https://www.duolingo.com/YekExplorer

How Many Languages Can One Speak Maximally?

I see many people who have finished like 8 trees, or even more. I'm curious if it's possible to speak all of them? Or they just understand most of them, not necessarily speak. So please tell me about yourself. How many of your completed trees are an equivalent for fluency in those languages? Happy Learning :D

1 year ago

17 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/annika_a
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There's no maximum as such, but different people find that they can juggle different numbers of languages. It depends not just on their inherent ability to learn languages, but also on how much they've used a language, for how long, in which all different kinds of situations, etc.

I find that once you've reached C1 in a language, you don't really lose it, although it does rust a bit if you don't use it. Just doing a Duolingo course gets you to about A2, so there's a fair bit of work left before you get to that stage, but it's definitely a good start.

I'm in a bilingual country and speak a third language at home, so I use those three plus English every single day. It's been 10+ years since I used my German daily, so my active skills in that one is rusting away, but come back whenever I practice it a bit again. Studying four other languages (some here, some on Memrise or by attending a real life course) does make me a bit confused at times, but the more I study the more I learn to keep those "budding languages" in their own silos in my mind. I'd say I'm fluent in five languages, can read in another one or two, and speak pretty well in one of those last two. Learning a language is a marathon, not a sprint... :-)

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/YekExplorer

The exact answer I looked for! Thanks

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/jzsuzsi
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Finishing a tree on Duolingo is not the same as speaking a language. I finished German, Spanish, French and Esperanto here, and now I am at B1 level in German, maybe-A2 in Spanish and on really basic level in French and Esperanto.

But there are polyglots who speak 5+ languages fluently, so in theory there is no limit on languages. But you need to practice more outside Duolingo.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Casper_duo
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Most of those polyglots say you can be proficient in a language you learned within a year.
Some even go as far as saying 3 months....
You're learning here for at least 2 years now and proficient in none of them.
Are they lying? Is duolingo not efficient enough? Is there a better method?
Why their estimation seems completely bogus?

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/annika_a
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While not necessarily bogus, I'd say certainly pretty extreme...

In the experience of people I know, you can reach C1 (I saw you mentioned this as the expected level in the other discussion) if you spend about a year really living in that language -- not by simply learning it using various resources, but actually immersed in it. And that's assuming it's not a wildly different language from the ones you already know (so not Japanese for a European), but of course also not extremely close to your own (a Swede living in Norway wouldn't need anything close to a year).

And the above time scale is assuming you are fairly gifted at learning languages -- it won't work for everyone. Of course, people trying to make a living by being internet language celebrities are outliers in that they are very interested, motivated, and gifted. And it's literally their job, so they can spend a lot of time on both learning and perfecting their learning strategies.

But I find that those I've read or heard about aren't actually aiming for a well-rounded C1 in most languages, but more some kind of functional B1/2 levels. So a lot of it depends on what you mean by "fluent" as well.

Duolingo is a great resource, but it can't possibly take you to fluency, since the courses don't go that far and because you mostly learn to read and write, with no real life conversation involved.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Casper_duo
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Actually immersed in it some of them go as far as shorten their estimation to only 3 lousy months.

And the above time scale is assuming you are fairly gifted at learning languages

No they don't assume that. They don't think they're anything special in fact. That is what they teach at least.

So a lot of it depends on what you mean by "fluent" as well.

I've put a definition for C1 in the other thread you referred to. https://www.duolingo.com/comment/22161915

Duolingo is a great resource, but it can't possibly take you to fluency, since the courses don't go that far and because you mostly learn to read and write, with no real life conversation involved.

I don't expect miracles from duolingo, on the contrary, I do use a lot of other different resources.
What I do expect is to be told the truth how much time am I expected to spend to reach a very high level in just 1 language.
From all that you said those polyglots are lying or they're much better then us at this, and they can't accept that.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/annika_a
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I don't think it's as black and white as "someone here is lying".

You asked for opinions on something, so I wrote mine. Other people, notably those whose living is all about learning languages and talking about learning languages, have somewhat different opinions. There is no truth -- everyone's experience is different, and differs across languages and from one language to another.

Personally, I think that those people who essentially dedicate their lives to learning languages and talking about languages are exaggerating a bit when they say they -- and, especially, anyone -- can learn a language to C1 in 3 months. But I can see why they do it! "Learning a language takes a lot of hard work and is at times boring" would not generate as many clicks on their blogs, and certainly not sell any books...

I also think that most people who aren't good at something don't choose to dedicate their lives and careers to doing that thing -- so there, I do think they are certainly exaggerating.

So the answer to how long it will take you to reach level C1 depends on you, the language, the languages you already know, and how you choose to study. No one can know in advance how long it will take you.

(Also, unless you're planning to move to a country or take an exam at a specific point in time I don't think it matters how long it takes. Do your best, and you'll be rewarded with results. But if you have a certain goal in mind, you of course need to have an idea beforehand.)

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/pont
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"Learning a language takes a lot of hard work and is at times boring" would not generate as many clicks on their blogs, and certainly not sell any books...

I haven't paid that much attention to the various big-name Internet polyglots and their favoured learning systems, but I do remember reading a few of Benny Lewis' articles a while back. As far as I recall, he didn't really sugar-coat the process. There were some blow-by-blow accounts of his own language missions which made it clear that "fluent in 3 months" means three intense, stressful, and often unpleasant months doing nothing but language learning, practically every waking hour.

Of course we could argue forever about what kind of "fluency" you could expect in that time, and the million variables that would influence it, and maybe he's changed his tune to appeal to a broader market these days, but at least at that time the message was very far from one of those cheesy Linguaphone-style "learn like a child, with no conscious effort!" claims.

dqxxmvyvoedn

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/annika_a
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I don't ask how long it will take me, I'm asking how long it took you!

But that's what you did:

What I do expect is to be told the truth how much time am I expected to spend to reach a very high level in just 1 language.

As mentioned, it depends a lot on the person (even within a certain community or the same family), the language, and the methods.

My C1:s have each taken years. I've never focused a lot on learning a particular language, but always done it as a hobby or just as one of many subjects at school. The quickest was probably Dutch, which took me maybe three or four years: it started out as a casual hobby, but towards the end of that time I was living in Belgium and hearing the language every day. But if you already know German, Swedish, and English, Dutch isn't that hard... I expect to spend 10+ years learning Russian, and still not reach C1 (partly because I don't particularly need the language, and partly because I'm not prepared to give it my undivided attention. Edit: Oh, and partly of course because Russian is pretty hard...)

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/jzsuzsi
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Most people here on the forums say Duolingo by itself won't make you fluent.

I guess you can get proficient in one year, if you work really hard on that language. With many resources. I took a slower path.

3 months seems too little. Benny from fluentin3months can do it, but sometimes he also moved to the country where the language is spoken.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/quinnine

I'm fluent in two languages and I'm learning three. To be honest, even just the two languages are hard to maintain. There will always be words I'll forget by not actively speaking the languages. Duolingo is something to get you started. I think it'll get you to A2. You'll be able to understand passively.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Zerr_
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The current record holder speaks 58 languages, I believe. There's not technically a maximum number of languages you can know; however, the number of languages you can keep up your level in without losing ability is probably less than 58 unless you speak them every day.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/YekExplorer

Heartwarming :D

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/cdub4language
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There are people who speak dozens of languages fluently over the course of their lifetimes, but maintaining more than 10 easily accessible in the brain at a given time seems to get difficult, from what I've read. And this doesn't happen overnight... I find there's a jump for learning your first foreign language, then another to learn your 2nd/3rd and learn to keep them sorted in your head. A friend of mine is working on about 10 and says she doesn't have time in the day to learn/maintain any more.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/YekExplorer

Though it's hard, heartwarming :D

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/The_Lipscomb
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Working on it.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Horako224

Well depends on what level you can speak them.

1 year ago
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