Can You Learn More Than One Language At Once?

With so many great job options out there for bilinguals, you may be considering learning more than just one more language. After all, if bilinguals have it so great, multilinguals must have it better! But is there a point where piling too many language on your plate is equal to insanity? Some teachers and language learners swear by the two-year method which forces a student to focus on a single language for a period of two years. However, if your short-term goals don’t allow you the luxury of taking two years to conquer one language, you may be considering trying your hand at learning multiple at the same time. If that’s the case, there are more than a few pitfalls you’ll want to avoid in your quest for multilingualism, so read on to find out what to watch out for when you’re studying more than one language at once:

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Two is the magic number.

Yes, learning more than one language at once is possible, and plenty of individuals have managed it successfully. However, the first step in your language journey is understanding the limits of what you can handle. Instructors agree that the max amount of languages a learner can tackle at one time is two. Yes that’s right, no more, no less. Sure you could aim for three or four, but you’d be spreading yourself thin and your brain would struggle to create the strong associations it needs to have with the foreign tongues.

Big, mean speed machine.

Speed can be your enemy when studying just one language and the detrimental effects double when you try to tackle two. It’s all too easy to rush through classes, homework, and study time and think that you’re still benefiting fully from the language learning experience. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Remember, quality is always better than rushed quantity. Slow yourself down, turn off everything around you, and for an hour every day focus on that one language. Don’t try to blend studying the two together because you’ll just end up jumbled and with some pretty strange grammatical habits.

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Different makes the difference.

Although it’s not impossible to pick up two languages with similar words, grammar, and structure, it can be particularly tough because the learner is much more likely to get confused, hence making the learning process counterproductive. This is why experts recommend, at least in the beginning, that students picking up more than one language at a time focus on two languages which vary enough that switching between them isn’t problematic. Great examples of different language pairs would be Spanish and Mandarin or French and Russian. With these duos, turning your brain off to one and on to the other is easier because their similarities are few.

The more the merrier.

When we say more, we don’t mean more languages, what we mean is more use of the two you are trying to tackle. From the beginning, if you want to be a successful multiple language learner, you must make both languages a normal part of your everyday life. Listen to German music in the morning, watch a Korean drama in the evenings, and make reading books in your native language a thing of the past. With so many great translations of our favorite novels out there, you have no business reverting to your native tongue for this. And don’t forget to build your vocabulary throughout the day. When going through the process of ordering a coffee, for example, repeat it to yourself in one language, then translate to the other.

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So is learning more than one language bad? Well, studies say no, as long as you go about it the right way. Having a firm foundation in both your target languages is a must if you want to work towards your multilingual goals. Luckily, finding excellent language classes is easy these days and discovering ways to compliment your learning with activities such as online placement tests is a breeze! With these great options and tools, you’ll be more than ready to tackle the wonderful world of languages and become the multilingual master you were always meant to be!