A question for people who speak or are learning multiple languages.
Hi DL community. I recently signed up to this site. I'm a native English speaker.
My goal is to learn Spanish, French, German, Italian and Portuguese (which coincidentally, are the most popular languages to learn on here).
I have equal interest in all five of these languages. Currently, I don't have any plans to move abroad or use any of these languages for professional reasons. At this stage, I merely want to make friends with people who speak these languages and perhaps do some travelling in the future.
I've started with Spanish seeing as it has the highest number of learners on here. I've done a bit of research and from what I gather, learning one romance language will help with learning others. I realise German is the lone wolf out of those five. My plan is to do Spanish first, French second, German third, Italian fourth, and Portuguese last. However, I could do the romance languages first, and then tackle German.
Either way, will starting with any romance language give me an equal advantage when learning the others? or should I be starting with one which is considered slightly more difficult, thus making it easier to learn the rest?
Any suggestions or feedback is much appreciated.
It is great that you want to learn many languages. In my opinion if you learn the romance languages all close together you could get them mixed up as they are quite similar. To avoid doing this you should make sure you are comfortable in each language before moving onto the next. German is the lone wolf as you said so you shouldn't get it mixed up. I think your current order is very good as Spanish and Portuguese are very similar so you will probably get them mixed up a lot if you learn them close together.
I agree with you. I think doing German after Spanish and French will enable me to take a short break from romance languages and allow me to consolidate what I've already learnt in order to minimise the confusion which might occur when I begin Italian and Portuguese.
There's no one best way, so my advice would be to experiment. Your current plan sounds just fine -- Spanish is a good language to start with, since it is relatively easy for English speakers to learn, and (assuming you live in the US) you have a good chance of finding opportunities to use it in person if you look around.
Really, it's going to depend on what motivates you to keep going at any given moment, and that could change as you grow more familiar with the languages you want to learn. I'm currently seriously working on 3 languages (Spanish, French, and Russian), and when I found Duolingo back in November, I had felt like putting in the same amount of work in all of them, so I did. I already had a big head start in Spanish, and am getting close to finishing my tree, so now my motivation has changed and I'm focusing on that. Once I finish my Spanish tree, I'll probably turn my focus on French for a bit, then Russian -- or who knows, maybe I'll feel like dividing my focus again. It doesn't matter, because any way I do it serves to fulfill the ultimate goal, which is to learn all 3 languages, and the only way to do that is to keep putting in work. My biggest challenge is to avoid getting distracted by other shiny languages, so I've told myself I'm not allowed to start a new tree until I finish one.
I hope that my insight is helpful, but there's no guarantee that you learn the way I do. I wish you good luck on what should be a fun journey!
I'm actually from the UK. I don't think the town I live in has many Spanish speakers unfortunately. You raise a good point about my plan possibly changing if I grow more familiar with the languages I learn. I could end up liking some more than the others. Thanks for your advice :)
I'd say French is the odd ball of the Latin languages. Although it is clearly related, it was still strongly influenced by Germanic forces and has rather different pronunciation and spelling than the rest. Portuguese is most related to Spanish, though Brazilian Portuguese (which is what Duo teaches) has a very different pronunciation from Spanish in many ways. Of native speakers I have spoken to, they can all read each other's language somewhat, but Portuguese speakers tend to understand spoken Spanish better than Spanish speakers understand spoken Portuguese. Italian looks more like French in some ways, but sounds more like Spanish.
For me, I started with Spanish, then did Italian, then Portuguese, then a bit of French. This was at a university years ago, not on Duolingo, but I think it worked well enough.
I wouldn't worry about getting mixed up btw. People always bring this up in these kinds of topics, but it is a problem that resolves itself over time if you just stop focusing on it. What you gain from studying related languages at the same time is more help than hindrance. If anything, when I first started studying Polish and Japanese, I felt naked without all my lovely cognates to other languages I'd studied. I had much less of a head start than I did when I went form Spanish to Italian or from Danish to Norwegian.
I've read that too about native Portuguese speakers being able to understand Spanish more easily than the other way around. That led me to think starting with Portuguese might be a good choice, but perhaps that situation is more applicable to a native speaker than a learner?
Interesting point about the cognates. It does seem nice to have something to relate too even though it might cause some confusion.
I think if you even briefly study Brazilian Portuguese phonology before starting Portuguese if you do Spanish first, the order won't matter. Once I did that, I understood so much more. One big difference is that ti/te and di/de are palatized in the South East of Brazil (which is the most populated part and the accent used on Duolingo). This is a bit like what English speakers in most of the world do to words like education and actually where the du and tu sounds like ju and chu. It means that, for instance, de, which means the same thing it does in Spanish sounds like jee and mente, which also means the same thing it does in Spanish sounds like menchee. L, when not at the start of a syllable, is pronounced like w in English. And of course, it has nasal vowels and even nasal diphthongs. If you are just attentive to the differences, once you have a good level of Spanish, understanding a reasonable amount of Portuguese will be very easy.
Thanks for the advice. I'll look into Brazilian Portuguese phonology before I begin to study Portuguese in the future.
I don't have much to contribute, as the others have discussed most points in enough depth, but I can tell you a few random things I learnt while researching which language to learn:
-Spanish/Italian are supposedly the easiest to learn of all languages, but it may vary depending on how you get along with them. -Spanish and Italian share roughly 100 words (Around that figure, I'm not certain), and I personally struggled a little when I first started going between Italian and Spanish. -Both German and French are suggested for English speakers because of how they stem into English. (Dutch too, but you didn't mention learning it, so it's probably not relevant to you)
These are just random things I found out, and all sort of link in with what you're saying. I don't think there's any right way to do it, just continue in what feels right, and if it doesn't seem to work then try switching it around. Best of luck to you!
Yes, Dutch isn't currently in my plans, but that could change in the future. Thanks for the advice. I'll experiment and see how it goes.
I was thinking of finishing one tree at a time, and then starting the next. I might consider doing two at once if I think I can progress well though. I would also consider doing a reverse tree or learning one of the romance languages using another romance language.
Hi! It might just depend on how you learn new things as an individual. I find that differences jump out at me automatically and seem to easily stick in my memory. So if it were me, I'd pursue those languages with similarities first. For example, I would choose German & French first, because English is derived from German as is French (think of Shakespeare & Beowulf). Next, I'd pursue the others, as they are similar, one or two at a time. As someone said, it's an individual choice, so maybe you could try different things and see what works best. Good Luck! Lemarzetta
When I was in secondary school, I was learning both French and German. Unfortunately, I didn't retain what I learnt. Since I made this post, I'm leaning more towards sticking with Spanish first and then going in the order which I wrote above.
Thanks for the suggestion though :)
Nice question :)
It depends always from the nationality of the person.
For me for example,it will be much "easier" to learn romance languages while other languages will be much "hard". About languages from my point of view,i studied german and spanish and i'm still studying now french and english.Many say that Spanish and Italian are similar,but i must say that they are similar only for the words...about tenses,Italian is more close with French somehow more than spanish.
German still remain a though language but not impossible to learn.You will need a lot of memory,especially for memorizing nouns and his own article. About Portuguese i don't know much about it,but probably will follow the same path of Spanish/French/Italian.
About which language to choose,just choose the language you would like to learn (not because it is easy for you,just choose the language you LOVE) and if you have free time,i can suggest to add a second language,if you are in the right mood xD.But if you will do,you must add a language that is different from the other one,it means to choose a romance language (for example Spanish) and another that is completely different,like German.I say that because if you will choose two languages so similar like Spanish or Italian,with time you will start to mix all their elements...trust me,it will happen sooner or later xD.
About how to study them, i prefer to dedicate only few time instead of doing 3-4 hours for day,i learnt much more doing less instead of the countrary.For example i do 30 minutes of english (which at least i know something xD) and 1 hour of french for day,sometimes only 30 minutes.
And i don't think that learning a romance language will give you an advantage with germanic languages (i didn't notice anything similar since i studied for a while German) i can confirm what you wrote but only if you do a language with the same roots (for example Dutch).
I've decided to stick with Spanish as the first one. Depending on how it goes, I might combine it with German or French. As you say, it would begin to confuse me if I did two similar ones at the same time (e.g. Spanish and Italian).
Your study method is quite interesting too. I will see what works best for me.
Eheh,you reminded me when i wrote once to a french friend but i made a lot of confusion, mixing french and spanish words...that's why i don't suggest to study both together...at least try to study the second one after you got a solid base....i tried to study French after 6 months after i quitted with spanish but still i automatically thought and replied in Spanish...a bit frustrating xD. Since now i found a french friend,i don't let myself to touch again a spanish book,or i will do the same thing i did in that message xD. Just watching some verbs...you can have a certain idea xD:
To learn = ITA apprendere or imparare
To start= ITA cominciare
To play= ITA giocare
To die= ITA morire
Now try to imagine also thousands of nouns to learn (and which they can even trick you;those false friends xD) and if you do like i did,i guess it will slow you down because every minute you will have the doubt : "oh,no!Maybe that word was french or spanish" etc xD.Unfortunately i still have this doubt because i still remember some spanish words DX. I won't do the same mistake one more time ahahahah.
Gosh! Your examples scared me a bit lol. I think I should wait to begin French.
Haha, no worries. I'm glad you informed me about it before I made a mistake :)
By the way, are you studying Japanese?
(What the?Duolingo doesn't make me reply on your answer xD)
Oh,yes evil smile i have the intention to start it around February or March since i want to finish my english course (yes,there are a lot of things i still don't know unfortunately) in the meanwhile i learnt something starting with simple things like how to write and recognize their 3 alphabets hiragana,katakana and kanji (ahahah kanji is not a simple thing xD).Now i organize my way of studying adding French/English and also Japanese.I don't usually do 3 languages,but since i already know something about english and i'm doing revision in french listening some french podcast;it is not a problem to add Japanese since i don't do anything so i hard,i just memorize 5 kanji for day....and i don't do it always,i do it when i'm in the right mood because is not a priority ;). I don't know any material in english about katakana or hiragana (but you can always watch some tutorial on youtube) but i know a good book about kanji (cough....inter....net,cough!Em..ule.. xD)
Ah, that is a bit strange. Maybe there's a post limit to each reply? or just a forum error?
It's great you're planning to learn Japanese :) I've learnt a bit of Japanese in the past. I decided to postpone it for a while as I took up Chinese. I would like to try Korean one day too. I didn't mention this in my first post as you can't learn these languages on DL at the moment :(
I've used the RTK book but I didn't find it useful. I preferred learning kanji through vocab, and vocab with sentences to get context. Learning kanji in Japanese can be quite challenging due to all the different readings the characters have. It's a lot simpler in Chinese as each character usually only has one reading.
Good luck with your Japanese learning when the time comes. I'm sure you'll do very well :)
It helps when you do languages that are dissimilar because there is less chance of confusing them. (Right now I'm focusing on italian, Russian, and Chinese for example) But what's great about duolingo is that you can take courses based in another language other than your native one to help not get confused between similar languages:
Like others have mentioned, it helps to get further along in one language before attempting a similar one. But then you can learn the similar language through that language if the course is available. For instance I'm a native English speaker but I also use the Italian for Spanish speakers course to help me learn Spanish while reinforcing my Italian, and I believe French for Italian speakers has recently come out. This way you can see some of the similar words side by side to help keep them separated in your mind which language they belong to.
Also the romance languages share some of the same structures so that does help when moving on to another one. You won't be learning a entirely new system, just the things that are not similar.
I've started using Memrise this past month which has helped as well. There are some courses with the duolingo vocab in them.
As far as which one to do first, do the one you're most drawn to or excited about because you'll have the stream and drive to get pretty far with it. Whatever you choose, once you start you'll see better what you want to focus on and how much you can handle. If you're like me, the real test is being patient! I wish I were already fluent in everything!
I have that same desire to be fluent in everything :) I've decided to stick with Spanish as the first one. I did try out German today and while I didn't confuse it with Spanish, it seemed more difficult than Spanish. The spellings in particular weren't easy to remember.
When it comes time for me to begin the other romance languages, I think I will learn them using Spanish.
That's sounds like a great plan, especially since there are so many Spanish resources. I will eventually get to German too, but it's further down on my language wish list.
Well I hope you have lots of fun!
Thanks. I don't want to stay in the English comfort zone for too long. Good luck with German when you finally get round to learning it.
How is your Chinese learning going?
Well, Chinese is going slower than I would like but I get happy when I'm watching something and realize I recognize a word or phrase. So I'm starting to recognize more which is good. I wasn't consistent in studying for a bit so I'm not as far along as I could be, but I've been putting more time in lately. I started around September/November and I'm using HelloChinese and ChineseSkill apps.
So far, for me it's not as hard as people make it out to be, it just takes some extra time to learn the characters and the sounds that go with them. And I'm still learning and getting used to sentence structure. (Well, maybe it's not as hard as it could be because of the good apps.) The great thing about mandarin is that I don't have to worry about verb conjugations or plurals or gender of words. Yay
I also started using Memrise which is flashcard based, and it helps the words stick better. They have what seem to be some fairly good courses over there. I'm taking a lot of courses there, and for Chinese, I'm using the Chinese HSK1 course and the ChineseSkill vocab course. I know there is a Duolingo Spanish vocab course on memrise if you're interested. That's one of the other courses I'm taking over there.
I have Anki too but I haven't used it much for Chinese yet. If you haven't heard of Anki, it's a flashcard program that's very customizable based on the spaced repetiton system. You can create your own flashcard decks or download shared decks that other people have uploaded. Ankidroid is the android app version. Anki is really good and I wouldn't be surprised if there is a duolingo spanish shared deck uploaded.
It sounds like it's going well. Yes, it's nice to not have to worry about verb conjugations, plurals and gender of words. This makes Chinese grammar easier (at least in the beginning).
Ah, are you learning the simplified characters? I'm learning the traditional ones first.
If you haven't already, I recommend ChinesePod for learning Chinese. It's a great site.
I've used Memrise before but only with Chinese and Japanese. The Spanish seem interesting though.
I've been an Anki user for around four years. I use it every day :) It's one of the best tools in my opinion.
Watching your conversation about Chinese,i got in mind another resource that maybe can be helpful for you.I think is a nice idea to learn Chinese in this way (i like strange methods xD) but i dont know if it works because i have never tried it. There is the book and the flashcards:
I think I've seen chineasy in the bookstore or read reviews on it. The problem for me I think was that there weren't enough characters in the book. It would be like buying those useless "beginner" language dictionaries.
I've found that most characters I can remember, and I just use imagery for the ones I have a hard time with. I wonder why some words stick easily and some don't seem to want to go into the memory as fast.
Thanks for the links. I've heard about the first book. I think it's a good method for people who feel intimidated by learning the characters.
The characters weren't the biggest hurdle for me. With Japanese, I found grammar more difficult. With Chinese, the speaking more difficult.
Kanji/hanzi are definitely best learnt in words, instead of isolation. Some characters don't have a simple meaning and only appear in compound words.
This is just my experience though. Books like RTK have worked well for other people, so you might find it a good resource to use :)
Ideally I want to learn traditional and simplified at the same time. I've turned off the tracing exercises in the apps though, and since they were using traditional characters I haven't been exposed to them as much lately. I do have some flashcards that have traditional characters and I noticed that a few I initially had a hard time recognizing. I think in helloChinese app I can switch to traditional in all exercises which I may need to start doing from time to time. It's funny, when I first started with ChineseSkill I could recognize the traditional first before the simplified, but now it's just the opposite.
I've heard of Chinese pod and have listened to a few of the first lessons. Recently I was thinking about it again so I'm glad you mentioned it. If I start it, I have to figure out how to fit it in. I'm still figuring out a balance of all the languages I'm learning so I won't get into frustration mode.
I think most people choose to learn either trad or simp first, and then learn the other one. It's not uncommon to hear people learning both at the same time though. Just takes up a bit more time and might be a bit confusing to begin with.
Trad characters have more strokes and it's not always easy to see them clearly on with a PC font. I chose trad first as I prefer them due to the history behind them and the difficulty.
I did hear that simp is easier to learn after trad, but that might entirely depend on each person though.
I highly recommend subscribing to ChinesePod if you're able to. I've learnt a lot of vocab in a short space of time. The dialogues are quite varied so some lessons are serious, while others can be quite funny.
For what i heard from other people,they told me that Japanese grammar is easy (but the written not) while for Chinese the pronounciation is hard to "imitate" but the grammar is easy...i don't know what to say o.o. Oh well,i will discover it when i will start with Japanese xD.
Oh,great, you have started with German : D!
(I suggest you to use 3 colours,and write down in a piece of paper every noun you will meet with his article with a different colour....this will be one of the first problem about learning German,because you HAVE to memorize them because of their 4 different cases..sigh if that was only this thing xD...).
Did you always want to learn Japanese first, or were you like me and took months and months trying to decide between Chinese or Japanese?
I read all kinds of forums with people debating which was the better one to learn first (which there was never any real agreement on). I read about the grammar issue too. It was either easy at the beginning then hard later, or hard at the beginning then a bit easier later. And I like how both languages sound (though Japanese sounds cooler and crisp and fun). I could never decide so I prayed about it and finally one day I was just laying down and a thought came "you should do Chinese" so that's what I went with. :D
I'm honest,at first i didn't even like Japanese....but i don't know why but after i saw a japanese trailer of a videogame i thought: "oh,but i would like to know their way of writing!" and i did xD. I don't know;Chinese never attrached me much,and their pronounciation scares me a lot...their sounds are impossible to do xD (at the countrary of Japanese which is very easy for me).
Japanese is incredibly easy to speak. As there are limited sounds, you can grasp speaking Japanese quite quickly. The different accents and certain katakana words (loan words) might be a bit challenging, but generally it's not too bad.
Japanese grammar does get complicated with all the conjugations and different politeness levels.
Reading and writing Chinese (typing more than handwriting) is easy. Once you feel comfortable with the characters, you will see how similar the grammar can be to English. It's not entirely the same, but certain things are similar. The verb comes at the start of the sentence, where as in Japanese and Korean, it comes at the end.
As for German, I did a few lessons of it yesterday, but I think I'll put it on hold for the moment :)
I started with Japanese, but switched to Chinese a few months ago. I intend to go back to Japanese when I've reached a solid level in Chinese.
Knowing what I know now, and if I could go back, I would start with Chinese first. Mainly because of the kanji/hanzi. They are so much easier to learn in Chinese. Each character usually has one reading to remember. Some have two. With Japanese, it's more complicated as the characters have at least one Chinese reading, and one native Japanese reading. Most characters can have several of each. When it comes to names, there's even more unique readings.
My plan is to be able to recognise the 3000 most common characters in Chinese and build up a decent amount of vocab. After that, I want to go back to Japanese and focus on learning more vocab which should be easier as the characters won't feel so alien any more. The main hurdle will be getting past the grammar which I struggled with.
"Writing Chinese is easy"....why did your comment make me laugh xD? Well,maybe easy is not the right word....but who knows,maybe is a subjective thing,who is good at memorizing and who isn't (ehhh,like me xD).
No,did you give up so soon?I got in mind now that German and Japanese have a thing in common xD: when in a sentence there are 2 verbs,even German put the second one at the end...and sometimes is a bit frustrating since i had the bad habit to forget it xD.
Haha, well typing on a computer or phone is easy. Handwriting is difficult as you need to memorise the stroke order in which the characters are written.
If I wasn't interested in Chinese, I would have stuck with Japanese. As I like both, I came to the conclusion that doing Chinese first would benefit me more. I fully intend to do back to Japanese afterwards though :)
Ah, so German and Japanese have that similarity. I didn't know that :)
Hmm,i see...who knows, maybe it could be helpful for who's following the discussion xD.
" I wonder why some words stick easily and some don't seem to want to go into the memory as fast." --- i would like to know it too, sometimes is so frustrating to remember some words that doesn't come easily on your mind xD. Sometimes i try to associate the word with some pictures...and sometimes it works (but it depends of the word lol). For example,for memorizing the word "sock" in french (Chaussette) i imagined a sock with the number 7 (in italian 7 is sette..so ChausSETTE) so every time i imagine that word,i have already in mind sock+7 xD.
In English, we use the word 'mnemonic' when we choose a word or story to help us remember something. It's very useful when learning vocab.
I think certain words just stand out for some reason. Maybe the pronunciation is unique or memorable. How often we use the words plays a role too.
I wanted to say mnemonic but I had a brain blip and couldn't remember if that referred to the number system or picture. So mnemonic is the picture association. Is there a different word for the system where you are memorizing a string of numbers? The one where the number also represents a letter? It just won't come to mind right now.
I've heard something about that before, but I can't think of the exact name of it. The term 'memory palace' springs to mind, but that might not be what you're referring to.
That sounds like that old Greek system where they memorized whole speeches by associating the words with a room and objects in the room. So then you have a whole bunch of rooms linked together. My brain is tired just thinking about it
Haha, it's pretty full on isn't it. I'm sure it has its uses, but I don't really have the need for anything like that at the moment. Mnemonics are usually enough to help me with vocab I get stuck on.
Yea I guess the room association is like mnemonics on steroids
@Feliksia89 that is a great one. Chausette. Now I'll probably always remember that one as well! Usually the more ridiculous the picture association, the easier it sticks. Like my grocery list could have giant milk jugs bowling oranges and knocking down celery sticks and salad dressing bottles as pins.