo da una persona come te che sa parlare più di 15 lingue e sa come gestire il proprio tempo e le proprie energie. Un abbraccio, ci sentiamo presto. Luca

  • Jana says:

    Great article, Luca! I also prefer to focus on just one language at a time, for the very reasons you’ve explained so well here. Despite that, though, I’ve somehow gotten myself into learning both Russian and Norwegian at once. But my situation fits all your criteria (they’re just two languages, they’re not related, one is easy and one is difficult, I have lots of time, and I have experience learning languages), so after reading this article I feel reassured that it’s not such a bad idea! Thank you for sharing your wisdom. =)

    • Luca says:

      Thanks Jana..I saw that you called me “your language hero” on your blog..maybe it is a bit exaggerated but I am always flattered by compliments 😉

      Learning Norwegian and Russian is a very wise choice and your situation definitely fits my criteria, so..go for it!

      Hope that Paris is treating you well..the weather is lovely today 🙂

      Luca

  • Hi Luca,

    You have offered some great insight, thank you. I think it is important for language learners to understand their own learning styles when they begin learning a new language. Your point about dedicating the right amount of time to the language/languages is important. I think this applies to anything we do in life. We have to learn to develop patience and be willing to dedicate ourselves to working on the language each day.

    Thanks so much!

    Lindsay

  • José Miguel says:

    Gracias, Luca. Esta sabiduría pedagógica sólo la dan la paciencia y el esfuerzo de largos años, y sin duda el orden que siempre has tenido… This is gold for us language enthusiasts. Anyway, my great conlcusion here is that once you decide to become a learner of any given number of languages, you’re signing a life-long contract, for it never ends, we’ll always be just that: learners, in each and everyone of our languages…it wouldn’t work otherwise!

  • Catherine says:

    Thanks, Luca, for the article. How many hours per day would you recommend for each language then?

    • Luca says:

      Dear Catherine,

      30-45 minutes is a good amount of time to spend in the very fist stages of language learning (at least for the first 3 months).

      Luca

  • Valentin Prieto Valdez says:

    Hi,Luca, thank you for your tips,I’ve been following you for a while and to tell you the truth you and Jana Fadnes are my mentors even if you don’t know me I follow both of you very close but I don’t write because I’m not good at it,but today I couldn’t help it because the topic fits me well.I’m learning Italian(easy) 30% of time and Russian(difficult) 70% of time,so after all I’m not doing too bad.This is my plan for languages
    English:this is the language that I want to get as good as my spoken spanish
    but in writing I want it better that my spanish,so I set english as my
    companion for ever and since I live here in U.S.A it’ll be natural.
    Italian: I want to read and write maybe close to intermediate level,but I want my
    speaking at a “conversational” level.
    Russian: same thing that Italian.
    I want to learn as many languages as possible through my life,but for this year,conversational Russian and Italian is my goal.
    Thank you and God bless you.

  • coNEXTions says:

    Luca,

    Thank you for the very well written article. Have you been putting more time into your English recently? You have always spoken and written well but I picked out a number of constructions and words in this article that would have been a high register even for native-level speakers! It is evident that you have read a decent amount in English throughout the years. Regardless, very good job.

    I completely agree with you in terms of the number of languages that one should learn at a time, actively learn that is to say. I was student number 2 for quite a long-time in my life and on top of that I did not have the advantage of well refined learning techniques such as those that you advise. However, after finding the proper source of motivation to learn French (au fait comme toi j’ai rencontré une française et maintenant on habite Paris), I became student number 1 and restricted myself to actively learning one language (i.e. doing the Assimil series) at a time with more up-to-date learning techniques. Since then, two and a half years ago, I have become fluent in French, reached a very good level in Spanish, am able to read the newspaper in Hebrew and I just started German in September (C’est surement l’avantage d’habiter Paris. Il est hyper facil de trouver qqul chose à lire en Allemand grâce à Gibert Jeune et Gibert Joseph, dont la serie bilingue en edition Folio).

    I think that language learning is truthfully the most taxing and insightful subject that one can approach. We exist in a time period in which speed and instant gratification are prized and exhalted above all else. With languages this simply doesn’t work. Learning in general does not work in this manner. As you said, “haste is the enemy.” A methodical and patient system of learning is profitable in any subject matter. After learning how to learn languages, I’m convinced that I could do the same to learn mathematics over the course of 10 years to a very high level (i.e. PhD). Or, I could easily adopt the same methodology to learn computer programming languages. I have already used a language learning methodology to become quite fluent in philosophy and politics over the past year. Many people, even professors, assume that I have a degree in both fields. Once you learn how to learn, you are really on your way to a lifetime of pleasurable study. Language learning is the ultimate test of whether you really have effective learning techniques. Patience and balance are the keys to any successful learning program.

    Thank you for putting stuff online in order to let others in on your quest for effective learning techniques. It really is helpful. Even little details can help others all of a sudden put the puzzle pieces together and drastically improve their manner of learning.

  • […] on the subject of learning two languages at once, but my language-learning hero Luca just wrote this one that’s so good I don’t have anything to add to it! I pretty much agree with Luca on […]

  • Robert Budzul says:

    I wonder whether age is a factor? The younger you are the easier it is to settle for one language at a time. The older you are you can’t afford to wait too long…

    Plus… once you get up to about 10 languages does it take much effort to maintain them? Or is the big advantage of doing one language at a time and doing them for a year, that you don’t forget them so easily?

    • Luca says:

      I think that the main factor is experience, not age. I can cope with more languages now because I both perfected my learning technique and my time management skills.

      As for maintaning 10 languages and learning others, I got a whole post coming..

      Luca

      • Alice says:

        I’m really interested in understanding how you maintain your languages, especially from a point of cultural literacy. I see how you have learned so many languages, (which is no mean feat) but I don’t see how it is possible to maintain cultural literacy in many languages. Look forward to seeing your response. Thanks, Alice

  • DavidC says:

    How fluent can you hope to get if you don’t concentrate all your (language-learning) energy into one language?

  • Evy says:

    你好LOCA,我又来问你一些问题了~
    第一,我想知道你对ESPERANTO 这个语言的看法,据我所知你并没有学过这门外语。
    第二,你经常说到关于读、听和翻译的学习方法,但是口语呢?你是怎样练习的?特别是如果身边没有会所这门语言的人?你会自己和自己对话吗?有人说这样不好,因为那样我们不知道自己犯了些什么错误,而且我们会挑选一些简单熟悉的话题,还有就是自己用来用去都是那些已经会了的词语。谢谢你~

    • Luca says:

      你好Evy。那,你问了两个很有趣的问题!

      我没有学过世界语言,我也不想,我觉得这是太过人工化的语言,但是我知道很多人喜欢它,他们甚至用它组织会议。

      至于用我的方法来学习一门口语外国语言,你不得不等一段时间因为新的文章的内容需要出现在博客 🙂

      卢卡

  • Ryann says:

    I think this is kind of a personal thing really but I agree with your recommendation: focus on learning one language at a time. If you’re going to try for more than one, make sure the other is easy for you and focus much less on it than the harder, unrelated language. I have always agreed with your recommendation for quality over quantity. Again, thanks for the post.

  • mlhpolling says:

    I have been learning French up to more or less the intermediate level and I’m now learning Spanish which is closely related to French since they are both Romance languages. I started learning Spanish this month as one of my new year resolutions and I don’t find any difficulty to learn it despite its relation to French. Why is that? Could you please explain to me and what consequences I’m gonna face for doing that?

    • mlhpolling says:

      I also want to know the time portion if the two languages I’m learning come from the same language family and are both equally easy. Thanks a lot 🙂

      • Reda says:

        I think these similar languages can overlap by way of words; you can confuse in the future, may i be you want to say “i love you” in spanish but you instead je say: je queiro. Well that waht i think

  • ozne says:

    Merhaba Luca,
    Türkçe hakkında söyledikleriniz çok hoş.Youtube üzerindeki videolarınızı seyrettim.Müthiş bir yeteneğiniz var.
    I’m recording Turkish lessons and sharing on Turkish LingQ.Would you like to listen it?
    http://www.lingq.com/learn/tr/store/69110/164588/buy/

    Türkçe konusunda yardımım olursa sevinirim.Please feel free to ask
    İstanbul’dan selamlar.

  • snm says:

    Hi Luca,

    Im Indian and I speak 5 languages, including 4 indian languages and english. Most people in India speak atleast 3 and it is not uncommon for someone (my father) to speak 15 Indian languages.

    Im currently learning German, but also testing the waters with japanese
    Both these languages are totally unrelated but are easy.

    Whil i learnt all the Indian languages without making a conscious effort , I find that trying very hard to learn a language takes away the instinctive approach. How do you think one can bring in that element of learning by instinct to a language where you have mimimum exposure and are constantly trying to translate it into your mother tongue.

    • Luca says:

      Very interesting question!

      It is true that we don’t learn a language only through “instinct” as kids do, but we do have other advantages. The biggest one is our ability to read and listen consciously. To my humble opinion, the best way to to learn a language “naturally” is by constant exposure to content that you find interesting and that you can understand.

      Even after you get hold of the right material, the way you use it makes a big difference

      Always keep in mind that speaking a language is an ability that you acquire, it is not a subject that you study as you would do at school. So, don’t divide it into: grammar, pronunciation, words. See it as a unique block and learn it as such.

      On a final note, the back-and-forth technique is the way I “store” the information in my long-term memory and how I make it active. It is the final step that “closes” the circle. The key factor, however, is constant, interesting input.

      Hope this is helpful

      Luca

  • Kent Meyers says:

    Thanks for this Luca! I’m currently living in Germany learning German which I have always wanted to do. I have recently thought about adding Bulgarian since for some reason I’m drawn to the language. I see you commented on someones earlier post about spending around 35 minutes a day. I have my whole day devoted to language learning. Is it effective to study for long hours everyday, and put as much as you can in. Or just a little bit each day?

  • 3jay says:

    Interesting post, good heads up for future polyglots …. I have studied Japanese for a year now and have begun flirting with Chinese and the main difficulty I find is coming on terms with the tonal nature of the language. The sounds are very different in either so not much chance of an over lap of pronunciation when pronouncing a word rather than a character independently. Both use the same idea of join two or many characters to create a new one, the Japanese just managed to complicate things for us by coming up with multiple readings for the same characters.

    I agree one needs a base some idea of how to approach things before diving in to the second language, so it would best to jump into the second one after getting a hang of the first. So if beginning from zero then stick to one at first, once on one then go for two or two and three but don’t forget to continue working on one.

  • igiregi says:

    What about learning English and French!??Könnte man lernen Französisch und Englisch gleichzeitig???

  • igiregi says:

    What about learning English and French!??Könnte man lernen Französisch und Englisch gleichzeitig???Ich bin ganz neugerig ob man das mischen kann!Ich bitte um Anwort!Danke Schön!

  • igiregi says:

    (neugierig) Entschuldigung ein Fehler schnell geschrieben!

  • igiregi says:

    Danke schön für die Antwort!Ich habe gemerkt dasFranzösisch und Englisch ähnlich sind es gibt viele Wörter die gleich sind deswegen dachte ich könnte man die mischen!Übrigens das ist nicht die erste Sprache die ich lerne !Ich bin Ungarin ich rede Yugoslawisch und Deutsch !Deutsch habe ich jetzt gelernt vor 4 Jahren ich brauchte 2 Jahre!Ich lerne seit 1.5 Jahren Englisch aber ich bin noch nicht angekommen bis B test zu machen!Villeicht bin ich dumm geworden oder mache ich etwas falsch!Ich verstehe im bespiel Bücher von Danielle Steel 100% aber die alte Historische Liebes romane 60 70 %!Du hast gesagt das es gibt Leute über die Skype reden zu lernen !Wo findet man solche Seiten oder Leute Englisch zu reden!???Lernen!Thank you!

  • igiregi says:

    Mein Profil ist Martika in you toube!Danke für die Antwort!!

  • igiregi says:

    Die Leute waren gar nich hilfsbereit niemand wollte Englisch reden mit mir ich bin sehr enttäuscht ! Manche Männer wollten reden. Na ja die suchten Frauen!Mehrere schreibten sie können Englisch aber das war eine Lüge!Danke noch einmal !Martika

  • iwona says:

    Hi Luca,
    I need a little advice…I want to learn few languages at the same time just dont know how to organise it
    My background first:
    Native Polish
    I live in Britain since 2004 so I use English on daily basis.I learn watching BBC,reading books and talking to native speakers.
    Spanish-my love.I used to learn years ago,I can build simple conversations, I understand subtitled movies
    Hungarian-basic vocabulary and grammar, I do understand a lot but cant speak.My husband is hungarian and I really want to be able to speak his language-at the moment we speak english
    French-years ago I knew it really well, now I have strong base and remember grammar, but I lack a vocabulary
    Russian-learnt for years at school,I know lots of words because it is quite similar to Polish but I dont feel good with grammar.
    So basically I would love to improve my English and learn Hungarian, Spanish,French and Russian in the same time and in this order.None of them from the beginning.I have books, dictionaries and internet connection so I have materials which is good.
    I work full time which is not good:)
    What would you advice me?Where should I start to do not go crazy?What would you do?Please,help:)
    Best wishes
    Iwona

  • […] several languages at once. I thought it was a good idea. Actually, in some way I still do. However this article made me think about it. Does it really hurt my chances of successfully managing several languages […]

  • jjangnee says:

    Reblogged this on Your Contemporary Band and commented:
    I will take the multi-language challenge. Should I start learning Korean and Japanese? :>>

  • lee says:

    Hi luca,

    thanks so much for your article. you motivate me a lot. i `m studying German as Translator now. i love to learn as many languages as possible. but i dont know, how well is mastering a language. My big problem is listening and writing. since i ‘ve studied German, i forget a bunch of english grammar. by reading i can understand. but if i want to speak something out. it seems a little bit difficult. how can i wipe it out ? anyway may i ask you, how did u learn writing without correction of teacher ?. how can you write well and correct by yourself ?.i write german and english so badly. although i know i make mistakes but i cant correct them 🙁
    Thanks so much in advance

    Lee

    • Luca says:

      Hi Lee

      A simple way to improve your writing skills is…writing!

      A great site for you would be this:

      Lang-8

      Go there, register and start writing essays, and have native speakers correct them.

      You can also use:

      http://www.livemocha.com

      Hard work does pay off 🙂

      Luca

  • ANA CHAGUACEDA says:

    HI, LUCA,
    YO SOY CUBANA Y TENGO 51 ANOS. I WOULD LIKE TO LEARN 2 OR THREE MORE LANGUAGES. QUE ME RECOMIENDAS. TENGO UNA BASE SOLIDA EN ESPANOL /ENGLISH. QUE LENGUAS PUEDO YO APRENDER RAPIDMENTE TOMANDO EN CUENTA MI BASE LINGUISTICA?

    • Luca says:

      Hola Ana. Depende de ti. Como ya he dicho antes, no puedo aconsejarte un idioma en particular porque se trata de una decision totalmente personal. Yo solo puedo aconsejarte como aprender dicho idioma una vez que hayas empezado a aprenderlo 🙂 L

  • Daniel Melo says:

    Hi Luca, I’m brazilian and your post certainly will change my learning process.

    Besides my native portuguese and the intermediate english I got in regular paid classes since my childhood, I’ve started to study spanish, french, japanese and – recently – arabic at the same time. On mondays and wednesdays I spent 1 hour for spanish and arabic; on tuesdays and thursdays: 1 hour for french and japanese. On weekends, all of them for about 5 hours. The result? Slow learning through all of them.

    Ahora seguiré tus consejos. Sabes bien que el portugués y español son lenguas hermanas, entonces no tendré muchos problemas para aprenderla más rapido. Voy a adicionar al proceso el japonés, que ya estaba estudiando hace dos anõs. Así sólo cambiaré por francés o árabe cuándo mi español alcanzar un nível razoable, intermedio.

    So, Luca, 30 minutes for each of these two languages (jap./spa.) from monday to friday; and 2 hours of japanese and 1 hour of spanish in the weekends would be a good choice for a better performance in my new journey? I’d gladly expect your opinion about the schedule above.

    Finally, thanks for sharing your experiences with all of us who share the same “hobby” you’ve chosen for your life.

  • Destiny Kruse says:

    Thanks for the advice! Being from Texas, I know some Spanish. My ancestry is French and German and in high school I took both classes. Now, that I have two children I’d like to be able to teach them as many languages as I think feasible. How do you feel about Rosetta Stone? What language do you think I should teach them first and will my teaching be as effective since I will be learning alongside them?

  • The post is very interesting. However, I’m still struggling with a personal problem regarding language learning. I don’t know if you can advise me, but maybe you can try!

    My mother tongue is Spanish. I used to consider I was totally bad at learning languages. Months ago I tackled the learning of English as attending classes as by myself, and now I’m in some point between B2 (title already got) and C1. Now I’m a beginner at German. Additionally, I ‘learn’ Galician without ‘studying’ it, since I’ve lived there for some years and I speak and read it every now and then. So I am studying German, somehow studying-learning-reviewing English, and learning Galician. The point is that I’m going to move to the Netherlands for a while, so if I decide to start with its language they will be four, and it’s not so different from German. Do you think I could manage the situation by studying only German and Dutch? I’d work in English, but without “studying” beyond what I already know.

    • admin says:

      To my humble opinion, it is better to avoid learning similar languages at the same time. What I suggest is that you build a strong foundation in one of them and then pick up the other. L

  • Lars says:

    Först måste jag berätta att jag tycker himla mycket om dina videor och synvinklar av språk och allt som de gäller! Jag blev riktigt intresserad att lära mig olika främmande språk.

    Jag gick till bibliotek och lånade en nygrekiska lärobok. Men sen blev jag tveksam och började hesitera. Jag hade beslutit att fortsätta med spanska, som jag har studerat för drygt 3 år. Jag hade ingen aning om det skulle vara bra idé att plugga nygrekisk samtidigt med spanska.

    Så, tycker du att det är klok att lära sig nygrekiska och spanska samtidigt? Är de för likadana? Eller är de helt annorlunda språk? Jag kan mig spanska medelmåttigt och vill bara förbättra det. Jag kan inte alls nygrekiska (ännu) men jag gillar detta språk!

    Hoppas din bok blir färdigt snabbt, lycka till för framtiden
    Lars, från Finland

  • Picking up a new language doesn’t prevent one from keeping and even refining the ones he previously learned and are obviously at a higher level. The trick is having good time management skills. By trial and error, you want to find a sustainable schedule to learn languages.

  • Hey Luca, thanks for this article. It’s great, and you definitely make a few good points. I love the way you illustrated developing the language core, which is perhaps similar to saying that you have to reach that level with a language where you’re comfortable talking before you pick up foreign language number two. I’ve studied 6 or 7 foreign languages in my life (over 19 years), but never made it my strict ambition to become a polyglot – no language ever had less than 2 years of my main focus and I think that’s how I feel able to reactivate most of them quite easily. I’ll keep following your blog!

  • […] 8) You can only learn one language at a time… Well I used to believe this until I read Luka’s post called: Learning more than one language at the same time. […]

  • […] trying it until I get a bit more traction on Spanish. Despite the advice from this very interesting post that Maria pointed out, I am only going to try to really learn one language the first time […]

  • chinh87 says:

    Hello LUCA
    I’m really happy and interested to read your experiences and wisdoms
    I’m from Vietnam. I’m learning english, but I’m just self-taught and I know my english ability is very bad (hic hic.so if I have any mistakes here. I hope you do not laugh at me ), I hardly know grammar at all ( I mean,i know very little) and my vocabulary is limited . Especially, my english hearing ability is extremely terrible. I’m feeling somewhat depressed but I do not want to give up. Because it’s very necessary for my job and also very happy to communicate with foreigners, etc. So I still continue my english learning every day. But I know I still have not found out the best learning way to my self.
    So I do appreciate to receive your advises,LUCA. I really want to know how to hear and speak English fluently. If possible, details will be great things for me.( about which sites are good to learn ( practice hearing skill, speaking skill…) and free.
    By the way, a crazy idea perhaps. I intend learning german lately. Because I like cultural german, history of german,especially tourism in germany and so forth . There are a lot of things I can not approach them because they are in german language.
    AII this things made me want to learn german. and I also thought that I will have many opportunities for my job if I know german.
    And I do not know whether I can learn two languages at the same time. If possible; please tell me about how to learn german for beginner and then… I hope to get your replies.
    Thank you Luca.
    Chinh

  • tallcity says:

    hi there. i a ma late-comer to this blog. personally, i find, after a few hours of intense studying and repetition, it is useful to take a short nap. sleeping helps your mind rest and place information into ‘long-term storage.” i often wake up feeling like i have retained my learning by instinct, and it is not awkward nor so i have to struggle. but..if i do not take a nap, and switch language studying without rest, my mind is fatigued and still thinking in the previous language. while it is common knowledge that resting is good, i think it is important to actually *sleep* and let your subconcious absorb new ways of expression.

  • Katie says:

    Hi Luca! I am an American student who has studied Spanish for six years and is now living and taking courses in Quito, Ecuador. Although I have studied the language for awhile, I’ve forgotten a lot and am getting it back. I have the option of taking a German class at a local university. Would you recommend against this, even though my whole life is in Spanish at the moment? 🙂 Gracias, Katie

  • Vegard says:

    Hi, great article, great blog, great guy!

    I currently speak norwegian (mother tongue), english and german (lived in germany for 7 years and my wife is german). I just started learning spanish 2 weeks ago and I am thinking about learning russian aswell. The reason for it is because this year I will not be having a day job so I basically have the time.

    Does this sound like a good idea?

  • Muhammad says:

    that’s wonderful information, i am trying to learn French as well as German. of course my mother language is Arabic, and as you see, I speak English.

  • Vegard says:

    Regarding learning russian. I have started the assimil program. Probably a good idea to just stick with that? I also have a russian language course but it’s only 1 night per week, so I guess I can follow both. How many months does a normal person need to complete the assimil russian with ease program?

  • Mashael says:

    موضوع جميل جدا, أحتاجه لتعلم اللغة الانجليزية وربما اللغة الفارسية أو الهندية! علما بأن لغتي هي العربية

    Very nice topic, I need to learn the English language and probably Persian or Indian! Note that my language is Arabic

  • Lynne says:

    I have a great deal of respect for your skill as a language learner, but I have to say I disagree. I found that learning two similar languages at the same time actually accelerated my studies. Progress in one language often meant progress in the other. Everyone will make mistakes while learning, that is a given. Using a spanish word while speaking italian isn’t a mark of failure. It is a sign of progress. It means you have retained something, even if you have misapplied it. That will all get straightened out as you progress. We make the same mistakes with our mother tongue. No biggie. It is a challenge, to be sure, but hardly an insurmountable one. If you have the time, the motivation and the determination, I say go for it! What’s the worst that will happen? You will speak two languages poorly for a while instead of one. I encourage anyone with a passion for learning languages to dive in and stop worrying about if it can or cannot be done. It can be done. It has been done, and it continues to be done by children and adults all over the world. The only limit is the one you place on yourself. : )

  • Fully agree with you Luca if we are talking about starting from scratch. I have always focused on one language at a time. However, I am now finding that I can improve in two (Russian and Czech) while learning a third Korean from a much lower level, and even immerse myself in others from time to time as I travel. The key is to accept some (temporary) slippage in all of them as our focus wanders, and to enjoy them without worrying about any self-imposed or externally imposed finish line.

  • Mario says:

    Groovey, duder!!

  • Jennifer in MA says:

    I would like to try to learn both Spanish (for more practical purposes) and Japanese (for fun!). I have a background in Spanish from middle school and high school and would like to actually be able to hold conversations with people in Spanish. I like Japanese anime and manga so it would be cool to learn the language. Who knows maybe someday I will travel to Japan! Thank you so much for your tips. I think it is fair to say Spanish and Japanese are different enough!

  • Hello everyone. I have started learning Chinese at Enterzon.com and using Gloria’s video help at Youtube. Anyone have any feedback on those? I touched on German before due to having been stationed there once. Would Chinese and German together be advisable?

  • Carrie says:

    Thanks for this, Luca! Just the article I was looking for and so much helpful advice. I’m starting to teach myself Russian and am wondering – do you have suggestions for how to start off when learning a language with an unfamiliar alphabet? How much alphabet/handwriting work did you do before diving into the language learning itself? Is this a crucial step or not so much? Grazie in anticipo!

  • Mohamed says:

    my name’s Mohamed Salah . I’m Egyptian

    you are very benefit mr luca … thank you

    i will start to learn english . i know little english but i hope to be better soon

    My Dream Is learning 10 language in 10 year . I Think It’s So Hard because i have only 3 free hours for study 🙂
    i know you soon from youtube but i will be fans for you from know 🙂

  • Alfonso says:

    Hi Luca,

    Congratulations for the article, it is very interesting. You give us very good tips. I am Spanish and currently I am improving my English level. I want to learn French as well. In fact, I studied a little several months ago but I have decided to focus on English, polishing it, for eight or ten months at least. Afterthat I will enjoy and struggle with French. I don’t have so much experience in learning languages as you, polyglots, so I will trust in your advices, and will work little by little.

    Un abrazo desde España

  • Koen says:

    Hi Luca,

    What if I have some knowledge of Italian (not much but on and off for years) and then wants to pick Spanish. Can I call this my next language or is this a second language next to it. And is it wise? My situation is a bit of an in between I guess. I hope my question is clear.
    Ciao,
    K

  • Oseas says:

    You’re a good teacher If I can call you that way, and also I’m learning now 6 languages at once, as you know it’s very hard but It’ll be good in the future thanks a lot!!!… Greatings from El Salvador

  • fLkVry4eCRv4 says:

    186224 613704This really is a excellent weblog. Maintain up all of the function. I too enjoy to weblog. This really is excellent everybody sharing opinions 365805

  • Kelly says:

    Luca, Cross your fingers…I may be structuring lesson plans for this school year at a new school where the administration would like to split the year in half between two languages – Spanish and French. I can throw in some Japanese as well. They want to include culture of countries that speak the languages as well. With it being elementary level and introductory classes would you advise me to keep them separate or combine them? I can visualize lessons both ways; Regionally, historically, artistically or one language and then the other…

  • Shan says:

    Hello. I’ve been exploring your site and researching the learning of multiple languages. At the moment I am a Senior in college and upon graduation I would like to go abroad to teach English. I will apply to many programs and jobs in China, Taiwan, and Japan. I have taken three courses in Chinese and one in Japanese and wanted to continue my study in both. Unfortunately they are similar languages in the Kanji vs. Hanzi.
    Not exactly grounded in either, but since I could end up in either country I’d like to work on a basic functional understanding.
    My question is, in this case would it be futile or counterproductive to study both?

  • Pedro Ferreira says:

    Hello! Firstly I would like to congratulate you for the blog and for this article. So, my mother language is Portuguese, and I speak English fluently, although I’m still attending classes to refine it. I was learning Spanish but I didn’t really enjoyed learning the language (although I love the way Spanish sounds), so I gave up, however I plan to give it another try in the future. Now, I’ve started French, and I would to like to start learning German. Then, I would like advice on this, do you think it would be feasible to learn English, French and German, remembering that my English is really good.
    Thank you.
    Best Regards

  • […] serially, a la Benny the Irish Polyglot who focus three months at a time on one, or can they be done in parallel? How do you keep all your languages happy? Become an interpreter? Get a job at the UN? Whatever the […]

  • Fera says:

    Hi Luca:)

    If anyone can answer this, that would be great:) I currently want to attempt to learn Hindi and Korean. I’ve studied them on and off for the past few years (never at the same time) but have forgotten a lot. I also have a conversational understanding of French. Are Hindi and Korean far apart enough to learn at the same time?

    There are so many Asian languages I’d like to learn but I’m getting confused about the families. When I look up language families I see Sino-Tibetan and Japonic are separate but someone said not learn Japanese and Mandarin at the same time.

    When you say to choose two distinct languages, do you mean choosing two languages from two different continents such as one from Asia and one from Europe? I know when I was learning Spanish in high school and took a trip to Italy I kept mixing the Spanish with the Italian which was a bit embarrassing, and I know they’re both Romance languages. Any help would be great! Thank you:)

  • edgaraugus says:

    Rummaging around the net I stumbled across this nice blog and I got caught by the phrase “language techniques”
    I’d like you to know (if you don’t do yet) about a couple of apps that I use quite often and…, mh let’s leave it at, a couple of apps that I really love and that I think you might like to use or/and better! suggest to people so that they may find that learning a language is not at all boring and as you said you just need to plug-in while in one of those “pockets” or the bus of course, as I do.
    All of them are free.

    1- A+ Pro , this is like Quizlet or anki, but here, although less(but still loads) already-made sets, you may actually create you own ones and it’s got loads of features
    2- MediaPlayer , this is, I hope, one of the best “media players” out there but the way I use it to learn languages is by downloading from the site “bookbox” or alike, short stories in the different languages that am learning and then listen to them one by one till they all fit-in my hippocampus to create new neurons through my temporal lobes to get hocked up onto my semantic memory…:-) and this way I learn a story (that later I may tell to my grand grand grand-daughters or to grandma ) while learning unconsciously the grammar and consciously lots of vocabulary, in the site they’ve also got some free stuff that you may download just to check up the quality and how useful they are, the stories thaat is, I know I know I am advertising but even I who thinks that learning anything, nowadays comes without cost, am tempted to buy this great stuff, also I have to make it up for downloading, don’t I ?
    3- iTalkFast , this is more for people who really don’t have time or do not use it properly, so everyone; the features i use the most are “speed”, and “A REP…/ B”. The first feature may get you to study, to listen 2 podcasts or twice the same one in the time you may only listen to it once or one podcast. The second one allows you to set a start point “A”, while listening to any track, and a point “B” and then it’ll repeat itself till you go bananas, haha, sorry i couldn’t help saying that. This really helps to get the sounds of a language into your procedural memory which is the one that gets rid of you cute native accent.

    Well now that I just spend, hopefully wisely, a bit of time let me suggest to you all a couple of sites that may help all of those interested in languages or learning anything.

    memrise.com Just brilliant, they even email you to remind you to practise!!! to harvest i’d say!!!
    lyricstraining.com for european languages but still brilliant, love it !!!
    http://new.aulafacil.com/ for those spanish speakers.
    http://www.travelpod.com/traveler-iq
    http://www.travelpod.com/traveler-iq for those who don’t even know where or how many personal computers are in Samoa 🙂 or Papua New Guinea that’s got almost 1/6th(“almost” 1000) of all the languages in the world, man that’s like 5 speakers for every language!!! :-).
    http://www.duolingo.com/ maybe like a full-purchased commercial software
    http://www.italki.com/
    conversationexchange.com/ For those who prefer meeting people.
    And lastly for those nerds haha like myself !
    http://freevideolectures.com/Subject/Languages
    http://www.learnerstv.com/index.php

    If anybody who reads this wants my full favourite list then just ask Eriko for it, hopefully she’ll have it!! meaning I hope Eriko won’t ban me or something.

    Now you see why I said learning anything comes without cost, I stop only cuz I’m afraid I’ll be shut at : come on you sad nerd write you’re own blog and piss off… also I need to sleep. 🙂

  • edgaraugus says:

    Yeah, I don’t know what I was thinking when I wrote “Erico” up there haha, sorry about that. I meant Luca.

  • rob hu says:

    Luca I think that picking two similar of opposite languages is irrelevant. It’s more important the time and effort one allocates when learning each language. I see languages the same as when you learn two subjects at college for example. If we say picking this language or that language defeats the argument that one person can learn, write, and speak multiple languages. I often get asked if I get confused when speaking multiple languages. Of course I tell them not at all.
    The one thing for sure that I know when learning a language is that one has to do the exercises in a creative way in order to be able to simplify the time it takes to learn. If you learn two languages and you want to be proficient in both you have to put the time for each language. Nothing comes free, and especially when learning a language. If you can’t learn a language is because you are not doing the work. I believe there are many ways to learn a language, as long as you do the work you should be able to learn any language!By the way I do speak and write german, spanish, english, italian, and french which is my weakest of this list.

    • Anastasia says:

      Hello, Luca! I actually agree with Rob Hu.

      In some cases learning two similar languages can be an advantage to the outcome. Though I see your point and agree that it would be a risky business, I’d like to share with you my ideas on how it could work. Firstly, in my view such approach would be helpful only for experienced language learnes (let’s say, a person, who is already fluent in 3-4 foreign languages). Secondly, a person would need to have slightly more knowledge of one language than in another (just so that it would be easier to compare the languages). Thirdly, one should always pay attention: the words that may have the same or very similar wording not necessarily will have the same meaning (especially when it comes to Russian and Balkan languages!).

      So, I strongly believe that if these preconditions are met and a person is aware at all times of his/her results and can adjust the process of learning than learning of two similar languages at the same time is very helpful. At least it is working very good for me with Spanish and Portuguese (I speak Ukrainian, Russian, English, German and French). I already can communicate in Spanish with native speakers and Portuguese seems much easier after Spanish.

  • You can learn two or more languages at the same time as long as you organize your activities and keep track of the process. Of course there are a number of factors that you should consider. For example, it’s probably a good idea to start learning one language and build up a certain level of competence before you turn to the second language. Also, are you learning two languages that belong to the same family or are they completely different? It would be quite a challenge to learn Spanish and Italian at the same time because a lot of the vocabulary is similar. But if you have already a working knowledge of Spanish it will be quite easy for you to learn Italian.

  • Catolina says:

    Hi!

    The two languages I’m determined to learn are Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese. Since I’m going to take your advice and focus on one at a time, my question to you is which one would you recommend learning first? I know very basic Spanish, and am almost done with the Rosetta Stone program… I’m just wondering if native English speakers take to anyone of the two languages easier? Also, life after Rosetta Stone… LOL I’m going to be lost… What studying habits do you suggest?

    Thanks – Catolina

  • aditya menon says:

    Hi Luca, thanks for the great post. I was somewhat struggling trying to pick up German and French at the same time (I’ve had rudimentary french training long ago), but it always felt fragile, especially with the french words for some reason.

    Your post has helped me decide that I’ll stick to learning German for now, get some sort of fluency that is acceptable to me, then go for French. Thank you.

  • Isra says:

    Hey Luca!
    Hope you are well and I must say your blog is very refreshing and inspirational. Keep it up!
    I have a quick question, I am currently “perfecting” my French (been learning it for 9 years) and I speak fluent Arabic and English and I really want to start learning Italian. My university offers a language course (2hours a week) to learn Italian. Now, do u recommend I pick Italian up whilst brushing off my French at university too or should I wait till I’m fluent in French and not screw up whatever passion I have for Italian now by multitasking this with my other studies?

    Apologies for the hefty message!

    Many thanks in advance!

    Kind regards,

    Isra

  • Carla says:

    Bonjour Luca!

    I’m 20 years old from Australia and studying German French and Chinese.
    It’s incredibly difficult to do so in an Australian university setting. I’m contemplating dropping one and focusing on the other two, no doubt I would return to the other eventually but I really agreed with what you said. I feel as if my learning is being inhibited by an overload of work.

    I also learned Italian for some time last year, and reached an intermediate level before heading to Italy and becoming conversationally comfortable.

    Would choosing Chinese and French go well together?

    Language learning is heartbreaking, as I’m not as dedicated as I should be. I learned Greek as child and I hit fluency every time I return to visit family, however it’s not as good as a native speaker. There’s so much more for me to pick up, and yet there are all these other languages that I dream of being able to speak, and I haven’t even started!

    You seem busy but your advice would be greatly appreciated!

    Danke und viele Grüße!

    Carla.

  • […] the same process of learning one language after another. As examples, we can have the case of Luca Lampariello who claims to study two languages every two years, Benny Lewis or Steve […]

  • Christian says:

    Hoi Luca! Ik ben dertien jaar oud en ik kom uit amerika, mijn eerste taal is engels maar ik heb vloeind nederlands geleerd en ik kan me op elke manier uiten en ik kan ook alles zeggen, Maar nu wil ik een derde taal leren, Maar ik weet niet hoe ik dat moet doen, Ik weet wel zeg maar hoe ik het zou moeten leren(En ik zou mijn nederlands nooit vergeten, mijn beste vrienden komen uit Gelderland hahaha) Maar ik wilde duits leren maar ik was bang dat het moeilijk zou zijn of dat ik het met nederlands door elkaar zou halen. Ik weet dat het heel stom is om daar bang voor te zijn maar ah ik ben toch een beetje bang! Ik wilde ook spans of italiaans leren, maar weet ik niet, ik wil gewoon duits spreken ,maar dan begin ik duits te leren en ik wil weer spans leren, Kan je me helpen! bedankt!

  • JY says:

    Good posting! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and tips.

  • Jéssica says:

    Waaaw! È davvero fantastico! Sono messicana e ho cominciato a imparare l’italiano un anno fa. Lo amo tanto, perché è una lingua bellissima! Grazie mille per i tuoi consigli, perché vorrei imparare il russo e il francese, però certamente credo che sia meglio fare un po’ di pratica con il italiano e l’inglese (il quale ho cominciato a studiare tanti anni fa, però non ho fatto tanta pratica e vorrei svolgermi meglio).

    Ti ringrazio un’altra volta e complimenti per il tuo sito e per i tuoi videi.

    Un abbraccio

  • Mudassar says:

    Hi luca. I just came across your blog and I was quite impressed by your ideas on how to learn many languages at same time.I am an Indian and I already know to read and write five languages including English.I also know to read and write arabic but funny thing is I don’t understand it.I want to learn Arabic badly :-)…. so what do you suggest me to do in order to understand it.
    reply must plz 🙂

  • Jasmine says:

    Hey Luca, it’s pretty impressive with the number of languages you’re able to speak! I started learning Swedish on my own when I was about 12, and now I’m learning German (still at a basic level), however I was thinking of taking up Finnish, French and Hebrew. It says here that you don’t recommend learning more than 2 languages at any given time so I trust that. However what is your opinion about taking up a new language every 6 months? Do you think that would be okay, or detrimental to my learning? Cheers 🙂

    • admin says:

      Hi Jasmine

      Once again, it depends on a number of factors. If you have already experience in language learning, have a couple of languages under your belt, have time to invest on this activity, then go for it. Just make sure that you have built a solid foundation in a given lanuage before you move on to the next one. L

  • Judi says:

    Hi… May I ask for advice as well? 🙂
    I have been learning few languges in my life… but unfortunately I speak only English. My experience shows me that only daily contact with the language really makes me speaking. I am thinking to move abroad to french speaking county. I want to use that time to learn local language, but I also need German (now knowing it on intermediate level). So I will need to learn both. Could you please advice me how should I devide my time in this case? And also which tools for that would be the best? I would be grateful for answer. Best regards!

  • Sienna says:

    Thanks for the great article! I’m thinking about learning two languages at the same time – Russian and Spanish 🙂 Currently I speak four languages and I’d love to add those two to them. I’m quite busy so it’ll be a challenge, I suppose, but I’ve already learnt Russian alphabet and they are completely different…so wish me luck

  • Mahan says:

    Hi Luca
    Thanks
    That was a great article
    I want to learn both french and German, because I need them.
    At firs I doubted but after reading your article I decided to do it.
    😉

  • Agnie says:

    IMHO it probably mostly depends on the languages which you want to learn. If you want to learn French + Spanish or Portugese simultaneously I think this approach might work even better than learning them separately (as you would translate, memorise and link words in different languages). But if you tried to learn Korean and English at the same time you might find it too difficult.

  • Brittany says:

    First of all, thank you so much for posting this! It was helpful and straight forward. I have been considering a job in the field of translation, in which languages I have yet to determine, and it concerned me when I though about college courses and how I would go about learning whichever languages I chose. This question has been nagging at me on whether I would take two language courses at the same time or not. At this time I have been looking at taking the German and French classes offered up for majors and I wasn’t quite sure how I would be able to learn both without having the ability to focus at one at a time. In the future though I think I will try and learn a few more language such as Russian and Japanese. Thanks to your guidance I think I will consider taking two languages at the same time but look at the possibility of focusing on one.
    I really appreciate your help.

  • You’ll find it mostly not possible to find well-informed men and women on this content, unfortunately you look like you are familiar with what exactly you’re covering! Bless You

  • Durlon Bryant says:

    Hi, I wanted to say thanks for this article. I’ve got a question, when you are learning two languages at the same time, should you have a time period between the two languages. For example, 1st language in the morning, then 2nd in the afternoon? Or does it matter? It seems to me that there should be some time, if only for reflection on what you just learned in one language before you start the other one.

  • Lucho says:

    I tell you my experience. I’m a native Spanish speaker, and I think I can also speak English at a decent level. I learnt a basic French and Italian many years ago. Then, I moved to Brazil for a few months, so I came to understand Portuguese very well, but never came to speak it well. Now, I live in France, I’ve improved my French a lot, but I’ve forgotten quite a lot of my Portuguese, I kind of mix it up with my Italian. What’s the outcome now? I have languages, Spanish, English and French, fully (or almost) mastered, they’ll stay in my head forever. On the other side, I have two more languages I can understand pretty well, Italian and Portuguese, but they become a nightmare when it comes to talking, je melange tous les deux.
    Now I wanted to give German a try. I don’t know what to do, maybe just get into it, all at once, and then try, now and then, to improve Po and It, give them 1 our 2 hours per week. As for En, Sp and Fr, I think, speak, read, watch TV, work with them all the time, there is no problem.
    My point is, I agree, that you really need to “build the core”, to reach a decent level in a language, before moving forward to the next one. Otherwise, you risk to mix them, loose them, what a waste of time…

  • Mark says:

    Luca,
    Very nice article. I took your advice (spending time with both Spanish & Chinese everyday) and I feel I have gotten better in both.
    I also plan on following your two-years at a time before jumping onto the next language. I started studying Spanish and Chinese in 2013, so I would like to move onto Russian and Hebrew in 2015.
    How would I set my study schedule at that point? Now I’m doing Chinese 70% & Spanish 30% (almost) every day. If I add two more on I would… ?

    Thanks in advance.

  • me says:

    Hi Luca, your article is very interesting! I totally agree wit you! Learning a new language is not simple at all. You must spend lots of time, and of course you must be very motivated. Now, I really love languages. But, thinking, every adolescent must study for the school, every adult must work, the stress of the everyday life is always around us. I can speak chinese and italian very fluency, and I’m improving first of all my English, then my French and my Germany too. I mean, not all together. My giggest desire is to speak English like a native speaker, but at school I’m studying the other two languages too, so I can’t forget the notions I already know.
    Very well, Luca, for your excellent method, and I’m hope one day I’ll be able to speak a lot of languages. I’m patiented and motivated. Languages are definitely my biggest passion, which I want to share with you.
    You saw, my English is not perfect, but I’m sure one day it will be very very good.

  • […] more than 5 languages.  I enjoyed the fact that he translated his blog posts  ( for example: http://www.thepolyglotdream.com/learning-more-than-one-language-at-the-same-time/) into a few different languages so that many different speakers can understand him and also […]

  • Swastik Chakraborty says:

    Hey Lucas, I’m from India…. want to learn Chinese & Spanish at the same time… is it possible ???? What should be the duration?? 3 years duration is enough for Chinese????? & 2 years for Spanish??? After learning these 2 languages I want business companies to hire me for their abroad jobs…. is it possible?????????? Plzzzzzz suggest me…….

  • richard says:

    I am Brazilian, so you said that portuguese and romanian are similar

    It’s totally wrong!

  • Camilo says:

    U got a really good point there ! I’ve been studying just one language for 2 years and now I been thinking about the possibility to study French I’m not sure, though !
    My first language is Spanish! I’ve been dedicated too much time studying English and I got a lot fluency the way I speak and stuff already besides my job is dealing with American people So…
    There are 2 things that I wanna let u know 1. Good talk, this what u did in this article is just great and true
    2. Knowing that I speak spanish as a first language and that English is what I been learning, u think French would be ok ?

  • Emmanuel says:

    Thanks,
    I recently started my Chinese class and,in fact,it has become so hard for me.It is full of characters which are so confusing and cannot be easily understood.I really need so tips on how to make my learning more efficient.
    Best Regards,
    Emma.

  • Babar says:

    Hey Luca. how are you.. i hope you must be having good time, Luca my name is Babar. my native language is Urdu, and i have been learning English for 5 to 6 years. i think am pretty much better in English. now am looking forward to learn another language, my first preference for Spanish and i want to learn approx 6 languages (Chinese/french/German/Arabic/Farsi) so now you tel me that which two languages should i start learning together.

    Thanks

    Awaiting……..

  • Erick says:

    Hi Luca!

    Thanks for posting this. I came across this because I’ve been learning German for the past few months now and have wondered if I could add another language while continuing with German. I was thinking of adding Spanish right about now. These are the languages I’m trying to learn: German, Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Dutch. I know that German and Spanish are completely opposite. What other languages, if I were to learn two at once, be good that way I don’t confuse the other?

  • Doug says:

    Hi,

    Thanks for the post. This topic connects to a current nagging concern of mine with my language practice.

    I do feel convinced that it would be better to establish a solid language core and reach a decent level in one language before moving on to others. Unfortunately, I have not done that in the past. The highest I’ve gotten is perhaps low intermediate with my German and that has always quickly slipped back down to high beginner when I try to learn something else.

    I have noticed that I do seem to progress more with a language the more I focus on just one at a time. Again, I am speaking of beginner and low-intermediate levels.

    I majored in German, so it would be nice to keep it up. I live in Montreal, so it would be appropriate to work on my French. However, the language that I really want to practice the most right now is Japanese. I lived and worked in Japan for two years, I miss the place, and want to go back there someday (sooner rather than later, I hope). I also have some hope for professional aspirations someday with Japanese providing I can eventually reach an advanced level of fluency.

    So, it seems pretty clear I’m going to switch to Japanese soon and stick with it unless I change my mind about my hopes for later career goals. I wish I had got both my German and French to higher levels or at least where I felt I had a solid foundation.

    I’ve tried experimenting with a ‘maintenance mode’ with whichever two languages aren’t receiving the primary focus at that given time (I’m currently completing a self-imposed three month ‘sprint’/goal to improve my French a little). The idea with this is just to feed my brain a little — provide some stimulus – each day in the maintenance languages but with no goal to advance. Just to attempt to keep it fresh… This way, I hope to not steal focus from the language I’m actively working on.

    The thing is, I’m not sure if it works when all of the languages concerned are at high beginner levels. Sometimes it’s very easy to spend more time on a language I’m simply trying to maintain than I had first intended to that day.

    Sometimes it feels like I’m just splitting my time – no matter how small the split. I just want to be sure I’m not undermining my efforts to improve the language I’m currently focusing on.

    If one had not first reached a higher level and established a solid language core in a language before picking up another one, as everyone seems to think is advisable, what then? Will actively attempting to maintain that lower level in the previous language create additional challenges for learning another language – in much the same way that splitting one’s time between learning two or more languages at the same time does?

  • Doug says:

    Having just posted my last response, I found myself wondering, “How does one know when one has established a good foundation – a solid language core?”

    I know I haven’t with French, but maybe I have with my German? Some aspects of German feel ingrained enough now, that I usually only struggle when the material is way above my level. I forget words of course, come across words I don’t know (a lot if I tackle advanced reading), maybe forget if some noun is masculine, feminine, or neuter, or maybe I can’t remember if such and such is a dative or accusative preposition. I never struggle with general meaning anymore. I’m never thrown off too much by separable prefix verbs anymore, and the way word order in dependent clauses can get changed around isn’t something I need to think about much anymore. Even if I haven’t practiced for a while and am very rusty… Also, there seems to be a certain amount of high frequency vocabulary, that at this point, feels ingrained like it’s not going anywhere. The language became ‘familiar’ a long time ago.

    Is that a ‘language core’? I have never reached fluency, but…

  • Susie Q says:

    I am in the middle of trying this. Started on duolingo a couple of months ago. Reviewed my Spanish (I am fluent), tested out of that and now am alternating between German and French, but also working on Italian, Dutch, Swedish, Irish, Portuguese and Danish. Seems to help to compartmentalize each language as he says by alternating Latin and Germanic languages, using Irish to cleanse the palate so to speak! Lots of review, but I also try speeding through and go back and review slowly as the mood strikes me. Have just found memrise and am also trying Japanese, Maltese, Russian, Hebrew, Yiddish and Morse Code! Yes, I am a bit mad, but I have some spare time right now and there are worse things to be doing with my time than working on my life goal of learning at least seven languages. As they say, the first twenty or so are the hardest! Truly, I think I am addicted…

  • Susie Q says:

    Oh, and acquiring a smattering of Latin…

  • Youne says:

    Hi luca…thank you very much..i’m now stoped to learn french.Because i was learning 3 languages at the same time i think my level is elementry (i know the 1000 words in each language)..Like you said…and i couldn’t find the time to learn each one….so i’d like to ask you: can i still learning spanish and english…and still just watch french videos and music and speak it everyday ??? thank you very much

  • Miguel Silva says:

    Eu realmente tentei aprender Inglês e Alemão ao mesmo tempo e desisti do Alemão mas depois de dominar bem o Inglês regressei ao Alemão.

    Obrigado pelos conselhos!

  • Alison Weisz says:

    Hi Luca,

    I love languages, and I would love to devote all my time to learning. I’m curious what your opinion is on learning sign language as an “easy” language, whilst learning a language with a different alphabet as a “difficult” one?

    Thanks!

    • admin says:

      Hi Alison.

      I confess that I don’t know much about sign language, but my first impression is that being a form of communication, it is not easier or difficult than a language with an alphabet and sounds. It is simply different.

      Take care!

      Luca

  • […] Learning more than one language at the same … – Tips and guidance for learning multiple languages at the same time … Therefore, learning Spanish AND Italian, Dutch AND German, …… […]

  • Alex says:

    I guess I’m a bit late to this, aren’t I? I guess I’ll just get to the point.

    I’m currently studying Japanese, as I love the culture, the language is very interesting to me (and beautiful) and I wish to live in Japan at some point. However, I also want to learn Korean. And for the same reasons. Love the culture, the language is beautiful and interesting, and I would like to live there (okay, I also watch a lot of Korean shows and listen to Korean music…).

    If possible, I would like to know your opinion (or anyone’s, for that matter) on learning the two languages. I have the time, I can manage time well so that it isn’t wasted, I’m not in a rush, and I’m willing to study both daily (well, I would probably take a one day break once every week or two where I just go over what I’ve learned).

    Personally, I think it’s doable, but I’d like some input from others. Do you think the languages are too similar, or the difficulty is alike, things like that. Thanks in advance!

    • CrayonFox225 says:

      Hey Alex,
      it’s been 3 months; have you been studying both Japanese and Korean? If yes, how is it working out?
      I’m thinking about doing the same; I’m definitely learning Japanese, but I would feel kinda sad about having to put Korean away for a couple of years.. So I wonder, is it possible to attack them both at the same time?

      • Moon V says:

        I personally would learn them one at a time. Learning one will make it a lot easier to learn the other one, but learning them both at the same time could cause you a lot of confusion since they are so similar.

  • Tumblr article

    I saw a writer writing about this on Tumblr and it linked to

  • sab says:

    Hi
    My kids age 9 and 11 speak urdu as a language also learned english and r good at it . Now they r in a school where french and arabic is necessary. And they r learning both languages at the same time . Is it possible for them to learn arabic and french simultaneously.

    • metarune says:

      They will probably do just fine. Younger people especially are very well equipped to deal with multiple languages. French and Arabic are also very different, which is a bonus in this case.

    • DryZe ReviiVe says:

      I’m 15 and a 2 years ago a spanic guy came to school and only in 2 year he vas perfectly fluent but with a strong accent tho..

  • […] to choose languages that are different and therefore not easily confused. Luca Lampariello at the Polyglot Dream advocates choosing one “easy” language and one “difficult” […]

  • Bareah says:

    hello, my native language is Arabic and I’m inThe U.S to study university, my English is good I can speak, read, listen and understand but I need more time to make my grammar perfect and learn new vocabularies .. I’m thinking of learning Korean .. I don’t have any background in it do you think it’s good idea to start learning now? while I’m still learning English?

  • Daniele Ciufo says:

    Hi, I’m Italian, studying Finance in London (in English). I’m willing to start learning Spanish and French as extracurricular activities. Do you think could it be possible as thing to do? Of course it’s just a couple of hours a week. Thanks for your advice

  • […] learning two wholly different languages can end up with you confusing things. That more or less comes with the territory. One language can […]

  • Steve Arlington says:

    Ciao Luca! I have been self studying Mandarin for the past 5 years… Also I am involved with an Evangelical Chinese Church, which is, I believe is one of the best ways to learn a language, since the Evangelical churches are very tight knit socially, and always have activities together throughout the week… and provides a well rounded means of communicating… through music, a time of active listening where no response is required, and then through conversation.
    I also have an Evangelical Arabic Church nearby which meets during the evenings, making it possible to participate in both.
    I want to continue my Mandarin studies, while at the same time starting Arabic. I came across your site googling the best way to learn 2 languages at the same time… I was thinking it would be best to study each language on alternative days… Have one Mandarin day and the next Arabic day… That way the languages can remain completely separate, while at the same time, providing a brief time for the mind to rest from the one language.
    What would be your reasoning for studying both every day?

    I also am a language lover… not for the sole sake of learning a language, but I’ve found, and probably you have too, that each language is a key into another world…
    Language is a connection – to people…
    I speak all the “main” Latin languages and Japanese… I also use to live in Italy… A small town called Collodi!

  • […] Original article: http://www.thepolyglotdream.com/learning-more-than-one-language-at-the-same-time/ […]

  • kate says:

    I’ve been learning spanish at school for 5 years, and I will be studying in more depth for the next three years (till the end of college). I recently started Japanese outside of school with a tutor. As its such a different language do you think I’ll reach fluency whilst still learning Spanish? Once im finished with college, I’ll probably stop learning Japanese regardless of where Im at with it, as I plan to major in Korean at university.

  • june says:

    It is so hard to mix up Spanish and Korean for me. I see Hangul and my brain goes into puzzle model. Hangul looks like a code but spanish just clicks in my brain. I don’t know but it’s difficult to call a bebe an agi.

  • Joy says:

    Hi. Im Lithuanian and I live in Germany for 2 years. Im still learning german, its really hard for me. And i want to ask, can I learn russian?

  • Aykut says:

    Hello, I am living in Turkey now and I take my all courses in English at my university and my English level is advanced if I am not mistaken, or it is at least upper-intermediate level undoubtedly. I am actually Albanian but I dont’ t know the language and I want to learn Albanian . However, I am in the process of learning French almost 5 months. Should I start learning Albanian after learning French completely or is it possible to learn two languages at the same time. By the way, in French I am still in an elemantary level since you know French is very demandful language 🙂

  • Johanna Rabindran says:

    I tuoi articoli sono molto interessante e mi piace loro. Ho due domande –
    1. Ho imparato l’italiano per quasi 10 mesi. Volevo praticare da leggere i articoli in l’italiano. Dove si trova i tuoi articoli in altre lingue?
    2. Ho deciso a imparare il russo nell’estate e poi leggere il libro – Guerra e Pace in russo
    Anche, io amo la lingua di Korea e anche la voglio imparare.
    È possibile a imparare due lingue così difficile allo stesso tempo?
    Grazie mille

  • Elz Pixie says:

    My native language is English. Right now, im learning ASL ans Spanish in school. My goal is to learn Estonian, french, japanese. The only thing is that i have no idea where to start with learning languages outside of school. Does anyone have tips for the future?

    • Mauricio says:

      For Estonian you can try keeleklikk and memrise. For the rest you can use duolingo

    • pdquick says:

      For any language, a good set of tools to start is a phrasebook, a grammar in your native language, a dictionary, and a high-frequency word list. Read through the grammar without trying to memorize each point. Download Anki and make flash cards for high-frequency words and phrases. Bonus if you can organize the words into stories, instead of just learning lists. You can download pictures from the web to put on your Anki cards, and use Forvo to get native pronunciations. Each time you see a card, you will also see a picture you chose and hear a native pronunciation. Also start making cards for common useful phrases like “May I have a cup of coffee, please?” and “Two for dinner.” You can then expand into making cards with grammar exercises where you have a sentence with a blank for, say, the proper case and declension of the missing word, and put the answer on the other side.

      I took this method from Gabriel Wyner’s Fluent Forever, which is worth a read.

  • […] Lampariello from The Polyglot Dream recommends building a language core in each of your target languages before moving on to the next […]

  • DryZe ReviiVe says:

    I can speak english spanish french and veeery little German * after learning it for 6 years in school( but right now I am intrested in Russian Japanese and swedish but i think i-ll go with russian and Swedish cause I need a looot of time for Japanese…

  • […] Read: How to Learn More Than One Language At A Time […]

  • louiej5 says:

    FYI, using masculin pronouns only without feminin pronouns is now considered outdated. The standard way to write is to use both pronouns for every instance, or use the plural pronoun instead.

    Other than that, great article.

  • […] Read: How to Learn More Than One Language At A Time […]

  • […] Learning more than one language at the same time – In order to better illustrate what I mean by “managing one … Patience and aiming for a long-term goal will bring you success. Tips and guidance for learning multiple languages at the same time For the last 20 years, I was similar to Student … […]

  • Abhinav Kaushal says:

    My native language is Hindi and I am learnt English in school. I have a good command in both of these language. I started studying Spanish language and right now I have cleared A2 level. Now I want to add another language and want to continue Spanish too. So which language I can study with Spanish? French or Russian? Hoping for your answer soon.

    • Sharon Courtney says:

      I personally would recommend learning Russian first and then French after you are further along in your Spanish studies. Spanish and French are very closely related and you may find yourself confusing the two.

    • Haru says:

      I agree with Sharon- French and Spanish are very similar due to both having Latin roots, so you should probably go with Russian.

  • taki says:

    ĉu vi parolas Esperanton?

  • Mihalis Pasenidis says:

    Is Persian and Punjabi two languages that will probably confuse me if I try learning them at the same time?

  • […] said, it may be necessary to focus on building a solid foundation for one language at a time, as polyglot Luca Lampariello […]

  • jean-luc Chevrier says:

    Apprendre une nouvelle langue et réviser une facile à la fois (pour vous selon votre niveau) est une bonne stratégie. L’important est sa capacité à se plonger dans l’univers de la langue, variable selon chacun. Apprendre ou réviser nécessite soit de voyager soit de s’entourer de stimuli (tv, chansons, rencontres, visites culturelles liées à la langue, le bain permettant à la fois de faire ressurgir vos acquits précédents mais aussi de mieux fixer les nouveaux dans un univers particulier. J’ai tendance en fonction des opportunités, d’organiser la “semaine” du russe ou celle de l’italien, par exemple.

  • Michelle Turner says:

    Would you consider Chinese and Hebrew to be doable for learning at the same time?

  • Nathan Beyero says:

    Well I haven’t really understood the concept of the “easy” and “difficult languages. An example may help perhaps??

    • Landry Glazahi says:

      It depends actually on your mother tongue. If you’re French, all the Latin languages (such as Spanish, Italian… ) that have the same alphabet are going to be “easy” while languages such as Japanese, Mandarin, on the other hand, are going to seem “difficult.

      • Haru says:

        I would like to elaborate on Landry’s comment and say that the familiar alphabet is a huge part of it, but it also has a lot to do with the overlap of languages and the word meanings themselves. If you took Latin, learning about the Latin roots in words can help you quite a bit when learning languages like Italian and French, because in a number of the words you can see where the Latin influence is and it helps you work out their definitions, essentially giving you a loose ability to read the language without actually having learned it.
        So basically the familiar alphabet works as a familiar lifeline, and the Latin roots can help connect definitions across languages.
        This similarity however is also why you shouldn’t try to learn two similar languages. For example the word ‘Pink’: pink, rose (French), rosa (Italian), rosado (Spanish), rosa (Portugese). And that tends to be the case for a number of words across the board, so it can make it *very* confusing.

        Now as an English speaker trying to learn as Landry said Japanese, Mandarin, Russian, Korean… you have neither of those supports to help you. The characters are alien to you and they lack the same underlying structure as your own language (that structure of course being Latin).
        The same happens in reverse- Japanese speakers may find English harder than Mandarin, because Japanese characters, syntax, and pronunciation share a number of similarities with Mandarin that do not exist with English.

        • keyne says:

          The Japanese writing system shares a number of characters with those used to write Mandarin. The syntax and phonology of Mandarin, however, are very distant from Japanese; I can’t think of what similarities you might be seeing.

  • Dominika Nguyen says:

    Hi, Luca! I’m Spanish, and I started learning French two years ago. Last year I had to start with Italian because of my boyfriend (he was Italian and it would have been weird and a bit disrespectful not to learn his language given that i already spoke four languages). I learnt it quickly, but precisely for that reason i suppose I could forget it just as easily. Now we are no longer together, but I decided to continue studying it as I liked it and thought it might be useful somehow in the future.

    The problem is that I came to Barcelona one month ago and I’m trying to get a job here, as a waitress, salesgirl, or something like that. So, now I need to speak Catalan. I started with it as soon as I arrived, and I’m doing it quite well. But now, I realise I am forgetting words and conjugations of both French and Italian, and mixing languages. I didn’t choose to learn these three languages at the same time, they are obviously too similar, it just happened, but I need the three of them to work here, since this city is full of French and Italian people, so I don’t know what to do to keep my level. I use to have a B2 level of French, and like a B2-C1 of Italian, Now I have a A2-B1 of Catalan but I’m getting a bit worse at the others.

    My only trick is to try to exagerate as much as I can my accent while reading or even speaking. This way i think I can differentiate better which term belongs to which language. But it’s still difficult. Should I give a priority to one of them? Should I keep watching films in all of these languages?

  • […] Lampariello from The Polyglot Dream recommends building a language core in each of your target languages before moving on to the next […]

  • user lucero says:

    Hi, what do you think of this .I have learned English and I have an pre -intermediate level, ¿Can I learn french at the same time? Of course i still learning english , but i guess my core will not be affected if i learn french , I am a native spanish speaker .

  • Lea Heynitz says:

    Hey there, about 5 years ago I started learning Italian as I went to Italy for 7 months (my mothertongues are German and French), after that my Italian was good but not fluent. Over the years I didn’t practise it that much (stupid me). Last December I started Brazilian Portuguese and am now on a B1 level. I want to keep on practising Portugese as well as Italian (A2 / B1 level) but don’t want to get confused as it is similar. How?

  • ben kelly says:

    I believe you got one thing wrong; learning 2 similar, or similar-ish languages at once is actually a better way, in my experience. Neurons form in pairs that begin wired-together, which is proven to massively boost recollection.

    You get more leverage by learning the variations between spanish and italian. (but, how useful is it to know both? depends on your location/culture/etc).

    Everyone is different but I believe the science will back me up on this; creating stronger initial mental anchors by learning things in pairs is almost always superior than rote memorization.

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