Learning Two Languages At Once: My Roadmap

In all my years learning languages, I had never been more excited.

It was September 2015. I had come up with a brand-new language project, and I couldn’t wait to tell the world about it.

I, Luca Lampariello, was about to embark on the herculean task of learning two languages at the same time: Hungarian and Greek.

Prior to that point, my language plans had always been much simpler—one language every two years—and I was generally content with it. I’ve always been able to achieve high levels in each individual language I speak within that time table, so I had never really considered altering the formula.

However, ever since I began posting language videos on YouTube in 2008 and started writing my blog in 2011, I’ve had to consider a different routine, one based on a question that many, many readers have asked:

How do I learn two languages at the same time?

I’ll be honest.

For a long time, I didn’t know. I knew I could handle one language at a time, of course, but to tackle two at once just seemed like an exercise in futility. 

There’s quite a bit of information to be managed with each new language learned, and I always feared that with two, things would just start to run together.

But the question never really went away. As I became more proficient in my languages, and began looking for new challenges, the idea of learning two languages simultaneously stayed in the back of my mind. I even gave it a “soft-try” once, with Romanian and Japanese, but didn’t stay with it.

When this past September rolled around, the time finally seemed right to put my skills to the test for good.

Was it possible? If it were possible, could I get it done?
I made my announcement on Facebook, and was off to the races.

Fast forward to now. It’s January 2016 , a few months later…
...and I’m only learning one language.

I’m still going with Hungarian, but I’ve decided to postpone learning Greek indefinitely.

At this point, you’re probably asking, “Why, Luca?”

“After all that, why would you go back to learning only one language at a time?”

The reasons are many. Before I get into them, you need to know that I didn’t give up learning two languages because it is difficult, or even impossible. It’s not impossible.

I gave up learning Greek and Hungarian simultaneously because the conditions just weren’t right.

Just like an engineer wouldn’t construct a building on a foundation of sand, I realized soon after starting Greek that any fluency I could build at that point would be constructed on weak reasons and motivations, that would eventually be its downfall.

When you’re trying to build sky-high language proficiency—as I often do—such poor foundations just won’t do.

And so, by postponing my Greek learning, I kept myself from making a crucial mistake. That mistake, when coupled with the fact that I was also attempting to learn Hungarian, could have prevented me from succeeding in both languages, leaving my original language project in a shambles.

To help you avoid making such crucial mistakes in your own learning, let me explain to you the precise factors that prevented me from moving ahead with the Greek language.

Know What’s Important to You

My initial reasons for learning Greek were extremely simple: I had already been to Greece several times, and have absolutely loved every moment I’ve spent in the country. Appearance-wise, I consider it a literal paradise on Earth, and culturally, it reminds me very much of Italy, my home.

But once I began learning Greek, I soon realized that fond memories of the country and culture are not enough. If I kept learning, I’d be missing a key ingredient that I’ve found invaluable for every language I’ve learned so far: human contact.

To put it simply, I had no Greek friends. Even on my trips to Greece, I never managed to make a connection with a native Greek that was anything more than fleeting and superficial.

When I came to this realization, it took me back to the only other time I had attempted to learn a language without having deep connections with native speakers: Romanian.

Years ago, I spent several months learning the Romanian language, only to find myself completely demotivated when I had not one close friend to speak it with. My motivation was in pieces, and I promptly gave up.

I spent so much time learning Romanian, and it amounted to very little. Since I had no Greek friends, I feared that the Greek language would suffer the same fate.

Conversely, I was (and am still) acutely aware of the huge difference it makes to have a network of friends to speak to in a new language. With Hungarian, I already have several friends and acquaintances with whom I often speak in the language both in Hungary and in my daily life in Rome.

Human contact and interaction is an essential ingredient to my language learning. Without it, language learning simply doesn’t happen for me.

Your key ingredient could be the same, or something entirely different. Where I prefer personal interactions, you may prefer arts, literature, modern media, or any other aspect of the country or culture.

The important thing is you know precisely which ingredients are the most important to you, and that you do not embark on learning a language until each and every one of those ingredients are present in your language learning recipe.

If not, you’ll have to start over from scratch.

Know How Much Time You Have to Learn

There was one more factor that I had failed to take into account when beginning to learn both Hungarian and Greek: Time.

It’s amazing that despite all of the amazing advantages that modern technology gives us, it cannot truly give us more time, our most valuable resource.

No matter what learning materials I have, no matter what tech or which apps I use to learn, there will still only be twenty-four hours in a day, many of which I simply cannot devote to learning.

If we sleep eight hours each day, we’ve got sixteen left. Of those sixteen, most of us spend another eight working. The remaining eight must then be devoted to everything else, leaving a much smaller portion for learning.

It is how we spend these final eight hours—as well as any “dead time” found throughout the day”—that defines what we can accomplish as language learners.

The problem is, that same time also defines our accomplishments in anything else, such as watching our favorite TV series, playing video games, reading books (affiliate), or even hanging out with friends and family.

We’re all busy, really.

And this is why it’s so easy to fall into the trap of “not having time”. Either we try to do too much, or we waste our time and do too little.

Think about it. How many times have you started doing something, only to give up because you “didn’t have the time”, or because something more immediately gratifying came along.

The simple truth is that if you don’t plan your non-sleeping, non-working time around your priorities, those priorities won’t happen.

And needless to say, if you don’t make language learning one of those priorities, fluency is out of the question.

You need to establish realistic goals to be accomplished within that planned timeframe.

Learning a single language is a task that will place stresses on anyone’s available time. With each language that is added on top of that, the demands grow greater.

As much as I was aware that learning Greek and Hungarian would take me more time than a single language would, I failed to recognize the fact that I had other, previous languages that took up my time as well.

Since my goal is always to maintain and improve the languages I already know along with the ones I’m currently learning, Greek and Hungarian could never be my only focuses. Instead, they’d have to get in line with almost a dozen other languages.

Not only that, but I’ve taken such a liking to Hungarian that it has become one of the top priorities for 2016, aside from the aforementioned maintenance of previous languages.

More specifically, my specific, concrete language goals for the year are as follows:

  • Reach basic fluency* in Hungarian by the end of 2016.
  • Reach fluency* in Japanese
  • Reach fluency* in Polish
  • Pass a C1 exam in Russian by December 2016

*For descriptions of my personal definitions of fluency, please consult this article.

As you can see, that’s a lot of fluency to attain, even for someone with my language experience. To accomplish these goals, I must devote several hours to each and every one of these languages every week. And that’s not even mentioning all of the other projects I have going on.

Greek, unfortunately, just couldn’t fit into my schedule. So instead of trying to force the matter and risk having all my plans fall apart, I shelved the language until a later date.

If you, I, or anyone else truly wants to learn two languages at the same time, you need to ensure you can make language learning a priority and set realistic goals around that priority.

Make and Follow a Daily Action Plan

Although I had set out to learn Greek and Hungarian in tandem, it wasn’t long until I realized that I didn't have the reasons, nor the time to do so.

Without the time, I was missing the final piece of the puzzle:

An action plan that I could follow every single day.

When I said language learning must be a priority, I didn’t mean just having a few simple goals to accomplish “sometime within the year”.

I meant having a set amount of time to dedicate towards achieving those goals seven days a week.

If I don’t set aside this time according to a plan, I risk learning a lot some days and a little on other days, if I decide to learn at all.

The lack of a set plan also makes it difficult to dedicate appropriate amounts of time to each new language. If you’re learning two at once, it’s best to dedicate time to each every day, which requires even more precise time management.

If you’re attempting to learn two languages in tandem, don’t leave your learning time to chance. You’ll be quickly overwhelmed, and will give up before you know it.

Learning Two Languages At Once: Final Thoughts

At the start of the article, you may have found it odd that I wanted to give you advice on how to learn two languages at once, when I actually gave up learning Greek and Hungarian together only a few short months ago.

But I hope you’ve realized through reading this that I stopped learning Greek only because I knew exactly what it would take to learn it along with Hungarian, and that I just wouldn’t have been able to make such a sacrifice at that time.

I’m hoping that if you have the time, inclination, and resources to make the necessary sacrifice to learn two languages at once, the steps I’ve listed here will help you get the job done.

To recap, you must remember to make sure you have the conditions necessary for learning, the time necessary to spend, and the daily plan to actually learn.

Only then will you truly be able to learn two languages at once.

I have already written about this important topic on my blog. You can check out my previous post about learning more than one language.

Are you learning two languages at the same time? If yes, how do you do it?

Written by Luca Lampariello

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  • Hello Luca. I hope you are doing well. My name is Aziz, I am a Medical Doctor from Saudi Arabia for me personally, Arabic is My mother tounge .But, I did all my studies in English language so I consider myself fairly fluent. Currently, I am living in France to learn French and in just 7 weeks I am able to communicate and order food in the resutrants and even to ask about specific stuff I need. I am taking language course in France and I am using your tips to improve my french and your tips does work Amazingly. for me personally, I have the goal to pass the B2 level by June 2016. Hopefully By August 2016 I will be able to pass the C1 level in french. it is challenging.But, I have dedicated this year of my life to study only french and to live in France. I have the all the motivation and I hope I will make it to achieve my goal as I wish you will achieve yours.

    • Hi Abdulaziz, thanks for the comment!

      If I didn’t reply to your comment is simply because you didn’t ask any question. Since I have a lot of comments to reply to, I choose those in which people want to have some information

      Have a great Day!


      • Thank you Luca. I was wondering if you come across DUOlingo apps. Since it actually uses the some sort of the same principle that you

        • I know of Duolingo but I have never used it. I always say: if you like something and it keeps you going, go for it.

          To answer to your question, the answer is: yes, of course. There is no doubt that anyone can reach a high level of proficiency in any language, but a more appropriate question should be: what is your current level and when do you want to reach your goal?

          These two factors can hugely help establish how much time you should spend with the language daily.

          Regardless of that, since you are in France, you can take advantage of the macro (street, friends, bars, restaurants, shops) as well as micro-environment (family, use of the internet, books). In this regard, the more you spend time with the language, the faster you will reach your goal.

          So my advice is the following:

          Speak as much as you can, get out of your comfort zone and write down constructive feedback whenever you can.

          Watch TV, documentaries, news, jot down notes (new words and expressions) whenever you can

          By exposure and taking action, you can expand and refine your language skills in record time, if you know how to do this properly.

          Hope this helps!


          • I am at A2 level now, this is my seventh week in France. I am planning to reach C1 level by September 2016. And as I told you I am not just studying french by myself. I am taking a french course and I am living in France. So, I will make sure to do every single thing you mentioned. Thank you for your reply. I will make sure to make a very good use of them.

            I will absolutely buy your master any language course.

          • Glad to know my advice was helpful and good luck with French! I am confident you will make it 🙂

  • Great article. Thanks for sharing.
    I think learning a language is like making a new friend. It takes more time in the beginning of the “relationship”, but takes time and effort to maintain it as well.

    Dou you maintain all of the languages that you’ve learned or do you sometimes drop one that is no longer useful to you?

    • Hi Teresa, thanks for swinging by.

      Once I decide to “make friendship with a language”, to bear with your analogy, I make sure it is for life.

      Obviously, it is difficult to keep up with more than 10 languages, sometimes I neglect some for some period of time, as much as you would not see a friend for some time because you are busy with other things. But then I always go back to each one of them, as I would always get back to some dear friends whom you haven’t had the chance to meet lately.

      And when the friendship is true, it is easy and quick to warm up to a friend even if you haven’t seen him for a long time 🙂


  • Thanks for the article!
    I really hope you achieve your fluency goals this year.
    And mine too, of course hahaha
    My problem is that I’m just too impatient. I’m taking lessons of French (while I study Catalan and English at school), but I want to keep on learning Italian and I have two Japanese books that I want to use! There are too many languages to learn and too little time!
    See you!

  • Hi Luca,

    I have a random question. Despite Russian being a more distant language than say German (for a native english/italian speaker), do you feel that it has taken a similar amount of time (roughly 8 or so years each) for you to reach the C1 level in Russian that it did German?

    Do you think the distance of a language simply determines that intial difficult step of breaking into the language and getting a toe-hold (the first two years or so), or does it remain harder throughout the whole process (comparing your journey with Russian and German perhaps)?

    Many thanks if you have time to answer this! Great article, it has come at literally the perfect moment!!! 🙂

    • Hi Romy.

      Thanks for the lovely words!

      Yes, it took me more time to reach fluency in Russian than in German and I think this rule would generally apply to most English or Italian native speakers.

      The distance between a foreign language and your native one doesn’t make it more difficult to reach fluency, but it makes the overall process longer.

      It makes the process more challenging only if, for example you decide to reach fluency in both languages within the same amount of time, because you have to put much more effort in the more distant language to reach the same results as in the less distant one. But I have never been in a rush with Russian, and if you are not under pressure, time is definitely more a friend than a foe.

      Take care!


      • Thank you for the response Luca, that makes a lot of sense, and matches well with your ‘How to learn the hardest language’ video!

        I have a random video request, and would love to see either your bookshelf and/or material you have particularly loved in each language (favorite authors/novels. best TV series, magazine, websites etc for each language). Not language learning material for beginners, but native content that you really loved!

  • Hi, Luca,

    I was looking for articles around learning two languages at the same time and came across this blog. You have amazing stories here! It’s just…wow!

    I myself, at the age of 15, was dreaming about mastering 8 languages by the age of 30. I guess if I had kept working toward it during all these years, I might have achieved the goal. But regretfully I stopped spending much time on new languages after I started working years ago. Recently, my high school friends randomly asked me how my “dream” was going. I suddenly realized that time’s up and I’m not yet half way there. I speak Chinese as a native, English and Korean fluently, but my Japanese needs more work.

    I have started Spanish and Russian at different times of my life and have a basic understanding of the languages as a beginner. However, switching between learning Russian and learning Spanish hasn’t been working out for me. I just can’t make enough progress on either of them to advance from the beginner level. After reading your post, I really admire your consistent effort on picking up a new language every 2 years. I think it should be the way to go, but I would like to just give it one last try and see whether maybe using a more systematic and comparative method to study them literally at the same time will be more effective.

    Your blog is so inspirational for me. Hope you achieve your goals for this year and I’ll share with you if I have any new findings during my experiment, if you are interested of course.:)

    • Thanks a bunch for the nice words Charlene, happy to hear that what I write on the blog is inspirational for so many people out there and above all, that it pushes you to learn more and never give up 🙂


  • Luca, como siempre un maravilloso artículo, lleno de información valiosa. Estoy de acuerdo con lo que dices, y siempre aprendo algo nuevo. Soy profesora de español y literatura, y vivo en Estocolmo desde hace muchos años. El sueco es el idioma que uso a diario, pero quisiera aprender finlandés, ya que mi pareja es de Finlandia( pero ha vivido en Suecia muchísimos años). El “problema” es que a él no le gusta hablar en finés. Ahora que estás aprendiendo un idioma tan complejo como el húngaro, tienes algún buen consejo sobre cómo aprender un idioma tan diferente( he estudiado ruso más de 4 años, pero el finés…o el húngaro, son otra cosa). Y cómo trabajar el tema de los casos( que aun uso TAN MAL en ruso).
    Este semestre estaré viviendo y estudiando en Roma (quiero mejorar mi italiano), pero quiero hacerme el tiempo para empezar con el finés…
    Mil gracias y muchísima suerte con todos tus proyectos!

    • Hola Ceciia,

      gracias por los cumplidos.

      Tu respuesta requiere una respuesta detallada y bastante larga y desgraciadamente no tengo tiempo ahora.

      Sin embargo puedo decirte eso: las declinaciones sólo aparentemente son un problema. Lo que tienes que hacer es aprenderlos de manera natural. Leer, escuchar y hablar, gozando y utilizando el idioma. Aprender tablas de verbos, declinaciones de sustantivos etc no sirve para mucho. Puedes utilizarlos como referencia, pero no te apoyes demasiado sobre ellos porque te relentiza y puede ser frustrante.

      Espero que esta respuesta te haya sido de alguna utilidad!


  • Hi Luca, how ya doing? It’s kinda relieving to know that you are a human as well and you make mistakes regarding language learning…I guess one never stops learning right? Btw, sorry if this is off-topic, but since I’m not on facebook or in social medias in general, I don’t know if you (probably) have already answered this question: what about the famous book you were going to release a year ago? Stavo ascoltando uno dei tuoi podcast / interviste dove intendevi rilasciarlo nel 2014…poi boh…e’ ancora in piano? o l’hai fermato indeterminatamente? Perche’ sarei molto interessato a comprarlo. Espero tu respuesta. Un saludo de italia. PS. gracias a ti he comenzado a aprender el frances hace ya casi dos meses…Dios te bendiga!

    • Hi there.

      Did you think I was an alien? 😉

      Actually my strength is not to fear making as many mistakes as possible and learning from them.

      As for the book, that’s a long story and my plan is to write a post here to finally reply to everybody asking me about it.

      But without being able to share more details for a number of reasons, let me reply to your question and say: the project hasn’t stopped, lavori in corso 😉

      Saluti da Roma!


  • I needed to read this! As I’m thinking hardly if I should or shouldn’t learn Hungarian. And the reason it has failed last time is that I couldn’t see potential use of it in the future because I don’t have any Hungarian friends or other connections.
    I used to have another hobby some time ago. I was into Tarot cards (It may sound strange, I know). I used to have a large collection of Tarot desks which now I decided to sell. I was contemplating a bit while preparing information about them before putting them on sell. I bought each and every desk with the intention learn it one day. They could be really beautiful or interesting – what made me buy them – but I ended up with the one I might consider the ugliest at the beginning, but there was much more information available about them so I’ve learned to read them efficiently. This may apply to many things in life languages included. At the end of the day it’s not how much they are shining to us at start but the opportunities to use them may result in knowledge.

  • Hi Luca, sorry I must tell you that your plan to learn Hungarian and Greek was a creazy thing…absolutely different languages…and I am Hungarian and I know what I am talking about ! Hungarian language is hard for one to learn…:) 🙂 🙂 good luck anyway ! 🙂

    • H Maridolna.

      Thanks for the comment!

      The fact that the languages are absolutely different is actually an advantage, not a disadvantage.

      Everything is potentially and virtually possible, but the real question is: know your limits and priorities. As of now, Greek is not a top priority and that’s the reason why I decided to give more space to Hungarian as well as to other activities


  • Hi Luca, my name is Filippos.
    I am reading your blog for 2 months now and I must say that you are an inspiration for me. I had decided to learn Italian 2.5 months ago and started searching “how to” videos and blogs. That’s how I found you. I am also subscribed to your channel on youtube. I am writing this to tell you that if by any chance you are willing to learn Greek again in the future, I may be able to help you because I am a native speaker. Plus we could somehow split the time we will spend on skype so that I would practise my Italian too (that’s if you are willing to help me). I hope you will read this and I will be glad to hear from you soon.

    • Hi Shuhei.

      Thanks for the offer!

      I will definitely keep that in mind! When I start learning Greek I will post a article here so you will know when when can start a language exchange 🙂 Oh, and thanks for the nice words!


        • Haha it’s okay. Even though I have dived really deep into the italian language I still need to have a correct plan, like basic verbs-tenses-adverbs etc..can you please tell me how to approach it more effectively?

  • It seems to me that languages are your hobby and the ideal would be to know them all. Right? I share your hobby and I was basically electronic engineer too, but I was very busy and I could not cultivate my hobby. Besides you are much more talented than me, I can evaluate your knowledge of Russian, French and English. It is excellent.
    Being retired I am learning Italian (Alberto is much helpful) and knowing 6 languages only, I can understand and I am listening TV programs in the others, I did not systematically learn, Slovak, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Belarusian.
    The reason, why I am learning languages now is curiosity. I want know other cultures, not only Latin, based on ancient Greek roots. I have seen all Mahabharat with English subtitles (English is most important tool). Beautiful! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mq8d2pjjtOY

    • Hi Stanislaw,

      thanks for swinging by! Languages might have been a hobby in the past, but now I spend most of my time immersed in English, French, German Russian, Italian, Spanish etc because I work with languages (being a coach) and live with and through them (I live and go out with foreigners, I travel a lot, watch movies, read books in foreign languages, you name it :-)).

      Having passion and a certain “polyglot life style” is what really counts to reach apparently “staggering results”

      Which brings to my second point.

      I think that talent is overrated, and not only in the field of language learning. While some natural inclination can help, I think that what counts the most are the 2 aforementioned factors.

      Also, we should never compare ourselves with others (not talking about you but your comment “I am not as talented as you are” reminded me of this). I think that this constant comparison we make with others stems stems from school, where competition replaces cooperation.

      If we always think of our language skills in terms of how we do well with respect to other people, that will slow us down and make us drift away from what the real goal of learning languages really is: live a better life and understand the world as well as ourselves better.


      • Luca, have you noticed that opera singers and musicians, learn and speak languages more easily? I think that it is due to their music talents. My son because of a good musical ear pronounce Czech better than me, however he is not generally interested in languages.
        But yes, you are right, talent is not so important. Important is the determination to learn (if it is necessity). Or curiosity.
        Beside my hobby I am professional technical translator into Polish. http://www.cbk.waw.pl/~sgadomsk then the link translations.

  • Hola Luca, what i love and still love most about your learning pattern is that you dedicate 2 years to each language. In that time, you can get a very firm grasp of the language and start using it innately. Maybe that is why you speak most of your language at such high proficiency. So, this hungarian and greek combo you set out on was obviously bound to fail. Why learn 2 languages in tandem when 1 already has enough headache to last a lifetime. You already have a C3 level in italian (hehe) C2 in english, spanish, french, Germán and a staggering level of competent fluency in the rest. (8 or so). After hungarian, you can stop before you get cáncer of the brain due to languageness malignant cells. I admire your method but would advice you call it quits and begin to bask in the light of the languages that you already have at your command. Esto es solamente mi opinión y no me hagas caso….saludo desde nigeria y que tengas suerte en tus metas este año.

    • Hi Egwuekwe.

      ” So, this hungarian and greek combo you set out on was obviously bound to fail.”

      Not necessarily. As I said before, you can even learn 3-4 languages at the same time and be successful, but this can only happen in certain conditions and given certain priorities. It is up to each one of us to figure out if they really want to go for it and if the conditions are right.

      “After Hungarian, you can stop before you get cáncer of the brain due to languageness malignant cells. I admire your method but would advice you call it quits and begin to bask in the light of the languages that you already have at your command”.

      Learning languages have nothing to do with getting sick. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Although my mum still says that if I speak one more language my head will explode one day 😉


      • 🙂 didn’t expect a reply. Haha..obviously, it was a joke and you can never get sick from learning language. On the contrary, it is healthy like you said although i did get a lot of stress pimples my first 8 intense months in spanish and its reflexiveness. Well, you are the expert and i guess it is possible to learn more than one language at a time but i am taking a straw from your book and i’m going to spend each year on only one language and try the b2 exam for the language…NB: spanish dele B2 language is around the corner *biting nails out of fear*….well, i hope your never-ending love for new languages will lead you to learn a nigerian languages (my native tongue is tonal to the core)..but hey you learnt mandarín chinese. Rare (besides tim doner) to see a polyglot speak a nigerian language, will you be the first?…haha i’m joking.

  • Hola Luca. He de decir que eres una inspiración y que espero tener tanta fluidez como tú algún día con ciertos idiomas. Actualmente, estoy aprendiendo ruso y alemán y la verdad, es algo que disfruto haciendo y se me da bastante bien.
    Sinceramente, empecé a estudiar idiomas porque me impresionó ver la fluidez que tienes en los vídeos de Babbel.
    Gracias por artículos como este. Un saludo.

  • Hello Luca!! I understand the reasons that you have stopped learning Greek because you have not to speak with someone and because it’s not on the top of your goal but I hope you in the future to start learning, (if you want) and I don’t have problem to help you with Greek because I am native speaker, if you will start again.
    I hope to speak with you some day!! :))

    (Sorry for my English I’m not so good yet but I try to speak very often to improve it)

    • Thanks for the offer Dimitris, I will surely keep it in mind 🙂 Greek is definitely on the list of languages I want to know. I am just waiting for the Greek sirens to call me one day 😉

  • Hi Luca, thanks for your sharing, I really appreciate that. I wish I had your patience and was able to devote two years to one language… I’m too curious to do that 🙂 On the other hand, I acknowledge that I am me and therefore my inner set-up is different. That’s how I gained the experience that learning 5 languages at a time is definitely possible, but extremely exhausting 🙂 At that time I had to reduce their number and focus more. I’m not nearly as systematic as you are, although I always try to pursue some kind of system that works for me.

    About two years ago, after I discovered Duolingo, I resurrected my old dream of being able to communicate in more languages than just English (and Czech). I had studied Spanish some years before, but as I hadn’t been using it, my Spanish speaking abilities equaled to zero at that time. So I first started reviewing Spanish, and soon after I also started with French and Portuguese. First thing I noticed was that the previous knowledge of Spanish hadn’t vanished completely, it came back to me very quickly. And learning French and Portuguese was also going pretty well, the similarities were rather helpful than impeding. (Usually, when I mix languages, it’s only because of my poor skills in the language I want to communicate, so the words from the other language appear faster, but not because the languages are truly mixed).

    Over the course of these two years, I managed to get my Spanish and French to a roughly similar level – it’s not a problem for me to read in them or listen to them (I keep watching various sitcoms in all three languages and I’m albe to enjoy that). If I have enough time and a dictionary, it’s not a problem to write either (in Spanish and French it is already quite easy). The poorest skill is speaking because I tend to neglect it – but whenever an opportunity arises, I make use of it – and I know that after some rough time (and maybe some beers;) I start speaking better. So it seems to me that these active skills are there somehow dormant, and whenever I decide to develop them, they start getting better quite fast.

    I admit that learning new languages is just a hobby for me (although I devote quite a lot of time to it), so it’s not the number one priority. I learned something similar as you did, that I have to set reasonable boundaries to my language learning. At the same time I’m curious, so I deal with it in a way that I have some kinds of “periods” when some of the languages I like to learn, maintain and improve (now there are eight of them – English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, German, Russian, Chinese) come to the fore, and I’m not concerned with some others at all – and over the time the roles switch. What I wanted to share is that even with this dilettante approach I can still make progress – usually it hurts a bit after the comeback, but somehow I feel that everything comes back to me quite easily, and the skills even deepen. Maybe I kind of simulate spaced repetition with this 🙂 I know that this might not be an ideal solution, but at least I enjoy it and it keeps enriching me.

    So thanks for your articles and videos, they are great inspiration for me, basically I just wanted to share that even with a much less ideal approach, it is still possible to progress 🙂

  • Luca,

    Does that girl in the photo above speak Hungarian? If so, I now know the real reason you have decided to only study Hungarian .

    How is your Japanese?

    Keep up the hard work boss!

    • That girl doesn’t speak a word of Hungarian 😉

      My Japanese is doing good

      Thanks you too man!


  • Olá Lucca,
    Cada vez mais me impressiono com sua maturidade nos idiomas, seu relato me ajudou muito nos meus estudos! Fantástico! Meus Parabéns! Sou seu fã!

  • hi luca, you said that you have a siesta/riposo every day. i think that’s a really cool part of italian culture. how long do italian riposos last and what time do they usually start and end? does that mean that there are times in the day where there’s just NO people out and about??

    • Hi Dolphy,

      I normally take a nap between 2 and 3 p.m or between 15 and 16 p.m.

      Not all Italians sleep. Actually just those who don’t work, or work at home

      Having said that, if you find yourself at 2 p.m in a small village in Southern Italy in the summer at 2 p.m there is a very high chance that you will not see a lot of people on the street 😉


  • Hey Luca,
    it’s always great to read your posts.
    One thing I struggle with: keeping up the languages I already know. And I’m not at all a polyglot, with merely English, Spanish and Catalan. Over the last years, I threw myself on new linguistic endeavours, only to find out that if I wanted to prevent my “old languages” from fading away, I had to stop any recent adventure and focus on them. I try to use every possible resource around me in the most rational way (books, movies, conversation with native speakers, etc.) but as you write in this post, a day has no more than 24 hours. Having a monolingual job, being engaged with a monolingual partner, living in a monolingual area, how can one overcome the inevitable maintenance costs and learn a brand new language?
    Cheers mate,

  • Hi Luca,
    I feel beyond words listening to you speak about how language learning is great as a process and providing your profound methods and strategies along with showing a scientific approach to each and every method you are providing. I’ve been following you for a couple of months but learning languages has always been my dream and passion and you make it more of a reality and gave me the spark.
    Also I’d like to see and hear more from you here or on Youtube. Hope you could make a video about Japanese.
    You do a great job, and i see you as my role model as i want also to become a language coach 🙂
    I’ve been watching anime for 7 years. However, I’ve started learning Japanese few days ago.
    Should i work on memorizing the vocabulary i come upon learning hiragana and katakana characters?
    Good luck with your language learning. Gratitude.

  • koreancrusade.com

    As someone who has been studying Korean consistently for the last 5 years while wanting to take on another language, I definitely relate to this post. I still want to learn Japanese and since it is so closely related to Korean, it shouldn’t be that much of a stretch. But then, I realize how much further I have to go in Korean and always give up my attempts at studying Japanese and Korean simultaneously after a month or so. My other strategy was to learn Japanese through Korean books.

  • Luca,
    if you visit Greece as a tourist you do not need to speak a single word of Greek. Most of all those tourists who come here every summer only know a few words, if any. On the other hand, immigrants of various nationalities seem to contradict Anglo-Saxon slogan “It is all Greek to me”! Many of them have achieved an admirable level in Greek. Learning Greek at a decent level though, if you do not live here, requires a lot of work; I would say the same hours of study as Russian (if it is the first Slavonic language you learn) or Hungarian. But my feeling is that a native speaker of any Romance language has WAAAAY more chances to become fluent in Greek than in Hungarian. As long as you overcome the stumbling block of the alphabet, everything will look easier! Of course, nobody will expect from you to be familiar with all subtleties of Greek grammar. Even advanced learners still confuse, for example, verb aspects. Although Greek does not distinguish between perfective and imperfective verbs, there is a perfective and an imperfective stem within each verb! Native speakers also make mistakes, like using the augment in the imperative in compound verbs or stressing the wrong syllable when declining Greek nouns. P.S. I hope you remember who I am!

  • Olá, Luca.
    Na lista de seus objetivos a serem alcançados em 2016, dois desses objetivos são alcançar fluência em uma determinada língua, o que sugere que você ainda está aprendendo essas duas línguas. Além disso, um outro objetivo dessa lista é alcançar fluência básica em Húngaro, a nova língua que você está aprendendo. Essas duas ideias me fizeram imaginar se isso não significa que você está aprendendo mais de uma língua ao mesmo tempo.
    Por esse motivo, também fiquei a me perguntar quando, para você, é o momento certo para começar a estudar uma nova língua de seu interesse, já que o fato de você ainda não ser fluente em japonês e polonês, considerando suas metas para 2016, não o impediu de iniciar seus estudos de húngaro. Espero que possa responder ao meu comentário. Desde já agradeço.

  • I think it’s possible to learn two similar languages at the same time: such as Italian and French which is what I’m currently doing. I don’t agree with the thesis of the article, that we should wait for all of the necessary learning conditions to be met before we start learning a new language. I’m afraid if we do this and use this as an excuse to not start learning a new language, as Luca notes we should do, people will never take that first step and will remain monolingual, unfortunately.

    • Hello Donatello. I have quite simillar approach of learning now as I have been learning French and Spanish (well, for some reasons I abandoned Spanish a bit for some time). French is a language that gives me a lot of fun (especially in the terms of grammar and pronunciation) so I decided to learn it more thoroughly. However, Spanish would be more practical for me now as I am visiting Spain for about a month so I decided to improve it a bit in the terms of vocabulary, listening and speaking. Do you think, from your personal perspective (as you are doing quite the same), that it is wise to learn grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation etc. of French while improving Spanish communication skills and vocabulary at the same time? As Luca mentioned in the article, I though about having some time during a day only for French (let’s say about 2-3 hours) and about 2 hours for Spanish. I read another article from Luca in which he advised against learning 2 languages from the same family at once. I am interesting in knowing your point of view as well. How do you cope with it (supposing you are still learning Italian and French) and do you think my approach is okay or it is worth to focus on Spanish more in this case to polish it as much as I can to be able to communicate better in Spain and pick up French after coming back from the trip? I would estimate my Spanish to be at the B1 level and French at A2. Greetings!

      • Yanush, I don’t see the problem in learning French and Spanish side by side. So to answer your question, yes I think it’s wise because as you start building on each grammar you’ll be able to mentally separate them into their own “filing cabinets”. The key is to create an identity in each language. When I speak in French I dig deep inside of myself and become the French language. It moves me in a certain way. I have a certain way of speaking it. So the grammar of it flows easily because I have created a character for it. And the same goes when I speak Spanish or Italian. I am a different character in each language. I think learning two languages from the same language tree can help you because of the similarities between them both. But I can also see how learning Italian and Spanish at the same time might be confusing at times because they’re closer than Spanish and French is. I think you shouldn’t overthink it as much. You just need to gravitate towards whatever language is the most appealing to you at that time. Sometimes I go in moods where I don’t want to listen to French music, but I have the desire to listen to Italian. Or sometimes I only want to hear Spanish. And there’s other times when I just want to listen to English. I allow myself to move from language to language without trying to overthink the whole process. Don’t get me wrong, when I am studying the language I am very focused on what I am studying but it’s an organic process. I might listen to a French song and be curious how to say a sentence from that song in Italian. Then I’ll want to know what the Spanish equivalent is. So by the time I”m finished I have learned it in 3 languages representing the same word. Can you see how helpful this is? Just keep doing what feels comfortable to you. You’ll get there.

        • Thank you very much for a quick response, Donatello. It is really helpful as it gives me a good basis for a tiny reorganization of my learning plan. I had similar thoughts on this topic but was a bit uncertain whether this concept of “putting two languages on the same plate” does not interfere somehow the process of language immersion (as you jump from one to other). But now I understand that the immersion will be preserved as soon as I create well-separeted “cabinets”, as you have mentioned. Personally, I did not like the idea of abandoning one language for some time to learn another and then going back to the previous one- I prefer the idea of learning wisely to separate two languages, mix them somehow in a clever way. It would be difficult for me to chose only one of them as they are both great. Thank you once again and hope you will be doing well with your learning curve. Cheers!

  • You’re right about people having different primary reasons. I was pretty close to a Hungarian (my ex), which originally made me aware of the language. But the first time I attempted it a year or so ago I quit because I felt I would have trouble finding good music in it (music is one of the most enjoyable ways for me to use my language knowledge, keep me motivated, and improve on it). I heard that you started hungarian recently, and out of curiosity went searching for hungarian music online, and found a ton of it. So here I am trailing you, probably by a ways, but I’m moving along.

  • Learning two languages is a different thing then to learn and write. I am trying to learn Russian in London, but I don’t think I can learn talking as well as writing two at one time. One of my friend tried to learn two languages Spanish and Greek at one time and believe me he ended up quitting both. So, its better to start with one and learn it properly.

  • I am currently trying to improve my Spanish with the Italian I learned earlier. In the past Italian interfered my my efforts for Spanish. So now I am hoping that I can avoid the confusion!

  • Secondo me, hai cominciato il rumeno solo perchè credevi fosse estremamente semplice, considerata la tua esperienza. Poi, hai mollato per i preconcetti che tu, come buona parte di italiani, avete nei nostri confronti. In italia siamo in tanti, hai trovato Cinesi, Giapponesi, Russi, Americani e Svedesi… e non hai trovato un rumeno con il quale fare amicizia? Ti assicuro che se ti fossi avvicinato un pò alla nostra comunità e cultura, probabilmente avresti notato che ci sono anche tante brave persone, degne della tua amicizia.

  • Great text. It contains really useful tips for leaning new languages. I was thinking about learning both spanish and japanese at the same time,but after reading this I changed my mind. I’m gonna focus on spanish first. Then japanese. What is missing for me is also human contact: I don’t have any friends to talk with in english or spanish(portuguese is my native language)so my pronunciation is kind of poor. But I’ll get there someday 😊

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