- Education and Science
How To Learn Multiple Languages
If you have ever wondered how to learn multiple languages, you have come to the right place. Learning more than one language at the same time is not as difficult as it sounds, or as difficult as some of the “experts” make it out to be.
Yes! It is definitely possible. It may take you a little longer to learn all the languages you are attempting to learn, but if you follow the advice of this article you should not experience any difficulties. If you are committed and eager to learn there is no reason whatsoever why you cannot learn multiple languages at the same time.
There are many reasons why someone would need or want to learn multiple languages.
My Story: Why I Am Learning Multiple Languages
At the beginning of this year our family (my husband, my 6 year old son and I) decided to undertake a wonderful challenge to learn to speak and read 6 new languages… all at the same time!
Seeing that my son is being homeschooled, this was a wonderful opportunity to expand his learning and at the same time it gave my husband and I something new to do. Seeing that we love to travel a lot, this was a wonderful idea, and being a polyglot (someone who speaks many languages) appealed to us.
In January the three of us began studying Greek, Italian, Mandarin, French, Spanish and Japanese.
Our system for doing this is as follows:
We study one language every night before dinner. The lessons are all half an hour long so we find the system quite manageable. We alternate between all six languages and we take a break over weekends and whenever we have had a hectic day.
The advantage of doing it this way is that you never get bored or get the feeling that you’ve had enough; it remains constantly fresh and exiting.
It has been a slow but steady process and the most wonderful part is watching my son blossom and chat in 6 different languages at any given time. Our house has become a global village with conversations taking place in 8 different languages (we obviously speak English and my husband and I are both fluent in Dutch).
Having done this for seven months now, I can honestly say that it is great fun and if you are so inclined, I would recommend it to everyone. It is easier than it seems, especially if you are not under pressure to learn and you have the right learning material.
We use the Pimsleurs language course and I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn the basics of a language. I don’t think you’ll read Tolstoy in Russian with Pimsleurs, but you will find your way around Russia when you get there and maybe even impress a local enough to be invited to their home for dinner.
Defining Your Language Goals
There are many reasons why you would want to learn more than one language and this will dictate the approach that you will take. If, for example, you need to speak multiple languages for business purposes, then your approach will differ from that of someone who likes to travel and likes to interact with the locals.
The amount of time that you have available to learn will also impact your approach.
Another consideration is the actual languages you are planning to study. How many will you be learning simultaneously and how difficult or similar to each other are they? For example, if you are learning Spanish and Italian you will have an easy time of it as they are very similar to each other, however if you are a native English speaker and you want to learn Mandarin and Greek, it will be more difficult to get your tongue around the new sounds and tones of each language. Reading the language also poses a problem as Greek has a different alphabet and the Chinese use characters.
For these reasons it is important to tailor your approach accordingly.
Your goals will also change when you are learning more than one language. It will take longer to learn multiple languages and very often we are not patient with ourselves. Starting off with false expectations will sabotage your learning and stunt your progress in those languages, forever.
Getting started after you’ve stopped is virtually impossible; so set an easy but regular pace. This, above all else, is the key to success.
Accommodating Your Personal Circumstances
This is one of the most important factors when it comes to learning more than one language.
Naturally, all our circumstances are different. We have different routines, timetables and reasons why we are learning more than one language simultaneously.
Learning Multiple Languages For Travel
One of the top reasons why you would be interested in learning multiple languages is for travel. Anyone who has ever travelled to a foreign country can vouch for the usefulness of being able to converse with the locals in their native tongue.
Personally, I have travelled to some wonderful yet very remote countries around the world and being able to chat (albeit rather sparsely) with the locals has not only spiced up my travels but also helped me out of a tight spot more than once.
If travel is your main motivating factor, then you will not have problems learning more than one language at the same time as all you’ll really need is the basics of each. Knowing how to greet people and ask your way around, order some food and find your hotel or the beach is basically all you’ll really need to know in each of your chosen languages.
Learning Multiple Languages For Business
Nothing commands respect more than a business person who can converse (even a little) with business people from other countries in their native tongue.
If you want to learn multiple languages for business purposes you will be required to learn more than just hello and goodbye. Learning the correct etiquette of each country will also be to your advantage.
Choosing The Best Language Course For Your Needs
One of the key factors in learning multiple languages is your learning material and the methods that you have available. Different language courses vary in their effectiveness and can either have you eagerly wanting more or they can make you feel like you’re trudging mud and never getting past the first lesson.
Of all the language courses I have found, Pimsleurs is the best and anyone who uses it will be spoilt for all other methods.
Again, being clear about the reasons why you want to learn multiple languages will determine your approach. For example, will you need to also read the language, how will you most likely experience the language? Will it be over dinner, in business meetings requiring that you know complex business terms or do you only want to impress your hosts or the guys at the Italian restaurant?
Each reason is equally valid, but your approach to learning would differ, as would your learning material.
Make sure you do your research beforehand and find the best learning material suited to your personal needs and circumstances.
A Useful Book
Learning more than one language at the same time is certainly a challenge. However, it is also a lot of fun and can score you some serious bragging rights.
The proof, as always, is in the pudding and watching my son chat to the ladies down at the Chinese restaurant in Mandarin makes me burst with pride.
The key to success when learning multiple languages lies in consistency. Be consistent with your efforts and the MOST important part of all is activation. Make sure that you practice speaking with native speakers of your chosen languages as often as possible.
You now not only know how to learn multiple languages but that it is also definitely possible. It is not the quickest way to learn languages (vs intensive study of a single language) but you will certainly meet interesting people and do interesting things along your way… AND you will certainly have earned yourself those bragging rights.
Good Luck! Bonne chance! ¡Buena suerte! Buona fortuna! Kαλή τύχη!