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https://www.duolingo.com/louisa_smith03

Is it best to learn many languages at once or focus on one at a time?

for awhile I was spending 15 minutes or so everyday learning 5 different languages. But then I decide to just focus on one new language. Is there any research that indicates which techinque is best? Thanks!

3 years ago

28 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/razorfangius
razorfangius
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If you learn one language very well every two years, in ten years you will know five languages very well. If you stop along the way, you will at least be good at 1,2,3 foreign languages.

If you learn five languages at the same time you may succeed but may also burn out before you are good at any of them.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/KansasBurri

I love the quote that says "multitasking is doing two things at once half as quickly and with half the quality." Thats why I'm only doing German on DL for right now. Maybe once I advance more I'll try another but I tried doing just Basics 1 in Dutch and it threw a lot of things off when I went back to german (kept typing een instead of ein).

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/TatianaBoshenka

I think one at a time, at least for a few months, so you don't get them mixed up too much in your head.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Jo36

You should start with focusing on one. If you feel comfortable doing multiple languages later on, then you may want to do so.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/CoyotesChild

I'm focusing on just one until I get a solid grasp (can at least keep up, if even haltingly, in a basic conversation without more than a mistake or two) before I try to take on a second one. That's usually the best way to go or it can screw you up.

I would also suggest starting ones with grammar structures that are as close to that of your own native language if you can, because that should make things a little easier. (Of course, having English as my native language and considering how massively situational grammar structure can be in that one... I'm resorting to working on starting Spanish first because it's the one I'll get the most exposure to and can even tune into Spanish stations on my TV for comprehension exercise. After that, I want to start working on Hindi. Especially if I can get enough people to support duoLingo setting up a program for it.)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/louis.vang
louis.vang
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This question is no asked for the first time.. When you are new to all the languages you learn better one language. Now i'm in level 13/14 for English/French. and German with my native language Dutch. Afer a year by DL, and studying most of the time one language, now i'm studying them all together. But i had a good basic (and more than a basic) of all these languages. If all the languages are new, you can beter learn one language.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/louisa_smith03

thanks for the responses-- I like the idea of sticking with Spanish until I can carry on a basic conversation without too many mistakes in Spanish. Still not there yet! Maybe by the time I get to double digits . . .

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/vcel10
vcel10
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Keep it simple, learn one language at a time.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JazzBlues
JazzBlues
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Some people use their second language to learn a third, thereby practicing one while learning another. This was especially true for those whose first language was not English but they could only learn their new language from English.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/erwintimmerman

Yes, using English to learn Spanish here. Although I must say that the English that is safest to answer in DL, is not always the best English. I often want to give a different answer but go with an inferior more literal one, which is always correct in DL.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/freymuth
freymuth
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tl:dr I found it helpful to learn two (relatively) unrelated languages at the same time.

I moved to Germany when I was young, and I had to learn Latin in German, which was my first experience learning a second language (except a few swear words and songs in various languages). Basically, I was learning German grammar and vocabulary and Latin grammar and vocabulary at the same time, because my text books were all in German, and my Latin teacher's English was quite limited. The upshot was that I graduated high school with a significantly better grasp of Latin than most of my classmates, nearly all of whom had taken Latin for two years longer than I had. Also, my German is better than both of my brothers' German.

That said, I don't know whether there's any scientific research done on the subject. However, there is at least one person who benefited significantly from studying two separate languages while two others did not see the same benefits from studying one language.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/klabear10

I think it's best to focus on one language if it is your first. Learning one foreign language well gives you the tools to learn subsequent languages much quicker. Quality is much more important than quantity anyways. Especially among the romance languages you can see many similarities in vocabulary and grammar. For one thing, this can make it easier to learn say Italian or French after learning Spanish, but learning them all at the same time may cause you to jumble the words and make you more frustrated. Solidify your core vocabulary before you try to expand it.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ChristianofPeace

I would think learning one at a time would be much better.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/DaleT8

I have my hands full with just one!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Mussi0
Mussi0
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i would say one at atime you cant process so many things at once

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Mussi0
Mussi0
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what use is knowing a fraction of numerous languages? better to be strong in one language and then move on to another.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Eric-Wubbo

As you asked for research, the only research that I would immediately know of is Dunlosky et al.'s "Improving Students’ Learning With Effective Learning Techniques: Promising Directions From Cognitive and Educational Psychology" (http://www.indiana.edu/~pcl/rgoldsto/courses/dunloskyimprovinglearning.pdf )

In short, learning multiple languages at the same time would be considered by this paper to be 'interleaved learning', which decreases (apparent) initial learning speed but improves retention, so is overall recommended (though with some caveats, as is customary in educational science).

Would I personally recommend learning languages at the same time? Well, I'm learning Spanish and Chinese at the same time, so I should not be a hypocrite. Note that I am learning Spanish more for fun than to really master the language.. (And Chinese essentially as an experience bar for some projects that are really long and frustrating at times, like completing a manuscript I'm working on and looking for a job) If I wanted to master multiple languages and were willing or able to devote serious effort to it, I'd do something I call 'tadpole learning' (big head, thin tail). First try to free a few weeks (1 or 2 or 3 or more, depending on whether you can get a vacation that long and the language difficulty) to learn the language as intensively as one can (about 4 hours per day max, though other hours can be spent on more 'relaxed' learning that does not require conscious direction of attention. After that, reduce the daily time investment slowly to one hour, half an hour and perhaps (depending on the language's memorability) 15 minutes a day. This is the 'long tail', and should last for years if not for the rest of your life. After the first tadpole head, you can repeat the process for another language of your choice.

The rationale for this method is that the more you know about a language (or anything, like economics), the more slowly you forget, especially the first few hundred words are easily forgotten (forgetting curves are steep). So you may for example on average need to rehearse the first 100 words (say word 1-100) already after 15 minutes, otherwise they fade from memory. It's like going to fitness once a year - that won't really improve your physical condition. If you learn slowly at first, you spend most of your time re-learning something that is 'forgotten enough' instead of (barely) remembered, which makes new connections in memory instead of strenghtening existing connections, and is therefore quite inefficient. So ideally, learn fast at first, for word (say) 1500-1600 your forgetting curve will be less steep than in the beginning, say that you remember a word for a day then on average after the first exposure, so slowing down learning is not that disadvantageous at that phase, as you spend relatively little time 're-learning', even if you learn more slowly.

So in short, my recommendation would be that if you are an absolute beginner in a language, you should focus most of your effort on it, but if you are an intermediate learning it does not hurt (and may even help!) to learn several languages at the same time. You may also like to read the book "The Education of Karl Witte" in that regard, about a boy of average ability who mastered about 6 languages to a fairly high level, being ttained by his father in an essentially 'tadpole-like' way...

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Don_Cristian
Don_Cristian
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I study 10

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Mussi0
Mussi0
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how do you keep track of them all?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Don_Cristian
Don_Cristian
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My first foreign language I have learned for 18 years, 2nd language 17 years, 3th language 15 years, 4th language 12 years, 5th and 6th language 7 years and 7th language 2 years. And 2 months ago I started 3 new languages from zero.

It's not that difficult to keep track of them since I only improve 7 foreign languages that I already know and then learn 3 new ones simultaneously.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/XxStarsBrightxX

One .-.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/kplife
kplife
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I say as long as you are having fun, the more the better. :-) And it depends on your goals. I'm using Duolingo to test drive multiple languages to see which ones I want to pursue further.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/TimmyTurner93

I'm learning 2 languages at once but I've differentiated in the speeds at which I progress. With Portuguese (which I have been on and off for about a year) I already have a foundation so I am studying intensively in order to meet a self-set goal. On the other hand with Japanese I am learning gradually, only introducing new things when I am comfortable with what I have previously learnt. Long story short it depends on your needs and how you perceive your multitasking ability to be like.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/annNormal

I started to learn one language, and when I could already talk in that language, I started to learn the other one. I didn't stop chatting with someone in the first language, and already tried speaking to people in the second one. Most of the time I succeeded, but... yep, it was fun when I mixed up one with another. Onda... ups, sorry, then, decidio, sorry again, I decided not to learn any languages at once. However, if you need to learn both quickly, it would be right to study both at once.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/samwam5

focus on one for a while then when you've mostly got it down than u could start another one. if u do a lot at once its easy to get confused (not research just my experience and opinion)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/dezignator

In my view, it will depend upon you, your talents, your brain powers, whether you can handle them or not. Our mind is flexible, it rewires as you try to learn new things. You can train it to remember a lot of things. And this progress is gradual not a sudden. its like juggling with balls, you can do it but after a lot of practice.

I will also try to learn few languages together. I am learning Spanish. Google told me that Portuguese is somewhat similar to it so I will try it too.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/johnbhoy77

Stick to one till your good enough to communicate WELL in it then move on to another language (I know 3 languages Spanish Italian & polish (I learned them all independently!!)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/DorisDC
DorisDC
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I am currently working on just Spanish but if I wanted to I could go and learn French as well. Why? Because I took Spanish in college and French in middle and high school so I have a base knowledge for it. You can take more than one language on here but if like but if you have been exposed to it and they seem to be in the same language family. While taking Spanish in college I excelled because of the other language. So base knowledge- yes. If you are new right out the gate- no. Do one at a time for a year or two and then get into the next language so you can master the other one better. Buena suerte!

3 years ago