Today we are going to tackle a fascinating subject, “Can I Learn Two Languages at the Same Time?” Many people who are thinking about that and probably you are asking it too. I will give you my honest opinion why you should (not) study two languages at the same time.
I have lots of experience about the subject because I have studied 2, 3 or sometimes even 4 languages simultaneously. That’s not even much because I got to know a friend who is studying 7 languages at the same time. Is that wise to spread your energy on some many different languages? Why? Why not? Keep on reading!
The Secret of Successful People – Focus
Do you know what Michael Phelps, Steve Jobs and Mozart had in common? They all became famous because of one thing. Can you imagine Mozart lifting weights? Or can you imagine Michael Phelps programming computers and Steve Jobs making a world record in 100m swimming? Probably not.
They all concentrated their effort mainly on one thing what they wanted to master very well. Of course, all these people were multi-talented, but they still had a great focus on their lives. That’s why they achieved so much.
I am not saying that you should become something like Phelps or Jobs. But the point is that if you want to become excellent at something, you need to focus your time and energy on that thing. You can’t spread out your energy to million things at the same time and become the best in all of them. Gary Keller wrote a book One Thing where he explained this secret about successful people. It was a very inspiring book.
You can apply this principle of focus to language learning too. If you want to master Spanish fast, you shouldn’t start studying Chinese, Portuguese and Finnish at the same time. The best way to learn Spanish fast would be to concentrate on Spanish. Simple?
However, that’s not the whole story. What if you really would need to learn two new languages. You have moved to a country (or you are planning) where you would need two languages in your daily life. Or you want to make business in French and German. Can you learn both at the same time?
The Short Answer Is…
Yes, you can learn two, or even 10 languages at the same time. God has created us very well. We have very much potential to acquire new skills. But sometimes we don’t realize our full potential because we are not using it.
You will probably not learn both German and French as fast as you would learn only one of them. But you can use any two languages at the same time. The important question is “Should you?”
If you are going to live in a country where you need those languages every day, then it makes sense to start studying both of them. But what if you are studying languages “just for fun”? Should you then spread your energy to learning two languages?
That is a classic question that probably all enthusiastic language learners have asked themselves at some point. Some experts like Johan Tekfak say that you shouldn’t study two languages at the same time if you are learning “just for fun.” But he also says that he knows many polyglots who are studying several languages simultaneously.
Then again, I had seen that when I was studying Spanish and French at the same time, it was easy because I recalled the words from the other language. Some of my friends said that when he was studying two similar languages at the same time, it was hard because he mixed up the words. So, it depends on which point of view you want to take.
How Much Time Do You Have for Studying Languages?
If you have only 30 minutes a day for studying new languages, then I wouldn’t spread it for two. 15 minutes for the other and 15 minutes from the other. But if you want to dedicate 4 hours a day for learning new languages, then it can make sense to use 2 for the other and 2 for the other.
Then I have a friend who was studying 7 languages at the same time. Somethings like this: on Monday Finnish, on Tuesday Turkish, on Wednesday French and so on. So she dedicated one day for each language.
Did it work?
At least, what I saw she was making good progress with all languages. She was clearly dedicated to learning new languages. However, I don’t know in detail how much progress she made, for example, in a year while studying 7 languages.
I wouldn’t study myself 7 languages at the same time. I would like to focus my energy on most important ones. Now I would be interested in learning many languages (Italian, Chinese, German) but I am not using my time on all of them. I read the Bible daily in German. Not one day in Italian and then one day in Chinese. I want to put my focus on one language because it’s the most important at the moment.
And now I am not dedicating hours every day for language studies every day, so I need to choose.
Conclusion – Can I Learn Two Languages at the Same Time?
Here is a quick conclusion:
1.Yes, you can. But why would you spread your time energy?
2.Yes, you can. But if you concentrate on one you can learn it faster.
3.Yes, you can. I, Benny Lewis, my friend and other language learners have learned several languages at the same time.
The bottom line is that you can learn two languages simultaneously if you want. But sometimes it’s not worth it to spread your energy. Think what is important for you at the moment and make a decision.
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What do you think: Should we study many languages at the same time?
Have you studied many languages simultaneously? How well did it work? Share your experiences below!
I agree 100%.
If you have the need to study more than one language at the time then, go for it by all means. But if you want to learn new languages just because they interest you then I would say prioritize and focus on one language at the time.
Once you learn a new language you can start learning the other one while keep practicing the first one.
The mind needs time to adapt.
Keep in mind that there are a lot of studies that show that once you learn a new language your brain is better equipped to keep on learning new languages.
So one at the time is the way to go
When I migrated to Australia I had to learn English from scratch in 6 months. I had a deadline for a comprehensive English test. I focus entirely on the subject, I studied 6-8 hours a day non stop for 6 months. I pass the test.
I had to pass the test because the whole application process depended on it.
thank you for your wonderful thoughts!
It’s impressive that you studied a new language for 6-8 hours a day for 6 monhts. With that kind of dedication, you have achieved great results for sure.
I also agree with you that after mastering a one foreign language, it becomes easier to learn new ones too. After studying about 7 foreign languages it doesn’t feel so challenging to start a new language anymore.
My ethnicity is Malay and back in my childhood days, we got to study and learned our mother-tongue language which is Malay and the recognized language worldwide which is English. So, the answer yes. I must say, I got C for Malay and B for English but still, I am proud to be bilingual.
Good to hear that! I visited in Malaysia (Kuching) last year and I noticed that almost everyone speaks English there because it’s another official language. It makes the life easy for tourists :). Now I am thinking if I would visit Kuala Lumpur at summer. Would you recommend it or what are the best places in Malaysia? 🙂