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Linguaholic

Studying only 1 language at a time, or multiple one?


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My question is for all those of you who want to know more than just 2 languages(which on this forum I assume are a lot of us). How do you study? Do you learn 1 language to a point of fluency and only then tackle another, or do you study few at a time?

And if you are doing the second one, what advice do you have for people trying to do that?

I am trying to study 2 languages at the same time now(Spanish and Serbian, so they are as different as it gets) and I am wondering if this isn't slowing my progress. I don't know if I shouldn't give up one until I'm fluent in the other. But at the same time I am at a perfect opportunity for learning both and I think I should take it. What do you guys do?

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I can only handle one at a time - though, admittedly, I've never actually tried learning two at a time.

It's just that I'd rather fully devote my time to learning one well, than spread out my energy and resources with multiple languages. I'd probably end up confusing the two languages at some point as well, haha.

It's impressive that you're attempting two, though, so best of luck to you!

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I think that if you are doing it intensively and on your own, one language is more than enough, but if we are in a school we can perfectly take three or four languages at the same time because we have other sort of support.

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I can only handle one at a time - though, admittedly, I've never actually tried learning two at a time.

It's just that I'd rather fully devote my time to learning one well, than spread out my energy and resources with multiple languages. I'd probably end up confusing the two languages at some point as well, haha.

It's impressive that you're attempting two, though, so best of luck to you!

Actually, learning two languages at once isn't more complicated than reading two books at the same time. People who have not tried it before will say that you're probably going to confuse everything, but it's really not a problem that most people will run into in practise.

Unless you're trying to learn Swiss german and "normal" german at the same time, or something like that, I don't think you'd risk confusing things. Chinease and Japanese at the same time might be confusing due to the chinease characters and everything... But everything is doable, and I haven't tried learning two very closely related languages myself, so I shouldn't say anything about that really...

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Well, as Lasonax pointed out, I also do believe that studying two languages at the same time is definitely possible and shouldn't cause too much confusion. However, when studying two languages (dialects) that are strongly related to each other, some confusion might occur. For instance, I am now studying Chinese and Cantonese at the same time and I have to admit that sometimes this does indeed cause some confusion. In writing, Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese are almost identical. However, the pronunciation of characters is completely different. Moreover, in Mandarin Chinese you have 4 different tones and in Cantonese you have 6-9 different tones. 6 to 9 tones? Yes. Well, in teaching materials you will learn that Cantonese has 6 tones. However, in reality, Cantonese has up to nine tones, but just 6 'official' tones are documented in most of the textbooks. So, when reading Chinese characters, depending on whether you are studying Cantonese or Mandarin Chinese, you will always have to think about the right syllable and also about the right tone of the syllable. This can be really tricky sometimes.

If you are studying Japanese and Chinese at the same time, there are also some aspects that might cause some confusion. For instance, the stroke order for THE SAME CHARACTERS in Japanese and Chinese is not always the same. Example: The character for king, namely 王, is written differently (different stroke order) in Chinese and Japanese. So, if you are learning both of these languages at the same time, it will be hard to  differentiate "the stroke order rules" for both of these languages. However, we have quite a lot of students at university that are studying Sinology & Japanese Studies at the same time and they do pretty well. It is therefore maybe not easy, but definitely possible. An interesting fact about Japanese and Chinese is: They are NOT genealogically related to each other (at all). It is just that the Japanese decided in early times to use chinese characters for their writing...and Japanese was for a very long time written SOLELY in Chinese characters (however the sound/pronunciation of the characters was different). Later on, as many of you probably already know, the Japanese complemented their (well, the chinese writing script) with their own scripts, namely with Hiragana and Katakana.

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I think that to be really fluent in learning a language, you have to just concentrate on learning just 1 language at a time. But if you're not really concerned with being fluent and you only want to learn general words and sentences just to help you get by when you're in another country, then I think it's ok to learn multiple languages at the same time.

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I can only intensively learn one language at a time. However it is possible to brush up on different languages especially when you're required to use it, such as in classical singing, for instance. Musicians involved in choral singing, operas, and other vocal art forms are required to at least understand the language they are using in songs as well as pronounce the words perfectly as required by the language.

In the conversational level, most of us non-English individuals can handle two comfortably and use interchangeably during casual conversationa: our native language and a secondary one (usually English).

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I have both experienced learning multiple languages at once and also learning 1 language at a time.

I found that learning 1 at a time helped me more to focus on what I was learning and it gave me more time to concentrate on the writing, speaking, and also reading. There was no interruption which was very good and made the process went faster for me to master the language I was learning.

But if you are good in handling to learn multiple at once then I see no problem to go for it, it's just that the process will probably be slower.

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I agree that it's optimal to learn one language at once because in that way we just don't mix things and we get to organize that language correctly inside our head. Having this said, we all know that it's common practice in mandatory school to learn several languages at the same time.

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I think it is best to learn only one language at a time, learning two sounds confusing. Especially if the languages are similar, maybe learn the second when you have learnt a decent amount of the other one, not necessarily fluent, but if you learn a second language too early would it not make it even harder.

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Whatever works for you.

Personally speaking, I can't study multiple languages simultaneously. It was easier for me to do that when I was a kid, but now I just can't.

I need to focus and learn only one language at a time. I've tried to learn French and Italian at the same time, but the languages were too similar, so I started mixing things and confusing the languages. Plus, it was a really slow process because I had to divide my free time for two languages, instead of using it to learn one.

Of course everyone is different, so you can try whichever method works for you.

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Learning more than one language does depend on the need for the languages and the individuals ability to cope. Also, students may have to take more than one language which they have no control over but if there is no urgency to master the language then I would recommend doing it one at a time.

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I can't imagine taking on learning more than one language at a time. Would it be easier to learn two languages that are similar with each other like French and Italian at the same time or would it be confusing? Should you learn two completely different languages then? Now I'm curious about this topic. If it were in a formal learning setting, then it's definitely feasible but average self-learning people like me probably should stick and focus on one at a time.

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Actually, learning two languages at once isn't more complicated than reading two books at the same time. People who have not tried it before will say that you're probably going to confuse everything, but it's really not a problem that most people will run into in practise.

Unless you're trying to learn Swiss german and "normal" german at the same time, or something like that, I don't think you'd risk confusing things. Chinease and Japanese at the same time might be confusing due to the chinease characters and everything... But everything is doable, and I haven't tried learning two very closely related languages myself, so I shouldn't say anything about that really...

That's interesting. I hadn't considered that, thanks.

I suppose it might just be more of a personal problem for myself, then, as opposed to a universal difficulty for everyone.

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Studying 2 languages at a time doesn't make the language harder, but it could confuse you. Especially if you are taking individual classes, there are times when you speak the wrong language in class.

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I'm more inclined to study a single language first, because I'm afraid I'm not that keen into being able to focus on two things at once. As much as this is a bit easy when it comes to multitasking with school works and other duties, language-learning is a completely different matter.

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It is always best to study one language at a time because you will be able to focus on that. It's hard to multitask. Until of course you can, then do so.

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Studying two languages at a time should be ok, but I think anything more than that is not effective anymore.  Also, if you are to study two languages at the same time, you must make sure that they are not very similar as you may end up getting so confused if they are.  You may end up interchanging the rules and the words just because you are having difficulty distinguishing between the two.

It may be a good idea, for example, to study 1 Western language and 1 Oriental language at the same time.

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I become more fluent if I study one language at a time. It's hard for me to concentrate if they are all at once in my head. I can't multitask my mind like that I guess.

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