Practice English Speaking&Listening with: How to learn a language without killing yourself - 4/7

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We have 3 sets of questions regarding how to learn more than one language at a time

This is something that many webinar attendees were very interested in,

and it seems to me that they don't have any time and that they want to

reach their language goals as fast as possible and the only way to do that

is to start learning 2 languages at a time.

So Mellany and William asked "can you learn more than one language at the same time or

is it bad to learn one language at a time?

Or should you start the next language once you have reached

a certain ability level or are you overall faster

if you learn 2 languages simultaneously?

What is your take on that?

Well, it is a pretty general question

I would say that it really depends on the individual and on a number of factors

but normally for a person who doesn't have a lot of experience in language learning

I always suggest that they learn one language at a time

Now, imagine that you have 10 years

you have a time budget of 10 years to learn 10 languages,

so, if you think "ok, I am going to start learning 10 languages at the same time,

because, you know, have 10 years"

some people tend to think that if they do 2 things at the same time, they gain time

They earn time by doing that,

but especially in language learning

that is not true.

First because when you tackle 2 languages at the same time

what happens is that we build CORES

we build "language cores"

Now, it is not just a problem of how many words we know and how we assemble together,

but it also comes to feelings, emotions and experience that come with that language,

and if we learn 2 languages or 3 or 4 or even 10 at the same time,

what happens is that they tend to mingle, merge in your head

and you end up confusing them sometimes.

Especially when you try to learn 2 languaes that are similar

Let's suppose that as an American you want to learn Italian, Spanish and French at the same time

I still vividly remember a conversation with Richard, a fellow polyglot of mine,

and I remember him telling me that when he started learning Portuguese, Spanish and French

If memory serves me, if I remember correctly,

he said that most students were actually very confused because they were trying to tackle similar languages.

Languages tend to overlap for a number of reasons,

for example Italian and Spanish end to overlap in pronunciation, because they are similar in that regad,

and not only in that regard - in morphology for example,

many words are pretty similar.

So I would say, first I suggest you just learn ONE language at a time,

because as I said before, imagine if you have time years and you learn for example

2 languages at the same time for 2 years and then you move on to other languags,

then you develop a certain skill, you acquire an ability, form a language core

that is going to hep you learn another language, if those 2 are similar.

If you for example decide to learn German and Spanish at the beginning and

after 2 years you tackle Italian, it is going to be much easier.

Maybe at the beginning you are going to confuse them a little bit, but the fact that you have acquired a language core

so to say, so a structure, a "layer" in one language,

it gives you a lot of leverage when it comes to building another language core

which is similar in certain regards,

while if you try two language cores at the same time that are similar, they will overlap.

So, as a general guideline I would say

first if you really want to learn multiple languages at the same time I would say that

2 is the max, so choose a maximum of two languages at any given time,

then choose 2 languages that are possibly distinct from one another, so different

because as I said before if they are similar they can overlap in grammar, words, memory etc

Another useful piece of advice is try to choose an easy language and a relatively difficult one

Now, "easy and difficult", it would take a century to explain the definition of that, but

I would say that by "easy language" I mean a language that is similar in so many ways to yours

an example is English and Dutch, which is considered one of the easiest languages for native English speakers,

or Italian and Spanish for example,

or Spanish and Portuguese

and another thing is tha once you have picked up an easy and a difficult language,

you can organize your time accordingly and better because for example

you can dedicate 70-80% of your time to the "difficult language" and 30-20% of your time to an easier language

that requires less efforts.

For example when I started learning Chinese and Portuguese I dedicated 80% of my time to Chinese

but I also allocated some time to Portuguese at the END of my Chinese sessions,

and that was very helpful, because just 15 to 30 minutes a day to Portuguese helped me

in 6 months I was already fluent because Portuguese is a very very similar language to a language I had already learned - Spanish.

If I had learned Portuguese AND Spanish at the same time it would have been a disaster.

And the last thing that I wanted to add is that when you learn 2 languages at the same time

remember: learn them BOTH EVERY DAY

So don't do any sort of rotation such as learning a language for a week and then learning

another language the next week because as I said before

you have to give your brain the possibility of "growing" and

if you want that to happen you have to give it some piece of information every day.

For example if you study a language for one week and then you study another one,

what about the first language during the second week?

You are not going to do anything, so the amount of information that you

accumulate in your brain goes down and then you have to take it back again.

Try to study every single day is very important as well as your time management.

The more languages you learn, the more time and energy you need,

so just decide what kind of investment you want to make,

and if you have maybe 10 hours a day to study languages then

you can possibly tackle 3,4 languages, nobody can keep you from doing that

but remember that the more languages you learn, the more difficult it gets to organize your time and not to confuse languages.

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