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How Are Some of You Juggling so Many Languages?

I've seen lots of avid users in the discussion with TONS of flags next to their name, and all I can ever think is... how?

Personally, I had experience with German from one parent since I was young, and my progress there has always been more refining and improving then really acquiring the language, so it wasn't hard for me to fly through the tree and focus on the higher level stuff you don't pick up in child-like conversations with your family. So I didn't have any problems learning a new language along with this goal.

As a Canadian I thought I should really try to put some work into French. As I'm sure most Anglophone Canadians know, the French education here is abysmal outside Quebec, and in hindsight I'm pretty sure my French teacher in elementary school couldn't even speak it. Sure I could remember some extremely basic nouns and verbs, but for all intensive purposes I started at square one. About a year in I'm 75% done the Duolingo tree, and almost done French 2 on Memrise. It is only now that I feel my broken-@$$ French is decent enough to understand and hold a BASIC conversation (something I couldn't even say after 6 years of government mandated French class...). Despite this, whenever I am at a loss for words in French, I still have a strong inclination to spit out German words in a french accent to compensate.

Due to the progress however, I felt comfortable starting mandarin (though I quickly abandoned Duolingo's course as I found HelloChinese and ChineseSkill far superior in every way) a few weeks ago. I chose Mandarin as the next language for multiple reasons (including aiming to go to China in summer '19), but a massive motivation was the complete unrelated nature with European languages. I thought "hey at least there's no way I'll try and sneak German or French in here", and I find it is working so far.

But I am aiming to learn quite a few other languages. Primarily, Spanish, Russian, Hindi, and some kind of Native American language (like Cree, but I'm open to others. This may be worth a post in itself as I have a lot to say on the subject)

But seriously, I have no idea how you guys are juggling so many. Did you learn them in tandem? Is this a multi year process? I am hesitant to start Spanish especially as I'm worried I will undo progress in french and mix up the two romance languages... I've seen people with 10+ flags and am legitimately impressed, but can you actually remember all of those? I would love to hear recommendations and strategies.

EDIT: So I get many people at level 2 are not juggling all the languages. I was not really referring to them, as I was more interested in those with high level flags for a bunch of languages (as I have seen quite a few people with high level flags on 5+ languages, and occasionally many more!)

December 31, 2017



Most people aren't learning 10 languages to fluency - they're just normally learning the basics and are just trying to get a glimpse to see what the language is like. Maybe they just want to learn the basics or just have a little go at the language.

I'm learning 3 languages - Spanish, French and Portuguese. I know a lot of people find it hard to learn 3 similar languages and don't recommend if you do. But personally I find it a lot easier learning 3 similar languages. And I'm not learning them all at the same level - at the moment I'm at an advanced level in Spanish and because I've recently reached an intermediate semi-conversationally comfortable level in French I've started Portuguese.


That makes sense. Do you find any trouble in mentally separating French and Spanish? How long did you study Spanish before starting French? I've heard Portuguese and Spanish are very similar when written, and have you found any trouble there?

I get the advantages of words being similar, but I worry about separation. I understand your Spanish is probably unaffected. Like my German, I do not feel inclined to throw French in there when speaking. It's more when I try to speak the weaker of the languages (in my case, French)


Probably everyone experiences a stronger language sneaking into a weaker one once in a while, particularly if the languages are in any way similar. But I think it's sort of a contained problem and goes away with practice. The challenge of getting one's Spanish out of the yolk of French infiltration vs. the challenge of learning a Chinese, Turkish, Russian, or Greek — not really a comparison :)

If the "strong" language isn't weak enough to avoid interference from the weak one, that's when there's something potentially worth being concerned about.


I'd studied French in school for 2 years before starting Spanish but I never liked it. So actually that basic knowledge of French allowed me to see similarities between the two languages and actually helped me understand it a lot more. And then when I came back to French classes after the summer I learnt Spanish my French improved dramatically as I noticed some similarities.

So far I'm not having problems with Portuguese and the fact that it's similar to Spanish, in my opinion, helps me remember vocab. However, the only problem I've encountered so far is that normally my natural reaction is to pronounce things the spanish way e.g. I tend to pronounce "De" as the Spanish "De" whereas in Portuguese, the "De" sounds more like a "Dzhee" than the spanish "Deh".


Do you practice all of them daily? Or have you eased off Spanish now? The time constraint of even learning 2 and improving one has proved difficult for me


Yes, I practise them daily. This is what I do each day per language:

Spanish: I don't invest as much time as I used to as I'm quite comfortable with it. I just tend to talk with natives, watch videos in Spanish and occasionally learn new vocab.

French: I keep my tree gold and do a Memrise course.

Portuguese: Duolingo course

I don't follow a schedule though, I just do them when I feel like it. I feel as though for me it's more efficient that way because I'm not under the stress of a schedule.


I was quite surprised how not-Spanish Portuguese sounds. The words look a lot like Spanish but the sound is more similar to Italian (at least the way Duo voice speaks it)


Yeah, I agree. Written Portuguese really looks like Spanish but spoken Portuguese sounds like a Russian trying to speak Italian.


That's a good description actually.


I gave up Italian in college as I found it almost impossible to retain it while also learning French, which at that time I was much stronger in. I still find it hard to learn two Romance languages at the same time, but don’t have an issue with two languages that are linguistically diverse.


As a native French, I find it hard to learn two Romance languages at the same time...I started to learn Spanish (I was quite advanced in my tree!) and I already had a small base since high school...then I started Italian at the beginning of the year and now, I’ve absolutely forgotten everything that I had learned in Spanish... it‘s two languages ​​too similar and yet French has some similarities with each of the two languages ​​but, according to me, not as much as the similarities between Spanish and Italian...they are too similar


I imagine everyone has a different story, but to use mine as an example of what multiple flags mean in reality:

Hebrew - currently actively studying. Using Duolingo to keep things ticking over while I've been unwell. Finished the tree over a year ago, but I've done a lot of reviewing.
Russian - studied at uni, so the course was revision for me. Finished the tree a couple of weeks after it was released. Reviewed on and off.
Esperanto - knew a little before I started the course. Reviews now and then.

These languages? I can actually speak to some degree. The rest of 'em (besides French)? Eh...

German - odd man out. When I first started using Duolingo, German was the only language they offered that I was really interested in. Started as a false beginner (two years of German 25 or so years ago), and did a lot of work because it was the best choice out of a selection that didn't do it for me. I could have a very simple conversation, but despite the relatively high level of XP, I'm nowhere near finishing the tree, my grammar is negligible, and I'd be far more comfortable conversing in Ukrainian or even Polish.
Ukrainian - if you speak Russian, the Ukrainian tree is simply fun. First tree I finished, in 2-3 days. Occasional review. I could have a conversation with a sufficiently patient Ukrainian, but I wouldn't say I speak it (better than German, maybe, but that's not saying a lot), and besides the odd time I've gone back and dabbled about for fun, I haven't studied it in any serious way except for completing the tree. But... I did finish it, gild it, and then revise it a little, so it's at a relatively high level.
French - Studied 7 years in school and 1 at uni. I completed the French from Russian tree first, then the from English tree was comparatively easy: I tested out of some of the tree years ago when I first joined Duolingo, and then I just tested out of the skills either individually or with check points. My French is easily better than my German or my Ukrainian, but I don't care about it, so I basically finished the course and then never looked at it again. Most of the effort I put in was for the Russian speakers' course, and that was for the Russian vocab, not the French... but I can basically speak it. So the relatively low level is clearly misleading!
English from Russian - native speaker learning from a language in which I have a high level. Not what you might call heavy duty studying!
Polish - It's not as closely related to Russian as Ukrainian is, but it's still relatively little close, Russian is still an admirable cheat sheet, and Ukrainian borrowed some vocab from Polish, so between those things, this was another tree that I had fun with. I think I've done some review along the way, but the level is mostly just the finished tree. I could have a conversation with a very patient Pole... but then, I could do that before this course got released!
Spanish - I decided to see how far I'd get testing out with my (tiny) amount of Spanish, my French, and intelligent guesswork. I got so far that I decided to keep going, and I finished the tree... but that was all I did. I don't know how many lessons the tree has, and I think I've done a couple of stories and roleplaying with the chat bots, but it wouldn't surprise me if my total XP represented only a tiny bit above the minimum to finish the tree. I have a finished tree and a double digit level... but I romped through that tree in approximately 48 hours, and I have done next to no work besides that. Also, I'm fairly certain I got unbelievably lucky with some of the test out questions, because really, my Spanish is so, so small and bad.

That's 9 languages with XP levels in the double digits, and 8 finished trees... but I'm actively studying only one of them at present. (I am doing more with some of the single digit ones, but since you're asking about people with multiple high level flags - I don't know where your cutoff point is for how high counts as high...) Two of them (three, counting English from Russian) were languages I already had a high level in, and I know only 4 of them well enough that I'd make a claim to speaking the language! Moreover, I have level 16 in German, but my actual German ability is basic holiday language and very little else.

(Theoretically, it would be possible to get high XP by repeating one skill or even one lesson over and over. You'd be bored stupid, sure, but it would be possible. Levels only represent effort expanded, they say nothing about how accomplished someone is in that language.)

Obviously, I'm just one person, but just to illustrate more completely that having a flag, even at a relative high level =/= actively studying the language let alone being able to speak it, That long string of flags next to my username shows that I'm easily distracted by new shiny languages, and that I like flags and am reluctant to delete any from my profile because they're pretty!

TL;DR: flags - even at relatively high levels - don't tell you much about a person's ability, how seriously they're studying, etc, and they can in fact (see: German) be wildly misleading. They don't take into account previous study, they don't take into account that you might get more XP from taking forever to get through a tree versus someone for whom the entire course is revision... etc Honestly, it's possible the person with a fistful of flags in the highest levels is an actual genius, but it's at least equally possible that they're just a language junkie with a wandering eye and a tendency to be distracted by -ooh, shiny...

(Me, I'm decidedly the latter!)

Take said flags with a generous pinch of sodium chloride! :D


Learning related languages often helps in terms of memorizing vocabulary and grammar. That's why I'm learning Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish, as well as French and Italian.


I agree with OmegaGmaster. I'm sure it doesn't work for a lot of people but I personally find that learning related languages helps me memorise vocabulary and grammar patterns a lot easier. E.g. In Spanish lunch is "Almuerzo" and in Portuguese it's "Almoço". Because they're similar I find it a lot easier to remember.


It also sometimes gets confusing.


Not really. Though I would finish one before going onto the next.

When I am done with Danish, I will try Norwegian, and then Swedish. Though I am mainly focused on Danish, so that's why it matters. I am also doing French, Italian, Spanish in Portuguese at once, though.

This is because I study French @ school and I hear the others a lot (also I am not really focused on Portuguese, Spanish, or Italian).


Leaning and dabbling are two different things. I am sure there are people here legitimately and deeply learning a lot of languages, but many either just try a few, or slam through a tree but don’t really retain it.

I have tried Danish, Korean, Spanish (to level 22), and Portuguese, but in the end decided they weren’t for me so I deleted them. Many people don’t delete the badges as they like to see their history.


I really don't know how those people memorize all the words and conjugations. I am Turkish, English is foreign to me, my grandmother is from Greece I'm trying to improve it and I am learning French and Persian just for fun. I don't think I can handle more.

I know a former Canadian diplomat Steve Kaufmann he's dealing with 20 langauges at the age of 70. His youtube channel is very inspiring.


I've seen that guy actually! Makes me feel like I can really accomplish a lot at my young age. Speaking of him if people want more intensive practice, check out LinQ, he designed it and its quite good


I have a lot of flags by my name, but I'm only focusing on a couple. Those at level 2, I just tried out to see what they were like in the beginning.


Yeah, I wonder that A LOT!!! But I got inspired by this character in a book and now I am trying to learn every language.


Anna and the Swallow Man


i have 13 flags but i dont really do the level 2s i focus on my spanish


Not sure if I can answer your question but for myself I focus mostly on Irish and Spanish. I think progress is about how much time you have to devote to each. You get out what you put in. I have alot of free time on my hands and when I started I was using duolingo because I couldn’t sleep, so I completed my Irish and Spanish trees very quickly... but then had to go back and review alot. Right now I feel like my Spanish is really progressing and Irish seems to have a much steeper learning curve, so I like having two languages to practise as I can practice Spanish one when I feel burnt out by Irish and vice versa. I know most people recommend daily practice but I personally find giving myself a break from a language now and then helps things stick in my brain. Also a flag by your name doesn’t nessasarily mean you are actively studying a language. I dabbled in a few languages for an afternoon or two before deciding which to focus on. I am also practising French and Hebrew, but those are both review for me. I can now practice Spansish through french and vice versa so that is like a two for one deal. Also in (slight) defense of French education in Canada I just want to say while I don’t disagree with you about French education in Canadian schools and have many friends who have had the same experience, in grade seven I switched to (late) french immersion and it was excellent. We not only had french class every day but all our other subjects were in french as well. While my speaking skills were comci comme ca at best great by high school I had great reading and comprehension skills and had I continued and done a summer exchange in quebec like some friends I think my conversation skills would have caught up. I have anglophone friends who went to French immersion since kindergarden and were fluent in french by elementary school. I know not everyone has the opportunity to go to french immersion, as there are only so many schools in each area that provide it, so it might be a challenge arranging transportation to go to a french immersion school a bit farther away. I am just writting this not so much to disagree with you about the state of core french in Canada but to point out that for children who really want to learn french and any Canadian parents who might happen to be reading this, french immersion education is high quality. I think if you want to learn Spanish go for it. So far it hasn’t made my french any worse. If anything I found a backround in french really helps me with Spanish. Have fun!


Learning similar languages probably does make it a little more difficult. But I haven't found it too bad, so far. As long as you are consistently practicing a language, I think you'll learn it just fine.


I have a long history of learning languages - 4 languages at school, 2 more at uni. Then when I found Duo, I quickly got many levels in the ones I already knew. After that, Dutch is super easy if you know German (I started it because it was a new course and it sounded fun to be one of the first and help it develop, plus I hadn't started a new language in years); Italian is super easy if you know Spanish; Vietnamese was released just after I'd travelled to Vietnam where I loved the country, decided to go again someday but found out they don't speak much English. I enjoy the process of learning, puzzling out the grammar and quirks of a new language, and discovering a bit of the culture along with it :)

I think the gamification factor contributes a lot. It's easy to get hooked and keep gathering points. Whether you actually remember much of the language in a real life situation ... not so sure :) Getting level 11 in a language could still be a very low level (I only got as far as numbers in Viet; most of my points were from strengthening)

I've also seen people say "I want to learn a base knowledge in many languages so I can pick it up easily if I ever need to".


I did not want to be working so many languages, but, due to new versions of the languages, I ended up working so many.


Wow, awesome streak!


My original focus was to be familiar enough with a language to be able to read the random quotes I kept finding in other books, or failing that at least be able to know how to figure it out with the help of a dictionary. I know that Google translate would probably be a quicker and easier option, but it isn't as much fun or as satisfying. Now that I have finished a few trees, I am really focusing currently on French and Chinese. Unless I practice a language daily it is amazing how quickly it fades, but I've also found that it comes back quick if I start doing a tree again. At any rate, it is a better way to spend time than playing Candy Crush.


There are a few languages I have a goal of acquiring significant communicative/comprehension ability in. But, largely owing to Duolingo, I've found it quite enjoyable to learn something of other languages without having much in the way of concrete goals in mind.

On the occasions when I really turn my attention to a tree, the XP can pile up pretty fast, as I find it takes at least hundreds of XP per skill for things to stick. The sorts of users who have very high levels (20ish+) in quite a number of languages tend to like timed practice and tend to spend a lot of time on Duolingo.


I'm mostly focused on my higher levels, although Korean is a new challenge for me, and I'm trying to complete the tree.


Yay HalJam! Long time no see!!! :-D


Everything is learner driven, That is to say, one's interest/motivation and background have much to do with success in acquiring any skill set. I've had a lot of experience in German, French and Spanish and completed those language trees together in eight weeks by testing out of each unit rather than completing individual lessons. The numbers next to my flags aren't high, therefore, but I really don't need to keep practicing them. I was trained as a linguist when in the Army. I added Italian a month ago (now on Level 9), but I go to Italy every other year so that language is not 'brand new' to me either. I'm motivated to acquire knowledge in Irish because I like to travel there also, and I'm thinking of Dutch because it's an easy transfer from German. I'll probably study Portuguese after that -- another country I enjoy visiting. I'm not particularly interested in sampling languages, but understand why others might do so. Again, interest, motivation, life experiences, AND diligence, have much to do with success in gaining knowledge in anything. Much good luck!


I assume that by juggling you mean studying all those languages, although I have level 2 on the majority of them I am really studying them.

And my strategy is to keep them at the same level.


I use the other languages to take breaks from the languages that I focus on, but I have every intention of finishing each tree and becoming proficient in each language. This ambition mostly comes from me studying linguistics and wanting to travel to other countries. Any language I have a double digit level in I've finished the tree for (edit: except the English one; forgot it was level 10)


Usually it's only people who try different courses. I have done it. I chose the Swedish course in order to check the quality since it's my native language. I chose both Danish and Norwegian in order to train how to learn the differences between these two when it comes to vocabulary, since I can already see the difference between them.


Can't speak for others, but I've developed a little bit of a system.

I finished the Spanish tree first for a honeymoon trip to Argentina. Then I decided to try French (which I had studied in HS/college) while doing the "reverse" English from Spanish tree. Then I decided to try German while doing the reverse French tree. Finally when I got to the Russian tree, I also was working on the reverse German and the French-from-Spanish trees.

That has set up my current method. I do a new language, the reverse tree that I just learned, and a tree involving two languages I previously learned (mostly learning from Spanish to start, since that is by far my best language outside of English, but I'm working on French from Russian currently). So I'm really learning one language at a time, plus reinforcing previously learned ones.

That said, obviously some are easier than others or you learn better. My Italian is probably much better than my German, despite having a lot more time and lessons into German. Spanish and French are on a different level than any others despite looking similar to, say, Italian, and "behind" my German level/total.

I've done a fair amount of watching TV or radio in Spanish, French and German, so I hope to get fairly fluent in each (along with Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Japanese, Korean and Hindi), with conversational/survival skills in any others I try. But really at this point most of my abilities are in reading and to a lesser extent writing because I'm on Duo too much!


I've just picked all the easiest ones! xD

In the longer run I want to be fluent in them all.


I have a lot of flags because I have been doing Duolingo since 2014. I have never worked seriously on more than two languages at once, and the second language is usually one that I am already familiar with.

  • Italian -- started almost four years ago to prepare for a trip to Italy
  • Turkish -- started about three years ago to prepare for a trip to Turkey
  • French and Russian -- just refreshing skills from a long time ago
  • German and Dutch -- preparation for a trip

The other languages I am just messing around with.


I've finished the Spanish course and I'm focusing on Portuguese now. I'm a native English speaker, I just started English for Spanish speakers to improve my Spanish. All the others, I started out of curiosity and a passion for languages.

So I'm not really juggling two dozen, really just a few that I focus on. Although I will say that I've tried doing one lesson in each of my languages, all in one sitting, and I got really confused around the tenth language.

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