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Question for those of you that have like 20 languages next to your profile

My question is how do you learn so many languages at once ? Do you have any ?

I know a lot of people just a little bit of the language to get a feel for it but a lot of people have a lot of languages with level 8 so I was just wondering how and once again tips are appreciated.

January 5, 2018



There is a proverb that says something along the lines of “For every language you learn, you live another life.” I think that on a mental and cultural level this is very true. You have to think in new ways, understand many things and push yourself beyond your limits to effectively learn a language at least moderately. In a way it’s a chance to live in something different, physically or mentally. I’m the type of person who wants to understand a lot more than I already know. So for me the reason is for the knowledge it offers and the fun the difficulty is.

I wouldn’t recommend starting with more than one language; learn how to say “hi” in one before looking to say it in another. But a first foreign language makes another slightly easier because you already know how to do it and you have knowledge to pull from, even in unexpected places. And I also feel that every language is like a person. They have their own past, expressions, attitude and something about them that feels alive. When you like a language a lot, it sticks to you. It’s hard to forget a person you feel happy to know. You get to know languages like you get to know people: make the effort and you’ll get somewhere.


How I love what you say! Trully, I do see languages as people, and it's so good, so enriching to become friend with another one :) Then you meet human people along the way, and there's this gleam of pleasure in their eyes when they discover you have made the effort to learn even the basics of their tongue, like they feel acknoledged. And on top of that, there's always the books, so many books… :)


I really like this proverb :) I put in on my profile bio in Japanese, along with some others.

"話す全ての新しい言語が、新しい人生を生む。一つの言語しか知らなければ、人生は一つしかない。" - You live a new life for every new language you speak. If you know only one language, you live only once. (not really an accurate translation, but close enough).

"別の言語を話すことができるということは、第二の魂を持っているということ。" - To have another language is to possess a second soul.

"学一门语言,就是多一个观察世界的窗户。" - To learn a language is to have one more window from which to look at the world.


The passive aspects (reading and listening) are not a problem. If you have enough time, energy and motivation, you can learn to read and to understand (when listening spoken language) many languages at the same time (I've done it with 6-8 languages simultaneously without any problem).

The active aspects (writing and mainly speaking) are different. It will take longer to learn to write properly and effortlessly in many different languages simultaneously, but more than anything, it is speaking the huge difference (because you need very fast, automatic recall of a huge vocabulary set and grammatical constructions, to be able to speak effortlessly about any subject, and that requires a lot of practice, daily speaking practice, and that is quite difficult to achieve in, say, 8-10 different languages simultaneously, unless you live in a place where it is easy to find people to speak with, in any of those languages, on a daily basis).


I'll give you a piece of advice.

In the time it takes to learn one language to the level equivalent to a native speaker, one can probably learn 10 or more languages to the level equivalent of a four year old...


Four year olds can be native speakers too. ;)


I totally agree with your comment, but judging from that Spanish flag next to your name (which could be misleading, I know), it looks like we've chosen different priorities.

The question is, what are you planning to use the language(s) for? Do you deal with a lot of e.g. Spanish-speaking clients at work and want to sound professional to them, or do you travel to many different countries and want to be able to understand and communicate basic things in everyday situations, even if you have to use your hands and feet if you don't know the word for "airport"?

Personally, I'd much rather speak a bunch of languages badly than one perfectly, because in my life that would be more useful. If I go to Italy anyway (because I live in Europe and it's bound to happen a few times in my life), my options are to either communicate with Italians like a 2.5-year-old, or like a baby who's only just learned how to say "pizza funghi".


Or you can learn a generous handful of languages to the point where you can have a competent and interesting conversation with a native speaker. Perfection/native level standard is a great aim to have, but it's not the only worthwhile one.

[deactivated user]

    Well, we are each different but I really love learning different languages. The different concepts of expressions constantly amaze me in other languages. How does w in x language = y in z language? I also like the different rhythms of other languages. English sounds flat compared to Spanish with its softer pronunciation but more dancing between syllables. French is a smooth soft but cool language. Among my faves. I also love Italian and its similarity to Spanish in cadence and French in vocabulary. German sounds rough and angry and much more crisp than English. I love the way it sounds so stern! Overall, I tried several languages here to get a feel before I made up my mind on order. I finished Spanish, then French, then Italian. Little over halfway with German. Then Portuguese. And Hindi should be out by then. But when I complete a course here, I start speaking the language in other apps or in person while working on another language. I see each language as a concept and welcome the challenge. You really have to like languages to keep going even when you've completed a tree here. Good luck!

    [deactivated user]

      There are some true polyglots out there... then there are those who start a language just to be able to say some words and sentences... and then everyone inbetween.

      Of course to have a solid grasp on any language you have to be really dedicated to it (and venture outside Duolingo of course) something which is impossible to do when you're learning 10 other languages at the same time.


      ...but knowing 10 languages doesn't mean one learned 10 languages at one time, either. Some of us have had quite some time already, both on Earth and on Duolingo. ;-)

      [deactivated user]

        Of course not... I'm only considering the flags next to names which I think was what the OP was referring to. There's no way to tell which languages people already knew before starting to use Duolingo.

        And even looking at the train of flags some users have that doesn't mean they're learning all at the same time. They might be taking pauses on some... some they might already have finished... some they might already have given up.

        Each person is a different story. :)


        My own goal is two languages per decade. I did well the first couple of decades, then messed about a bit, but am getting back on track now by working on several languages at a time. ;-)


        You might find this post and the replies illuminating: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/25719984

        Honestly, even level 8 doesn't represent a massive commitment, especially for those of us who've been on Duolingo for several years. I have languages in double digits level wise and in which I've even finished the tree that I wouldn't claim as languages I've seriously studied or can speak beyond the absolute beginners. I won't repeat myself here, I wrote quite a long post over there. (The only change for me since I wrote that post is that I've almost finished the Italian tree in much the same way that I had then finished the Spanish tree, although the Italian one has taken me much longer.)


        My burning passion for languages keeps me going. However lately with school and the absence of my parent's emotional support is causing this passion to burn out little by little each day.


        Not sure how old you are, Ill assume high school age at least. The years fly by you must find your own path in life understand that learning multiple languages exposing yourself to other cultures living there working there is not normal. People like the familiar the comfortable predictability of a life surrounded by what they know and have always known since childhood.

        The majority, including parents will not understand your goals and passion. The more bold your ambitions and dreams the less they will be able to support you emotionally because you are truly speaking a language they can never understand.


        I already have a plan for the future (which I won't reveal here). Learning languages is one of my true passions, and it doesn't help being surrounded by negativity every day. Thing is, literally everybody else I have met and connected with (in both real life and online in other places) have supported my goals.


        learning multiple languages exposing yourself to other cultures living there working there is not normal.

        I've acknowledged that years ago. ;]


        I wish you strength and fortitude, Friend, if I may call you so. We are family, here, on Duolingo :) Your passion in life is your truest self. All the best in the New Year!


        A quote that I made off of Field of Dreams that can help keep your lingual desire going is "If you request it, it will come."


        Ah, the Law of Attraction... ❤️


        For me I just like to gain experience and awareness of lots of languages. I'm not aiming to be fluent in all of the languages but just to have some knowledge of each of them.


        I feel the flags under people's user names in the forums are misleading. The flags are emphasized more than the numbers (well, they looks so much more interesting). Some people here have Level 2's and it seems to me that they sampled a few lessons of several languages and decided not to continue with any of them. They do not reset those languages they do not want in their profiles, so the languages' flags and number twos still show up in their posts. That makes some users seem more polylingual than they really are. I would be interested in an option for users to show and hide flags in their discussion posts.

        From my limited experience here, at around level 5 and up is when you can tell a person wants to learn a language beyond greetings and ordering food, and at around level 10 and up is when a person is serious about getting good at a language.

        Disclaimer: Kiswahili is the only language I have tried here so far, but I have learned 5 other languages off and on over my years. So I can definitely vouch for the utility of being polylingual (in fact, I teach at a bilinigual school so I am near native in my second language). I definitely want to try to improve my previously learned languages here in Duolingo once I get pretty good with Kiswahili, and thus add more flags to my forum posts. :-)

        [deactivated user]

          From my limited experience here, at around level 5 and up is when you can tell a person wants to learn a language beyond greetings and ordering food, and at around level 10 and up is when a person is serious about getting good at a language.


          Pay more attention to the level numbers than the total number of flags.


          I'd say don't pay attention to either, just do your own thing :-)

          [deactivated user]

            I didn't mean that in a judgemental way... should have written "the numbers next to the flags are more significant than the total number of flags".


            No worries, your reply sounded polite enough to me. :-)


            Honestly, it depends vastly on the language and how consistent a person is. I have level 5 and over in several languages where I claim absolutely zero competence!

            I don't even really put much weight on level numbers, since one of my highest (German) is a number that represents considerable effort but hardly any actual competence. I find German hard plus when I started, it was the only one here I had much interest in. I'm definitely more better at French (by miles!) and arguably with Ukrainian and Polish, despite what the numbers say!


            In general the level 5 and 10 guidelines are pretty much true. It does depend on the language, past experiences and how those people are getting the points. My Japanese, Korean and Swahili trees don’t look too worked on but I also alpha-tested those trees so I was exposed to the basics before the courses went into open beta (and in the case of Japanese, I could read Hiragana and I knew some basic phrases and words before they even had the course on Duolingo). In contrast, some people have gotten to level 25 without going beyond the first few lessons (this was especially common when we had immersion on the site before they discontinued it).

            I think a more general guideline is that 5-7 is the breakthrough stage (no more spoon-fed words), 10-12 is the “getting serious” stage (I’m not letting go of this), and people usually complete the tree between levels 14 and 18. Level 25 is basically mastery of the language basics (especially if you’re doing a reverse tree on top of your original tree). I can tell you now that generally sticking with a tree up to level 10 shows that you’re really working on it.


            I guess it depends what you mean by getting serious. I have L12 in Italian and French and L11 in Spanish, have finished trees in them all (two in French), and while I can speak French that represents not very much actual work (I did it from Russian for Russian practice and then did it from English because it was comparatively easy after doing it from Russian), but I don't have much interest in actually practicing it. And in both Italian and Spanish I did for fun/to get a broad overview of the language, but unless my circumstances change such that I have a reason to learn either of them, I have no plans to continue them further.

            I really think levels are not a great marker of seriousness or even of accomplishments in a given language; they're a marker of effort, nothing more nor less ¯|(ツ)


            Then there are those of us who speak languages that aren't represented on Duolingo at all...


            Yay! Tlfmf! :-D


            Didn't actually mention it, did I? X-) Nor Estonian, nota bene!

            Have a couple of lingots for old time's sake...


            I usually try them out and focus on one or two at a time. I'm never going to be fluent in, say, Czech, but I can finish the tree and learn enough words to use on holiday in the Czech Republic to look cool. My plan is to finish all the trees, but I'm only going to "go on" in a few languages.


            I have noted that many of the listed languages consist of only a few lessons, so maybe they are just trying them.


            i have a couple in mind but to me some of them give me a big FAT headache

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