Is wanting to learn 30 languages unrealistic?

Hey everyone, just want your opinions really. I realised how brilliant learning languages was about a year ago when I got hooked on German, ever since then I’ve gradually become enthralled with pretty much every major language in the world and their associated cultures. I’m in the process of learning German, Spanish, French and Russian at the moment but there is no way I can stop there. I want to learn: Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indonesian, Hindi, Bengali, Persian, Arabic, Turkish, Hebrew, Swahili, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Latin, Dutch, Swedish, Icelandic, Yiddish, Polish, Welsh, Irish, Esperanto, Nahuatl, Quecha and Coptic (I think this one is close to impossible to find resources for)
What’s your honest opinion? Is this a ridiculous dream, or do-able?
John x

I don’t think learning 30 languages is impossible, if you have a kind of “selection and concentration” strategy in mind.

Iamwalrus, You have also to consider if you wanna just learn until a beginner level, intermediate or more for each language.

In my view achieving a:
-Beginner level: 1 X time
-Intermediate level: 2-3 X time
-Advanced level: 6 or more X time

But this of course is just an appreciation.

Hey Oscar, well my goal is to get to at least an intermediate level in all of them, if possible for some of the rarer ones cause of lack of resources, but I guess the more languages you speak the more resources there are :). Yutaka, what exactly do you mean by this strategy?
cheers for the responses by the way

iamwalrus, I often quote a wise lady who heads up the language department at the university of San Diego who said,

“language learning depends on the attitude of the learner, time spent with the language and the ability to notice or be attentive to the language”

If you have the motivation and the confidence, and if you have the time, you can learn many languages, and as you progress in your language studies your ability to notice improves. I have no idea what the limit is, but I do not think there is one.

However, it takes a long time to learn languages and there are many words to know, how will you find enough time to develop skills in all of these languages and maintain them. What is more, the joy of languages is the ability to read and listen and talk in those languages. I find it hard to find the time to use 11. But I do intent to add a couple yet.

Someone once told me that George Bernard Shaw learned a new language every year. He cut corners though: refused to learn any adjectives, only learned about 100 verbs and paid no attention to grammar rules.

Can anyone confirm or deny this story?

@skyblueteapot: I’ve also heard this story about G.B.Show. And I can even imagine that Show could tolerably well express his desires in different languages. At least even a dumb man can so-so do it without the ability to say a word!(That’s why I’m a supporter of a quick start of speaking in the foreign language). But we shouln’t stop in this level. The studying of the languages isn’t a finite event, even for the mother language. It’s an endless way with a lot of interesting events and finds on the way.
What about a quantity of new languages: I don’t know oriental languages, but every new european language would be a bit easier to you to study because they all have certain similar words and certain similar rules of formation the phrases.
Perhaps, you can learn 10-15 languages. And do you have enough time to use them? Without practice the language can gradually die. Do you want it?

I think you can learn as many languages as you want, but I don’t see the purpose of learning 30 languages. And besides that… wouldn’t it be extremely difficult to maintain all of them? I’m pretty sure by the time you are getting good on your 15th language, your knowledge of the first 3 or 4 languages you studied will start decreasing. I say this because I’m just starting to learn German (my sixth language) and if I don’t regularly go and read some stuff in Portuguese, I start forgetting simple things.

Just like the other day I wanted to throw myself down the stairs because I couldn’t remember the word “amizade”. ¬¬

I agree with Falcao. I feel that the maintenance of so many languages would be difficult. I think you ought to go ahead and familiarize yourself with lots of languages, but pick a few to focus on and be really good at. If you try to maintain too many it will be difficult to become really good at any of them.

@iamwalrus, wow 30 languages, that’s an awesome goal! Simple answer, it’s not unrealistic. Put in the time, study the right stuff, and don’t give up. Make it happen!

…would you really want to? each language is a skill that’d require constant maintenance and use for the languages not to deteriorate. Tell you what, become proficient in German, Spanish, French and Russian and if you are and feel you can learn more then go for it mate!

I think that’s not impossible

Take a look at the romantic languages for example. They came from Latin. If you learn one of them you’ll be more than half the way towards learning any other.

I don’t know, but maybe this happens to others languages.

Have you ever heard about Ziad Farah. This guy speaks 58 languages.
I think he considers himself totally fluent in “only” 25 languages. He lost touch with the others and would need some days talking to native speakers to recover all the knowledge.

I think that the same way you got hooked on languages learning you can get hooked at much other subjects.

It’s possible that, in the process, you find another passion and relinquish these intention to learn 30 languages in other to learn other skills. Maybe you’ll have to be satisfied with 27…

I think you can learn as many languages as you can… and it seems that when you learn more languages you get better at it.

If you are only interested in reading them all fluently then you could do it in a fairly short amount of time and still get the joy of experiencing all of their cultures. Then of course there is the “many for the price of 1” bonus you get from languages within the same family. You can probably learn to read fluently Spanish, French, Italian, Esperanto, Portuguese and Latin within the space of 2 years (there is a popular “strategy” out there of learning Esperanto first to quickly gain a passive vocabulary set in many languages as the vocabulary for Esperanto was constructed from the common roots of many languages, but of course, I haven’t tried this myself). Since you are already learning Spanish I suggest your next Romance Language be Italian.

There is a guy by the name of Moses Mccormick who speaks 42 languages at the intermediate level, and he is 28 years old. He learns a language to an Intermediate level and then moves to the next. He’s got a Youtube channel laoshu505000 - YouTube where he discusses learning languages and has tips for studying and finding study materials for rarer languages. His language learning methods seem like they would be a great fit for your goals.

Yes, I think some people can learn 30 languages to an intermediate level. Kenneth Hale (who taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) learned about 50 languages.

I just Wiki’d that guy, quite impressive. He learned a lot of aboriginal languages.

I think it’s true that you could get to an intermediate level (which might be fluent) in lots of languages. Getting from Intermediate to advanced, in terms of vocab and writing/speaking skill, is a big task. And then there’s maintenance!

Yes, you can do it if you have a desire!! most people say that any one who could learn one language, he can easily learn other language. I advise you to start the language that you feel it is easy for you. After that start again with the language that is most similar with language that you have already learned then do that again and again with different language that you desire to learn it. At the end, you will definitely achieve your dream. And I can help you in Arabic language if you want.


A Polyglot's Daily Linguistic Workout - YouTube this link shows a polyglots daily language learning routine and if you go on his blog then you can see that he speaks around 30 languages, but he does work on learning languages for several hours a day

Even if he or she is really polyglot, ordinary people cannot know if it is true or not because they usually understand only one or two languages. If you see he or she does not speak or write very well in one language that you know very well, you doubt that he or she is a successful polyglot. I feel sorry for all polyglots. (No cat on my lap.)

I have never seen a polyglot whose nationality is Japanese. All the polyglots I have
seen are Westerners. Maybe we are not cut out for speaking several languages.