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How Do You Balance Learning Two Languages?

Learning two languages at the same time can be quite a difficult task.

How do you balance learning two different languages? What are some methods that you use?

Share your processes and thoughts here!

June 22, 2013



I would only focus on one to be honest. Originally I was planning on learning Italain and working on Spanish but then changed my mind because I didn't want to mix words around between the two languages.


That is what I am thinking also. I want to learn French and German at the same time, but remembering the grammar alone for both languages would be tough.


Yup, but even as I'm going through Italian I remember some Spanish lessons from school. So in a way, I am refreshing and learning at the same time; although I don't think French and German are similar. But it seems that German and English are pretty similar.


At the stage you are at now I'd concentrate on getting as much practice as possible by doing the exercises on Duolingo and getting up to say level 14 for both languages.The glory (or one of the many glories) of Duolingo is that you can do this at your own pace .However I find that as far as studying languages is concerned the more you do the better you get and the better you get the quicker you pick new concepts up. Remember as well as progressing in French and German you're also absorbing an understanding of a grammatical framework which is common across all languages and will be very useful should you decide to embark on further languages. Once you've reached level 14 you can start exploring the areas you enjoy in your own life ,maybe soccer or other sport or music ,cinema ,politics ,history.Applying your own interests will enhance your command of your languages greatly. Good Luck


I don't really see learning two languages as harder than learning one, except that of course you only have half as much time to devote to each so progress will be slower.

One idea I have toyed with is constructing vocabulary lists between two foreign languages -- for example a German/French list in your case. This might be a good way to avoid the danger of understanding a language "through" English, where you hear (for example) "Kartoffel", then you think "ah yes, Kartoffel = potato", and only then do you get the mental image of a potato. If I instead learned "Kartoffel = pomme de terre", I think it would be easier to get the mental association without always going via English -- and you get to learn two languages simultaneously! The down side is of course that both building the list and learning it take more time.


I learnt French and German at school. I think as they are quite different it is easier than learning say Portugese and Spanish. I think you want to practice say translating French into German rather than using English as an intermediary at all times. (I agree with the last poster). I remember having to do German to French translations many years ago. It really makes you think about the language and not just learn sentences by heart.


I started out learning French, as it was my second foreign language at school, and I retained quite a bit of grammar/basics. But recently, I picked up Spanish from zero level, just for fun.

So far, I try designate certain days for "extra" effort in a specific language - learning new concepts, extra practice, but on the same day I always try to at least hit "practice all" a couple of times for the other language.

Interesting thing is, I actually find it EASIER to learn/retain/make sense of vocabulary and grammar in Spanish, the languages being from the same Romance group. Maybe I just haven't hit the ceiling with it yet. Overall, of course, the going is slower. Still, I think it helps me not to fast-forward through lessons in both languages, and put more "space" in "spaced repetition", so I like that and plan to go on with this structure.

Full disclosure: English is my first foreign language, not the native one.

ETA: I wrote this as a kind of mild rebuttal to people here speculating that one shouldn't study languages that are too similar at the same time. It's certainly possible, if not easier altogether.


That's what's great about learning more than just one foreign language: it's so much easier to learn the next ones. With the language(s) you've previously learned, you can have more cognate words to look for which help with memorization.


Apparently, this phenomenon -- "the first one is the hardest" -- can be exploited by learning Esperanto (which is easy!) first: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaedeutic_value_of_Esperanto . "... studying Esperanto for one year and then, say, French for three results in greater proficiency in French than studying French for four years." Remarkable! Unfortunately this only applies if you start off monolingual.


I've found this to be true. It would bring tears of joy to my eyes if they added this language into Duolingo! I'd be very happy!


I get the feeling that Esperantists are a pretty pro-active bunch, so I suspect that when Duolingo release the build-your-own-course tools, someone will start putting together an Esperanto course fairly swiftly...


They're releasing a build your own course tool? Awesome!


For me, I'm learning Spanish and Japanese at the same time. Since they are two completely different languages, It's not too much difficult.. :P

ziggKong: German and English are indeed pretty similar because they belong to the same language familly classification (Germanic Languages.) Same thing for Spanish, Portugese, Italian and French (to name a few) who belong to the Romance Languages (or Italic Languages).

That's why I think you shouldn't try to learn two languages that belongs to the same family, though I think learning French and German (for example) could be feasible. ;)


I studied Korean and Japanese for a few months. It was definitely difficult, especially since I switched between them multiple times a week, but it's gotten easier. With practice, it can be done. My best advice is to set certain days to studying each language. That way, your brain has a better idea of how to switch. Also, it will either help or hinder you to learn the same words/phrases at the same time. My problem is, I know more Japanese vocab... and more Korean sentence structure... I'm working on it. Good luck, whatever you decide!


I was initially only interested in concentrating on French. But now am keen on doing Spanish and German at the same time. Maybe I'll limit myself to just French+German, as they are more different. I'm just doing the basic lessons in German very slowly and practicing them a lot. French I'm trying to progress though and complete. So you could say I'm making French my job, and German my hobby for spare time. Not sure if this tactic will work or not, will have to wait and see! I might just focus on French if my spare time is limited.


I'm know spanish and english and a I try to learn french and german in the same time, it's not difficult you only need concentration and practice.


Everything is about our mindset for human there is no limit for learning and there is no timing too just enjoy that you are going to speak in those languages you want ....our brain has the capacity to do everything that you want


I interested in German and French. I'm enjoying working with both, but I'm taking them both VERY SLOWLY. I want to achieve fluency but I want to make sure I am understanding and retaining the language. One task I've done outside of Duolingo is create Word documents with different topics with words and phrases in a 3 column table with English (my primary ) first, then German, then French. I'm working first with basic conversational phrases, and taking it one facet at a time. What I really want to do is practice with a native speaker, but finding someone is difficult.


Can I learn french and German at the same time or French and portuguese at the same time?


I'm learning both Japanese and German at the same time. Had some experience with Japanese before so that makes it easier for me.


I've never tried learning two languages at the same time with the same alphabet (sort of). I'm currently learning two different languages at the same time, Japanese and French, and since Japanese mostly doesn't use the English alphabet, it's a lot easier to differ between the two. However, I'm just starting out, so maybe it gets complicated later on?

Is anyone else learning Japanese and French at the same time?


I'm thinking of learning two as well. I've heard it's better to learn two very different languages (not two romance languages for example) so that you don't get confused with the similarity. I wish you good luck! Japanese is very fun btw. Let me know how it works out learning two will you?


I started learning French in elementary school and am currently a high schooler learning French and recently Japanese. I tried German, Spanish, and Italian but they were too similar to languages I already know— English and French phonetics are programmed into my soul. Compartmentalization and getting the basics down perfectly in one before moving on to another really helps. I can now learn more romance languages because French is more stuck in my brain, but Im busy with Japanese. Go slow— language learning is no race.

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