Is there a polyglot willing to answer a question about a third language?

I had been studying Spanish for several years before I found LingQ (~2 years ago) and really began making headway, using advanced materials right away, against my roadblocks to fluency. I made it over that hump and began learning French. In French, I found the Mini Stories extremely helpful and have listened to all of them at least a dozen times (so far).

Yesterday I was with a group of Hispanohablantes and found myself fumbling for words and structures that I have been comfortable with for years. (I know that this is normal when learning a third language.) I decided to go back and listen to the Mini Stories in Spanish. Wow, did that ever mess with my brain! By the third story, I was getting worried that this would compound and confound the issue rather than help it.

What do you think?


There are probably different situations for different people.

I can personally tell you that each time you add a new language, your brain will need a period of time to adjust all languages you have.

My suggestion is to learn a new language when you are solid in the languages you already have learnt. For me, this means to reach at least something in between C1 and C2. I prefer a C2 level, but let’s say something in the middle of it. The reason is because with time, you will lose that C2, but you will stay around a C1 without any problem.

When you add a new language, if the others you have are solid, you won’t lose too much of them, and you will keep a high level of fluency, or comfort, in every aspect of those languages.

There is a phase where your brain will mix spelling, or grammar, or other things, even with your own native language. But then it will stabilise, the new structure will be integrated, and you will be fine to progress from there.

However, the other languages should be in maintenance mode, and your main focus will go to your new language for a while.

This is my general rule, and everybody could have a different experience, but it also depends on the level you want to reach for each language.

The weaker your languages are, the worst it will be when you add a new language. All of them will be shaken even more, included your own native language.



Thank you for your reply!
It sounds like I should just maintain my Spanish at my current level, without worrying about reviewing more basic Spanish materials.


Another thing to consider is how similar the languages are. French and Spanish are very similar, so prior knowledge of one Romance language helps you pick up a second Romance language more easily, but confusion will be more at first. Not to mention differences in gender of some nouns. On the other hand, the sound/pronunciation is very different between the two. Hearing a French person speaking, you would never think it was Spanish, and vice-versa.

One helpful strategy is to correlate the language with specific people who speak it. Train yourself so that when you face a certain person who speaks French, the only language that will come out is French. This can work so well that even if that French-speaking person asks you to say something to them in another language, like, say, Spanish or even English, you simply can’t do it. This used to work really well for me; not sure why it doesn’t any more. Maybe because I’m now in an environment where I’m constantly switching between languages and sometimes I even forget which language a certain person speaks. Yes, it is embarrassing to face a close friend and suddenly go blank. I think to myself, “If only I could think of one word, just one word.” It really does take a moment to “code-switch.” Lately, I found I can scroll mentally through all the first-person singular pronouns until I get the right language, and then, after the first bumbling sentence or two, it’s usually ok.

Want to hear a funny story? A Spanish-speaking friend asked me, “Is there a guitar I could play?” I right away pointed to the guitar and said emphatically, “Yo!” <–that means, basically, “Yes, there is one!” in Mandarin. But my friend thought I meant, “I will play the guitar, not you.” because “Yo” happens to mean “I” in Spanish. Oops! :slight_smile: So… it happens.

I’ve seen YouTubers advise that we take on a different personality for each new language. So that’s an idea. So maybe when practicing Spanish you could think of some Spanish-speaking role model, and try to imitate that person’s accent and mannerisms whenever you’re speaking Spanish, and switch to a different (French-speaking) role model to emulate when speaking French. Or use a different voice (high pitched versus low pitched, nasal versus breathy, or some other way to differentiate.) I haven’t tried this yet, but I think it’s worth a shot.

Or if you are studying more than one language at once, you can consider doing them in different locations. Practice French in the kitchen? Spanish in the living room? etc. Or French in the library, Spanish at the gym. And/or use different methods. Listen to a Spanish playlist of something interesting while exercising; sit down and read the mini stories in French. I’m not sure it’s really great to use the exact same stories for multiple languages, even though I do it sometimes.

Another strategy I’ve tried a little but have not done exhaustively, is to form associations between a newer language (L3) and a more familiar language (L2), forming a bridge. So for example, amigo=ami, or¿dónde está mi sombrero? = où est mon chapeau? Then if L2 pops into your head, L3 is also right there.


The biggest mistake is learning a second L2 (i.e. a third language if you are natively monolingual). :wink:

You just have to accept it as a fact of life. You’ll confuse the languages. It happens less and less as you get better in them, but it still ocassionally happens.


I love all the strategies you suggest. Thank you so much!


Probably, it’s normal to feel like this especially when you are learning new one. For me, instead of worrying try giving yourself some time to practice each language separately. Maybe spend a week focusing on Spanish and then switch to French for the next week. It can help you keep both languages fresh in mind without getting too overwhelmed:)


I am certainly a polyglot so I’ll give you some advice. Make sure you both do a lot of listening and reading. When you get familiar with the written and spoken forms of words, it will be less likely you’d mix them with words from similar languages. Let the accent and sound of the languages really sink in to distinguish between them, because once you really know what a word sounds like, the accent in the way it’s pronounced will tell you to which language it belongs.

I learned Danish when I was 17 by living in the country in the summer and then learned Swedish the next summer. These are two very similar languages. When I came back to Denmark, straight from Sweden, my Danish was very rusty and I had a really hard time not just using Swedish words. After I’d been away from both countries for a while, it was like the languages were separate in my head again.

When I learned Norwegian, it was impossible for me to speak it for quite a while after I achieved fluent literacy and a great understanding of spoken language. I really focused on remembering spoken words and phrases, in the Norwegian accent, to help me remember what is Norwegian and what is Danish or Swedish.


Rokkvi, I’m just seeing your great advice now. I hadn’t thought about how the accent and flow of the language could help me separate them.
Thank you!


I like to try setting out a block of time on one language, and then a block of time on the other language. I don’t study both languages on the same day until I’m getting to the point where they’re not quite so jumbled up together.

Another thing to I like to do is from Alexander Argueslles, and ladder the languages-- use L2 learning materials to work on L3. I’ve tried this with textbooks and Assimil, but haven’t tried it on Lingq yet.

I like listening to short videos in L2, then in L3, then in L1 if needed. Watching the same video in multiple languages works great on sites like BBC or Deutsche Welle. I find it’s best to listen first in a strong L2, then in weaker languages. (L1 seems to take over, so I don’t use it unless I need it.) I’m finding some languages are easier to go back and forth between than others.

If I’m going to be around people speaking in an L2 or L3, sometimes I try to prime the pump by listening to a bit of that language before the event.

Has anyone here tried switching the Lingq interface to their L2 or L3 to learn the mini-stories?

Is there a way to toggle back in forth on Lingq between a lesson in one language, and the same lesson in other languages? This would be useful.


English is my native language.

I do a bit in English, Japanese, French, and German every day.

The other thing I do is facilitate my brain’s making of connections between my non-native languages. For instance, I listen to language-learning podcasts for learning Japanese, where the creator is French and uses a lot of French to talk about Japanese.

Both of these help me personally.


I have never gotten mixed up in input (listening or reading). But when I am doing output (speaking or writing), I might mix up Spanish and French words. That happens when I simply don’t know the right word for what I want to say.

Steve K pointed out that speaking uses a skill that listening does not use: choosing the correct set of words in that language to express your idea. That takes practice in each language. It doesn’t just happen to anyone (not even Steve). It doesn’t happen from input. It’s a skill to be trained (practiced).

I have never experienced this problem. In high school I studied Latin and Spanish, and audited French 4. Later I studied Chinese, Japanese, Turkish and Korean (to different non-fluent levels). My only “wrong language” mistakes happened when trying to speak Spanish and I simply didn’t know the Spanish word, and I knew the French word.


I once said in Spanish “Estaba matando a mis amigos” intending to say I was waiting for my friends, but subconsciously made a frankenstein word out of Japanese word for wait (Matsu =to wait). As those of you who know Spanish already know, that ended up meaning that I “was KILLING my friends”, instead of waiting for them. Oh, the horror on my tutors face :joy:

I had learned Japanese long before I started Spanish. They are not close languages. I still experienced interference. :man_shrugging:

It didn’t happen until I started speaking Spanish. Japanese words would come to mind instead of the Spanish, and sometimes vice versa.

The example above was rare, because I would usually catch it before I said it, but my mind would often go blank once I had thought of the wrong word and I’d have a really hard time recalling the word in the other language, even if the word was one I recalled regularly. Frustrating!

In the absence of another solution, I just kept speaking both languages regularly. I have slowly gotten better with catching the words, forcing the recall of the word from the right language, and the wrong words are occurring to me less and less.

Best of luck to you!


Haha, that’s a great mix-up! Language can definitely lead to some amusing misunderstandings. It’s funny how a simple word can have such different meanings in different languages. Thanks for sharing the story!