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Learning Multiple Languages at a Time

Do you think it's too confusing to learn multiple languages concurrently or should you master one before starting another?

July 14, 2013



It depends on the person. I will tell you my humble opinion, and tell how it works for me. For me, it is better to deal with multiple languages. For example, I'm learning three languages (Portuguese, Polish, German), and I'm doing well. If I have concentrated on only one language, of course I would progress faster on that language; however, concurrently learning multiple languages makes more improvement on your language knowledge in total, even if it may yield less for each language. Ah, let me explain you with an example: if I learn one language, I will proceed "6 steps" in that language everyday. Not bad. But if I learn two languages, I will move on "4 steps" everyday for each, so "8 steps" daily in total. And even more, if I learn three, I would get further "3 steps" for each, so makes "9 steps" in total. 9 > 8 > 6 . Therefore, the more languages I learn, the more total utility I get. This is my formula, and works well for me. It can be different for other people, of course.

I run an experiment myself. I found out that, I can learn and memorize an average maximum of 20 new words per day if I study just one language. On the other hand, when I learn words from two, three or four different languages, then this number can reach 35, or even 40 words in total, per day.

Also, this is not so relevant to the topic, but just I want to tell because some people have already talked about it: I believe knowing a similar language makes easier to learn the other. For instance, speaking Spanish is a significant advantage for learning Portuguese. Yes, it can be confusing sometimes (Ex: I used to write “é” (the equivalent of Spanish “es” in Portuguese) while I was doing timed practice in Spanish), but after few mistakes, you get to know your mistakes and you don't do it again. And if you know the pattern, you can easily make a Portuguese word by its Spanish equivalent without knowing the Portuguese one, and it'll mostly be correct.

Or, if a person learnt Polish and knows well the seven cases of Polish, then, when that person starts learning German, the four cases of German will be “as easy as pie” for that person, meanwhile many people are struggling and whining about those cases.

Lastly, the more you learn languages, the more your capacity of learning languages increases and the more your brain distinguishes them, consequently you commit less clashes and confusions between languages.

So every person has his/her own efficient way of learning languages. Some people can learn one language in a short time, some can learn many languages at the same time. So just find the best way for you, and learn =)


we should translate this in the five languages for duolingo! amazing reply. just what i wanted to know. thanks! :D


Thanks alot for your comment. I am learning Spanish, also I was doubtful about starting German and French. now I gonna do that


hah, i am czech and german cases are still mess for me :( But good reply, this was what i was looking for <3


i was thinking that if i learn too many languages, then i could forget alot of details, i i was trying to minimize my courses. before i knew this though, i had no insights on the languages i wanted to learn and i had to minimize some


I wouldn't start as a complete beginner at two similar languages at once. If I want to start with two languages at once I would rather do something like German and Chinese rather than German and Dutch. If you are already intermediate in German I don't see any reason not to start with Dutch though. Personally I already have some previous knowledge in German so I started it not as a complete beginner and I'm learning it through Spanish. At the same time I'm doing some maintenance on my Spanish grammar and some of the more advanced vocab in Thai. While doing all that, my main focus is learning Chinese. I rarely ever confuse anything between the languages. I would probably have confused some Thai and Chinese though if I was a complete beginner in both.


As long as you have the time to dedicate to each language every day (so you meet the "100 coin" daily requirement for each language, for example), I don't see it being too confusing. I'm currently learning Spanish and Italian on Duolingo; however, I am fairly proficient in Spanish (I am currently taking my 5th year of Spanish in school). It is definitely a lot easier for me to see the connections between Spanish and Italian because the Spanish vocabulary comes to me easily. Portuguese and Spanish even more so.

Like others have said, choosing two similar languages will really help. Spanish and Italian have some similar vocabulary (as I've encountered so far), so working on those two languages concurrently will strengthen your knowledge of vocabulary.

I am so interested in languages thanks to Duolingo that I want to study etymology in my spare time. It's fascinating. If you find later on that you feel the same way, why not pick up a third language?

Best of luck :)


Potentially, especially when the languages all derive from each other. You may end up mixing up words from Spanish, French, and Italian. Even worse is the possible grammatical confusion that may arise.


I learned French in school many years ago and started to learn Spanish later in life. I found it confusing learning Spanish already knowing French and would often times confuse words. I'm revisiting Spanish now but really want to learn Italian and I'm just a little impatient when I want to do something. I think you're right and should wait until I've finished with Spanish so that I don't get too confused.


I'm definitely afraid of this. I'm brushing up on my French (honestly I learned more in a week of Duolingo than 2 years of the language in Jr High), and I think I'll buffer myself from my next Romance language (Italian? Spanish?) by using German as an intermediary. I wish there were more diverse languages though... even if generally restricted to the roman alphabet.


'Master' is such a high bar. I say go for it, especially if you are learning more than one romance language at a time. Better I think to have a working knowledge of three languages, than mastery of one. How many words and verb forms does one use on an everyday basis, anyway?

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