Duolingo is the most popular way to learn languages in the world. Best of all, it's 100% free!

https://www.duolingo.com/SimoneBa

What's the problem with learning several languages at the same time?

SimoneBa
  • 15
  • 13
  • 10

I've noticed that this issue comes up on DL a lot, so I wrote a post on my own experience:

https://ladyofthecakes.wordpress.com/2015/07/26/is-learning-three-romance-languages-at-the-same-time-a-route-to-insanity/

3 years ago

21 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/Resonance2001

I have made a quick video a while ago about how to separate languages in your head but I'm going to do an update along with an explanation of how to learn languages in maybe a couple of weeks but I'm working on a Spanish tutorial first. Anyway, here it is http://youtu.be/p2eB13ma3FQ

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SimoneBa
SimoneBa
  • 15
  • 13
  • 10

Interesting, thanks! I definitely agree with varying your (re)sources as much as possible. Look forward to the update :)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/eloplop2
eloplop2
  • 14
  • 14
  • 13
  • 13
  • 11
  • 7
  • 6
  • 5

Really good! Muy buen vídeo :D

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/josephkt

I guess it's up to the indivisual person studying two or more languages when your not very advanced in one can be difficult mixing up wprds can happen

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SimoneBa
SimoneBa
  • 15
  • 13
  • 10

Yes, I think it's definitely a problem in the early stages. But once your foundations are a bit more solid, that knowledge works to your advantage. Careful timing is crucial, I think.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/superdaisy

Timing, language relatedness, and visual/environmental cues.

I did Swedish via Duolingo for a few months, after strengthening my Spanish from high school. My main mixup was that Duo looks the same in all languages, and so I didn't have the visual cue about what language I was learning! I had tested about a quarter of the way down the Spanish tree, so I hadn't seen the tippy top before. This meant that Swedish was okay at first, but when I reached familiar units, my brain got totally confused.

It helped to separate my trees: I did Swedish at the computer, and Spanish on my phone. I think the next time I try to learn a new language, I'll go a step further and practice the new language with Duo and practice Spanish with my myriad other resources. That better suits my abilities by now, anyway.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SimoneBa
SimoneBa
  • 15
  • 13
  • 10

Hmmm... intriguing thought... maybe DL will make an effort at some point and vary its design/colours etc in the different languages to help our brains keep them separate. I wonder if this hasn't already occurred to them and they've decided that it's just too fiddly?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/superdaisy

Changing the colors would help, but the sentence and image banks are also very similar. I don't fault Duo for being the same across the board--it's just something to keep in mind if you're starting out! If you can't or don't want to switch between smartdevice and desktop, there are other environmental cues you can change, like lighting, the position of your chair, and the kind of background music you're playing.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/brian_as_himself

Even in historical contexts, such as during the slavery period, its documented fact that if--say, the native inhabitants were having to learn Spains language, and Britians, they basically never learned either one 'right'. Worldwide, that situation is what creates creoles & other jumbled up versions of stuff, like Jamaican "English" (cool as it sounds though). And i love PR/Columbian spanish eventhough everybody looks down on it... But yeah. You'll basically f yourself REAL GOOD jajajajaja

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/brian_as_himself

...full disclosure: my post is sort of a hypocritcal though, i constantly learning language, and can offer small pleasantries in russian, french, ethiopian, gujrati, korean & none of those have ever mixed me up in spanish, so... dunno. perhaps one just needs either the mental apptitude or pure love of learning. (im sound designer mix engineer so i just love noises and can parrot anything, full accent, so its possible LITERALLY everything Ive said is worthless info) lololol

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SimoneBa
SimoneBa
  • 15
  • 13
  • 10

Even if they are "learned right", languages still develop differently in different locations, and that can happen quickly, in the space of three or four generations. Whenever I go back to Germany nowadays, I hear a bunch of words (mainly taken from English), that just weren't around when I still lived there 25 years ago.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/xaghtaersis
xaghtaersis
  • 25
  • 25
  • 25
  • 23
  • 22
  • 21
  • 20
  • 15
  • 15
  • 14
  • 14
  • 14
  • 13
  • 12
  • 11
  • 11
  • 11
  • 10
  • 10
  • 8
  • 7
  • 6
  • 6
  • 6
  • 2
  • 1402

The problem is time xD. You somehow gotta balance them all. I don't know how, but I somehow pull it off at the moment.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/toussaintlou
toussaintlou
  • 17
  • 13
  • 13
  • 12
  • 7
  • 6
  • 6

I created separate blogs that contain my notes for each, since I am currently working on French, Italian and German, pretty much at the same time. Alternating the one I work on the most, from week to week, helps. What also helps is when a blog reader gets excited about something, like taking a test, or working on a weakness, and their efforts motivate me to do the same. I like a lot of the other ideas I've seen from others answering this question, and will try to incorporate different colors, tools, etc. to help segregate the languages in my mind. My mix-ups usually happen with numbers, days of the week, and other too similar words in the romance languages. I can usually get over them with a mnemonic, like the French have a Queen, to remind me that French has "q's" and Italian has "c's" in numbers 4/5.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SimoneBa
SimoneBa
  • 15
  • 13
  • 10

Interesting strategy ;-)

I find numbers difficult in every language... I tend to not fixate on them too much, and find that after plenty of exposure, they seem to "come by themselves".

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/josephkt

I don't usually mix up languages that are not close but the latin languages I do with exception of French I don't know why maybe because it's so different sounding and more different than the others I never mix it up with Portuguese or Spanish,

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Lrtward
Lrtward
Mod
  • 25
  • 25
  • 8
  • 8
  • 718

Those “partitive carbuncles” sure are confusing at first. And yes, the intermediate stage. That is where I shall spend the rest of my life in Spanish. I have lofty aspirations of attaining mediocrity in French.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SimoneBa
SimoneBa
  • 15
  • 13
  • 10

The mere thought of having to actually say something in French to someone makes me break out in a rash. I know they tell you to "start speaking right from the beginning", but, frankly, I'd rather be eating my own toenails.

When you get to MF (Mediocre French), pls send me a postcard. I might just be able to get the gist.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ilmarien
Ilmarien
  • 25
  • 25
  • 25
  • 25
  • 20
  • 13
  • 12

Very nice post! (I'd been wondering for a while if you were English, German, or Spanish, haha.)

Love your description of PT-PT, btw. Did you have the same problems with English and Spanish during the intermediate stage? i.e., risk losing them entirely if you stop for a bit? I'm not past intermediate in anything yet, but my Portuguese is definitely very vulnerable to decay when I don't touch it for a month or so - moreso than my Spanish or French have ever been, I think. Not sure if it's because of the lack of formal study, poor foundations because I cheat a lot from Spanish, lack of resources, or just that I don't spend nearly enough time on it. I assume your foundations are way better than mine, what with the actual teacher and all, but yeah. Portuguese has just been a weird experience in general.

...and now I shall go look through your pictures of Portugal and Spain. :D

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SimoneBa
SimoneBa
  • 15
  • 13
  • 10

Thanks :) I was once taken for a Spanish native by a Guatemalan girl I'd been chatting to on the plane - I'm still proud of that, lol.

Once you're a very advanced speaker, the language sort of becomes part of your hard drive, it's no longer a module that's "bolted on", but an integral part of you and your mental processing. OK, your eloquence may degrade, temporarily, from lack of use, but you'll never not understand something that somebody says to you in that language. It's nearly impossible to get to that stage, though, without having lived for some time in a country where the language is spoken. I think a language is not something just to be studied, it has to be LIVED. ...not sure I'll get there with Portuguese and French, but who knows ;-)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Far_1
Far_1
  • 12
  • 11
  • 3

Nice post simone! I think initial confusion scares people off. It's funny because few people mention how learning similar languages makes it easier, shared words and sounds etc.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SimoneBa
SimoneBa
  • 15
  • 13
  • 10

Thanks! I think the similarities are more helpful than confusing, there's a definite positive trade-off. On the other hand, if you struggle with the subjunctive in one language, you'll also have a tough time in the other, so there's no escape from some of the trickier parts.

3 years ago