Advice on learning two languages?

So I know this topic has probably been done to death but I kind of do feel like each circumstance pertaining to learning two languages at the same time has it’s own uniqueness otherwise I wouldn’t ask for advice since I have looked around the forum at similar questions and watched Steve’s video on learning two language at once.

First off I would like to mention, personally I feel a bit opposed to learning two languages at once generally speaking. Especially if both languages are at the beginning stages. While I do wish to learn multiple languages, I have always had the mentality that I’d rather master 5 languages than be just okay in 10, that’s just me though, I’m sure there’s plenty who would prefer the latter or a compromise of sorts.

So I’ve been learning German for just about 11 months now, I would say I’m at a B1 level. I’ve been speaking relatively often for the past 6 months or so and I’d consider myself conversational in the language. While I do still struggle a bit with grammar, and can be in those moments where I’m at a loss of words I would say the majority of the time I’m relatively fluid and can express myself one way or another.

Lately though I’ve been flirting with the idea of learning french. I really just love the way the language sounds, enjoy french music, and am interested in learning more about the people and the culture. I wouldn’t say my interest in french is due to a disinterest in learning more German. No matter what I will keep learning German and still thoroughly enjoy it, I just think it might be nice to have a little side project. Something that I’m not really devoting a lot of time to, but something to do that I enjoy that could be the baby steps to something I could end up becoming my main project when my German is at a higher level. I guess my concerns are that it could cause me to slack in my German studies, it could disrupt the learning process for instance by mixing words in my head, since German does have french influences. I think as of now the biggest advantage for me is I just think it would be fun, and it could prove useful in Europe when I live there since it’s something like the 3rd most spoken language. I don’t have any plans of moving to France, I will be moving to Germany in about a year but I feel pretty confident in my German skills and believe in the next year I should attain a solid B2.

So I guess my questions to those to whom may have insight and experience for my situation is: Will taking on a new language (as a side project/30min a day if that) affect the main language I’m working on that is already intermediate?
Should I just focus taking my German to fluency and then start on a new one? It should also be noted that I’m at a point now in my life where I do have a fair amount of free time(which I’m sure won’t last), but as far as balancing time to make it all work isn’t a huge concern as of now.

I asked a similar question a while back. I’ve been learning Korean for almost a year and am somewhere between B1-B2, and I was wondering when it would be ok to start a new language (Spanish) without seriously jeopardizing my gains in Korean. There were several comments but think the two best pieces of advice I received were:

  1. The more differences there are between the two languages, the less likely you are to confuse them in your brain. So, Korean and Spanish would be very different. French and German are less different, but still it’s better than learning two Romance languages at the same time.

  2. To maintain a language at the B1-B2 level takes about 30 minutes a day (this was one person’s estimate; not sure if that is accurate but sounds about right). So, if you don’t have that time, you will lose your first L2. However, since you’re moving to Germany soon, I doubt that will be a big problem for you.

Here is that discussion if you want to read the whole thing: When Should I Begin Another Language? - Language Forum @ ...

Thanks for the comment, there’s a lot of good advice on that post. I think it may be better for me to stay with just German for a little while until I’m about a B2 so I have a strong core in the language and then I can work a bit on French. I’m sure also it will be easier to learn French in Germany as opposed to where I live.

I hit the language intensely to start off and that requires time. I couldn’t do that for two languages. Now my german is strong I use it in everyday life, so really it doesn’t take any of my time anymore, and I can start another language.

Why not play around with the other language? 5 min here and there. I did that with russian, while focus on Finnish. I think “playing around” or exploring a language, is a really good way, of actually learning a language. It´s like preparing the ground, before building the house. Why not just learn to read some, without any goals or anything. It will be a lot easier to learn the language later, if you created some “memory-hooks” already now.

Another thing you can do is learn L3 through L2. I’m not sure this would work at B1 but I don’t see why you couldn’t start doing this at B2. Find interesting parallel texts in french-german, use french-german flash cards etc. I am forced to do this with my Kichwa as there are next to no English language resources, but I am finding it quite a good way of maintaining one language whilst learning another.

I recently started to learn Russian (beginner 1) and the course contents can get a little dreary.
So I decided to also brush up on my French (advanced 2) - as there are very interesting lessons with stories about history, literature etc., which is quite fun and breaks the monotony of the Russian beginner lessons.

I can’t wait to advance in my Russian skills so I can discover the more interesting lessons with cool subjects!

A few years ago I attempted something similar, learning beginner Spanish with advanced French whilst walking the Camino de Santiago in France.

The similarities of both languages can be a great advantage as you will recognise a lot of words, but they also can confuse you a little bit.
Michel Thomas actually uses these similarities in his courses to make you learn faster. For example all the nouns ending on -tion in the English language are pretty much the same in all latin languages, like French, Spanish and Italian …, so you start out with a huge amount of vocabulary already.

I personally would not want to learn two languages at beginner level, as both courses will be ‘boring’ content wise.

The main thing however is that you don’t loose your focus and that you feel an element of fun and joy, and if adding in a second language brings you that, then do it.
There won’t be much room for confusion between German and Korean!

Good luck!

Without ‘the monotony of the Russian beginner lessons’ you can never reach a level when you can choose ‘the more interesting lessons with cool subject’.
But of course, Russian is more difficult for English speakers than French or even German. It’s a real challenge, especially at the beginning.

Good advice, that’s basically what I’m doing now, just listening to it and getting used to the melody and learning a word here and there. I’m pretty sure I will learn it properly in the future but for now I’m not going to make any commitments with the language like I must study every day or whatever.

Yes I have heard of this before, first I think from the Hyperpolyglot Richard Simcott, I believed he use’d this approach quite a bit. I think I probably could do this successfully since most of the content I’d be learning French would be basic I’d have probably no issues understanding the German so therefore I could avoid translating French->German->English which would be counterproductive. It would probably get interesting in the intermediate phases but I will keep that in mind, I would definitely love to not depend so much on my English so much in the future also.

Thanks for your input. I agree that learning two languages at beginner levels would be boring, I couldn’t see myself doing that unless I absolutely had to. I think you bring a good point that having that element of fun and joy and also motivation are very key factors, and with them you will progress without a doubt.

These things are very important to me personally, if learning German wasn’t fun for me I wouldn’t do it or at least after a while I’d realize it and stop so it’s very important that what your doing is something you genuinely enjoy because if you don’t you will not be motivated to do it in the long run.

" I wouldn’t say my interest in french is due to a disinterest in learning more German. No matter what I will keep learning German and still thoroughly enjoy it, I just think it might be nice to have a little side project. Something that I’m not really devoting a lot of time to, but something to do that I enjoy that could be the baby steps to something I could end up becoming my main project when my German is at a higher level."

I feel at this moment more or less like that. I have something between B2 and C1 in English, and although I was already planning to start Chinese someday, recently I’ve got an unstoppable interest in starting the learning of Chinese once for all.

Like you, the levels for the 2 languages are different and the languages itself are very different from each other, so I don’t think they will mess up in my mind. I believe the same is true for your German and French.

What I heard from Steve’s videos in youtube about this subject, is that can help a little bit to not do the same kind of activity for both languages, that can help your brain to keep them apart from each other.

And currently I have a job where I have to use English daily, so no matter how I do my English studies aside Chinese, my English will not rust no matter what.

I believe you can consider the same, since you said you’re going to German soon.

Great. I hadn’t given it much thought before, but I quite like the idea as it keeps your interaction with L2 through the rest of your language learning. As your German (my Spanish) improves, L2 could conceivably be the language through which you learn all your other languages.