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People learning multiple languages at once on Duolingo...

To those who are learning several languages at once, do you find this difficult? What are your greatest challenges? Please share your experiences! I am curious about how successfully one can learn two or more languages at once.

January 17, 2016



I see this question a lot here, and I am never really quite sure how to answer it. One one side, it's difficult, on the other side, I'm just doing it for the fun of it, I don't expect to get anything out of it other than the diversion, so is it really 'hard'?

You could make a good case against me to say that if I had put as much effort into just one language, I would be able to speak it better than my own language. But that isn't my personality type, I'm a listener, I like to understand things. It doesn't matter a bit to me that I am barely competent with Turkish or Russian or Norwegian - from my own personal point of view, if I hadn't tried I wouldn't know anything at all, and that would be worse. Even just a passing knowledge has really had a profound effect on my point of view. I don't really have any need for any of it, but deep down I know that if ever am in a position where I do need to learn any of those languages fast, I have a lot of experience that I could rely on. The act of studying languages itself has changed me, made me find quicker, more rewarding, more effective ways of learning. Give me 30 days, I think I could feel at home just about anywhere.

It really is down to what your own personal goals and needs are - if you are as carefree and aimless as I am, then it is easy to pick up a language one week, put it down the next, come back to it a year later, it doesn't really change anything. On the other hand if you think about languages differently than I do, and you are really goal driven and have in mind to move to a certain country or talk to certain people in their language, then it will be much more satisfying for you to focus on just one language and do it well.

That's about it really, it is only a personal choice, no one can decide it for you.


Sehr well dicho :-)


Wow, I'm not the only one.


I agree with the people who say that it depends on your goals. I'm somewhere in between - I do want actual fluency in at least two or three of my languages, but that doesn't mean I don't pick up and drop others as the mood strikes.

In my experience, there are two points at which it becomes difficult to study multiple languages - 1) when you're first starting, and 2) when you're trying to break the B2 barrier and get your first real taste of something resembling fluency. I think it's because both stages require a massive amount of work.

When you're first starting, you're still getting used to the language, its rules, and particular flavor. My German may be nonexistent, but I spent a year in college studying it, so I do have a very set mental impression of what it is. I don't mix it with anything else, even when starting it again from scratch. In contrast, the one time I tried Norwegian and Dutch simultaneously, I didn't know either of them well enough to keep them straight.

My first language on Duolingo was Portuguese, and after four months of it and finishing the tree, I got curious about Italian. A month later, my Portuguese was 50% Italian, 50% Spanish, 0% Portuguese. It wasn't an insurmountable problem, and my Portuguese has since improved to the point where I don't lose it entirely if I don't use it for a while, but it did highlight the importance of sticking with one and taking it seriously before moving on.

On the other side of the spectrum, the languages I've always aimed for fluency in are Spanish and French, and I've had entirely different issues balancing them. When I was studying both more or less evenly, I was hovering at a high intermediate level and could never break through to extended independent use. It took about a year of full, singleminded dedication to Spanish to finally make that leap to something resembling fluency. I've advanced enough now that I'm once again able to divert energy back into French (and now Portuguese!), but being so far behind in French now is frustrating in its own way.

Maintaining multiple languages is of course always an issue. Finding something compelling enough to keep you glued to the language and culture for the longterm can be difficult enough for one language, much less developing that sort of connection to multiple ones. Though that's less of a problem if you pick your languages based on interests (and then don't change your interests later).

Anyway, multiple languages are definitely doable, though it of course depends on the person, the goals, the timeframe, etc.


I absolutely agree. My friends-they were learning French, Spanish, and German. so am I. One didn't have goals and he was pessimistic. The other was confident, had very high goals, and did it every day. In a period of 1 month, the first person completed 1 or 2 lessons in each, and the other friend did 21 to 26 in each lesson. As you can see, personality makes everything, even on Duolingo.


Some people have trouble juggling multiple languages. Personally, my biggest issue has always been that time spent on one language is time not spent on another.

Learning a language to any real degree of proficiency is a massive time commitment. The more time you spend on it, the more you will progress. The more divided your time is, the more slowly your progress will be in any one language.

Depending on your goals, that may or may not be a problem.


As long as I'm not learning two very similar languages at the same lesson at the same time, it's not too difficult. As long as you balance them equally or in order of what you want to learn, you should be able to pick up both or all languages effectively. It does make you learn things slower, but if you like taking it slow then it shouldn't be a problem.


try doing Spanish and French at the same time. in my case, this drives me bonkers, and I speak French in Spanish class, and Spanish in French class(yes, I am in gr. 4).


The same thing happened to me. As I prefer french, I stopped the spanish. Today I'm learning just english and french. I'm brasilian and portuguese is very similar to spanish. Another reason to stopped it. I study french in the morning and french at night. It could be better, but I progressing in both.


We're all different... and I do think that as a beginning language student, it's probably best to stick to one for a while, but I can tell you about what I'm doing at the moment.

My Spanish level is pretty good right now. The only thing that I'm really doing with my Spanish tree is keeping it gold. I'm reading the Bible in Spanish, but I would be reading the Bible anyway, so Spanish study in itself takes up very little of my day. I'm still improving though.

Russian is my target language at the moment. My goal is to gild the tree (I finished it already), keep it gold, and do strengthening. Also, I do Russianpod101 lessons. Later this year, I'll start a challenge where I need to read 5000 pages of Russian, and listen to 150 hours of Russian, over the span of 20 months. I did it with Spanish, and I know that it helps a great deal.

At the moment, my German goals involve maintaining and slowly improving. I'm gilding my German tree (it turned color when I was working on Russian in November and neglected it in December). Once it's gilded, I will keep it golden and do the occasional Germanpod101 lesson.

Portuguese is my new language. I'm learning it through Spanish, so not only am I learning a new language, I'm also strengthening Spanish. Oddly enough, I've only finished four skills on this tree, yet I've come across a few words that I either didn't see in the Spanish for English Speakers course here, or it is rarely used. I also came across chao, which is completely new to me in Spanish (although I lived in Italy for three years, so I'm very familiar with the Italian ciao).

Danish, French, and Irish are currently... whenever I get around to it languages. They're fun to do, and I would love to learn them, but they're not my top priority. I'll probably spend more time on them after my Russian and German trees are gilded.

I don't usually have trouble keeping them separated. When I think to myself, sometimes I'll come up with sentences that have two or more different languages in them, and occasionally, I can't think of a word in one language but I'll remember it in another language, but part of that is that there is never one set order in how to learn words, so I may know how to say something really well in one language, but not in another.


It's not too difficult for me. If you do choose to learn more than one language at once, you should focus on both of them equally.

I also suggest learning languages which aren't too similar to each other to avoid mixing up words and grammar.

It takes a lot of time, but in the end it will for sure pay off. :)


I spent at least 2 months with one language before going to another , it is important to learn all basis and most of rules of one language first.


It's not too difficult. The biggest challenge is finding the time to devote to each language. Each language is unique. French, Portuguese and Spanish are so similar, while German and Turkish are each very different I'm learning forward to studying Vietnamese.


I find that I don't mix the languages up or anything. The only problem I find with learning multiple languages is time. If you have lots and lots of time then you could learn as many languages as you want. It also depends on how well you want to learn each language. Most of my languages are just for fun and I am not planning to become fluent in them so studying each language everyday for an hour or so is not necessary for me. Most of my languages I just do when I feel like it. If you want to become fluent or at least have an advanced knowledge then I would say don't learn more than 2 languages at once.


I am very impressed by you folks who are able to juggle various languages at once. I took me 55 days to complete my German tree. I spend a minimum of the 2 difficult hours per day. My goal is to be able to speak proper German to a naïve. Translating form text is not a problem but fluent speech is. I find it very difficult to think in German. Until I master that, knowing a reasonable amount of vocabulary and grammar will not be enough. If I attempt to translate while speaking my head often goes blank. Any help would be greatly appreciated.


If you really want to be fluent, Duo is not going to be enough. I would say that once you get about halfway through your tree, you should start adding in other resources such as memrise.com (for vocabulary expansion), wdr.de (listening and reading), slowgerman.com (listening and reading, slower), and even PostSecret in German! http://postsecretdeutsch.blogspot.com/ Make sure to use varied resources, and remember that there are also many German youtube channels, such as Deutsch fur euch, don't trust the rabbit, and get germanized.


I have taken your advise re adding other resources. Since my goal is understanding and speaking, writing and reading is secondary. I have found two excellent BBC programs on youtube. Each consists of 20 episodes 20 minutes long. Deutsch Plus is more for beginners ( has subtitles) and Deutsch Direkt for intermediate Thank you again

[deactivated user]

    It's not too hard to do. I am learning Spanish and German and hope to throw in French too. Just remember to give each language an equal amount of time each day, so that way you are not neglecting a language.


    I've been working on two at the same time, French and Spanish. I've found that I don't get them mixed up. They're different enough that it hasn't happened. My issue is time. I spend more time on French, which means that my Spanish falls behind. However, that's okay, because I'll work on Spanish more once I've finished the French tree. My goal is to do all of the languages available on Duolingo.


    Nice goal! There are too many languages and not enough time to learn them :,(


    You're right. But I think that if I can just put a bit of time each day, maybe I'll get there.


    It is impossible to learn every language. Which is what I want to do haha. But yes we can learn many if we take time to :)


    im learning 2 but its hard


    I first started with only French, and it was really difficult to wrap my head around since I have been monolingual my entire life. After maybe six months, it started to click and became easier, though it was still pretty tough. I decided to start German as well, and the same thing happened. Having finished both trees, while still keeping them gilded, I find that I can add new languages and it is as if my mind now knows how to learn languages and the new ones are starting to come to a lot quicker and easier. Since my ultimate goal is to read books in these languages, Duo is ideal for me. I think the most important thing is to have a burning desire to learn and devote time each day to doing so. It is a simple process, but not an easy one. It is definitely worth the effort.


    Thank you to all of you for the input. Right now, it's only German for me, but I'm planning to add more languages soon. So it's good to hear about your experiences.


    I'm learning Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, French, Dutch and Catalan (from Spanish). I'd only make two suggestions, if you are working with similar languages (Spanish and Portuguese, or German and Dutch for instance) I would wait some time between exercises. Maybe work with two very dissimilar languages one after another for instance do some Portuguese and German exercises and wait till later to do a Dutch or Italian.
    I would also not try to juggle too many languages at once (the same day). Maybe focus on 2-3, 4 at the most in one day, and trade off. Or even take some languages one week and others the next week.
    Spanish is my strongest language (after English of course), I practice that every day, but I trade off the other languages I practice. At the moment I'm practicing German, I'm hoping to make that my second strongest language with the eventual goal of fluency.


    I am learning Spanish and French both through German. These languages are so simular because they are both romance languages but I like a challenge. but they are easy to mix up. Also learning Polish but thos is fine because I cant mix it up with German or Spanish etc.


    o.k. honestly: i have german, italian and ukrainian here and slovenian and hungarian on memrise.....german, italian and slovenian going to fluent and ukrainian and hungarian at the beginning. Yes, it is difficult at the moment, no, the languages are not mixing - i am careful about it. My top priority is german, if i have no time slovenian is posteriority.


    In my case, I mainly focus on my reverse trees as well as do the French tree for German speakers. I want to create a connection in my mind between these two without depending too much on English. Thus, I can exclusively have some time to keep improving my knowledge of English through some courses and reading. Moreover, I don't plan to use my mother tongue to learn more languages or improve my current ones but the English language.


    I noticed that also doing the reverse tree of the languages you are doing (i'm doing German for English speakers, and i also started doing English for German speakers ) seems to develop your skills in different ways; it makes your thinking more flexible , and somehow you develop a deeper insight into what you are doing.


    At the beginning I had started doing what is called "laddering" in order to improve my English. Later I realised that it would be a good idea to do the same with my German (It seems to me that French is an important language after English for Germans). Perhaps, I could find valuable resources on the Internet for my French through having German as a second foreign language. I regard Duolingo is the best place to acquire the foundation of a language: Then I want to get the most out of this site doing all the courses of the languages I am interested in.


    I assume laddering is what I Just described above, going back and forth between courses of the same two languages. And yes I think French is an important language, i know a lot of people in Africa speak it. I did French at school. I started the french tree and was stunned at how much i remember. But I want to focus on the two languages i' m doing at the moment. More than that is too much for lasting benefits . I think ill go back to french later, it is a beautiful language. Oh and I think you will find a lot of french courses on memorize, I do German and Pedi there too.


    Laddering is doing another language from your target language.

    Ex: I've finished my German tree and am currently "laddering" by taking French for German speakers.


    Oh OK , i get the concept. so you strengthen your target language, and develop it in another way with another language. I hadn't considered that. Interesting in an obscure sort of way. Do you develop any specific skills from this ??(i can emadgen there would be some neurological advantage that appears at some point). I must admit you got me thinking


    Well, obviously it's especially helpful for those people interested in learning more than one language as you can practice two languages at once.

    Beyond that, though, one thing it does do is help you shake off the habit of mentally translating things into your native language since you're operating entirely outside of it.


    Thank you for the suggestion. If you haven't tried Memrise yet.

    You will find many courses for German and French. It's a great site for language learning, of course not as good as Duolingo, but it provides lots of new vocabulary to learn.


    its a brilliant Idea, I just went and started French for German speakers. and you are right, i didn't think in English once, i used German in my mind as a reference. And strange though it sounds its easier from german


    I don't see learning two or three languages at once as more difficult than learning one. It does mean that you either spend more time studying language, or that progress in the first language is slowed to study the second language or third language. The big factor, for me is time. I can study languages 20-30 minutes a day. If I study two languages at once, that means I spend 10-15 minutes per language. I have chosen to focus my attention on German, so that I can speed my progress in German, then focus on French. In the end, learning both languages this way should take about the same amount of time, but I feel like I'm making more progress.

    Another factor is that after 20-30 minutes, my brain's learning efficiency decreases. If I change languages, I feel like I can get another 10-15 minutes of efficient studying. So, if I had 40 minutes to study a day, I might consider learning both languages at once, so that I could use those last 10-15 minutes more efficiently. Then, I feel that I would complete both languages slightly faster that if I focused on one at a time.


    I do the same. To me it is easier to do two languages at the same time, as I am less bored. I also try to take some days of break once in a while. That also helps to reimain interested


    I have always found learning multiple languages a challenge. Hebrew was my first second language (I went to an allegedly bilingual school kindergarten-2nd grade) and then I added French in middle school. French is my strongest second language and when I try to speak Hebrew, often French words creep in even though the languages are entirely different.

    I have also studied Italian and Spanish as an adult in classroom settings and self-studied bits of Portuguese, Czech, Estonian, Russian, German, Yiddish and Danish with books and tapes/CDs. Most of the above were for travel purposes as I like to have a little knowledge of a country's language before visiting.

    Here, I started with French just to see what it was like and I'm finding my extremely rusty French coming back nicely. I have a business trip to Germany next month so I thought I'd add a bit of German until I go but not sure I'll keep it up regularly. (On the other hand, I seem to go to Germany 2-4 times a year, so I'll probably brush up before each trip.) The next confirmed travel after that is a mini-break to Normandy, so I'll probably go back to French focus for late February/March to get ready for that.

    I'd like to get my Hebrew back to the level it was when I stopped studying it the first time (c age 14) and am looking forward to the Duo course coming on line soon.


    When I first added in French, I did mix it up with German a little bit. I'm not that far through my French or Russian tree but I'm not finding it hard to keep them separate. I'm also learning Mandarin(through another program) and it's not that difficult to keep it separate too. My closest goal is to get all three of those trees a little past halfway by the end of the month, then finish them off by the end of February, then work in Memrise some with other resources and hopefully be at A2/B1 level by the end of the year. During the time that I'll be working in Memrise, I'll be doing 3 other trees, each for 3-6 months.


    Challenges: Duolingo streak loss makes me think I didn't make my progress when I know I did.

    I am only trying to get familiar with the languages. It won't be until next year that I work on recall.

    Pros: My brain functions differently, so I have no problems switching between languages. I am not getting Russian and Ukrainian mixed up. I find learning similar languages at the same time, easier for me.

    Negatives: Not everyone has my brain. Thus, what I read as "normal" for people is that learning more than one language at a time, is hard, and you just don't learn the language as well.

    I'm not concerned about this because if you really want to learn a language well, you would start on duolingo, then move on to other resources, especially the pod101 language series. (insert language name + pod101.com with no spaces, and you'll get that language in most cases. They have over 20 languages I think. I don't know if they have Vietnamese yet, but they do have Finnish!

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