Learning Multiple Languages Advice

My name is Dairius, I recently stumbled upon this website in a video about tips for learning languages. I wanted to ask if anyone has any advice for me for learning three languages at once? I have a bit of good free time nearly everyday for at least the next three months. I am learning Japanese, Korean and Russian. My Japanese is at the intermediate level (getting over the plateau, been learning for several years) and Russian and Korean are at the beginner level (pretty much from scratch). My goal at the end of the three months is to at least build up a base for Korean and Russian (to at least step up in listening and reading with few sessions of speaking) and for Japanese to build upon my proficiency in the language. Do you have tips for how long each day and suggested things to do? I was thinking during this three month period to at least do 1 hour per day per language mixing grammar study with other active learning. If anyone has advice to keep me motivated and not overwhelmed. After this 3 month period I will be working 12 hour days and seven days a week for my job, so I will likely only have about 30min per day per language, maybe. I have grammar books for all three language as well, I recently picked them up last week. Thank you in advance!

Very respectfully,

Dairius Kawewehi

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Kudos for doing this. I just posted a similar question so considering I’m looking for advice myself maybe I’m not the best person to answer but I’ll give it a go any way.

Your Japanese is only at an intermediate level. This is a really tough language and when my Chinese was at intermediate level I didn’t seriously consider taking up a new language. However, let’s say that your Japanese is reasonably good to the extent that your ability is cemented, by this I mean leaning is pretty effortless, then certainly go ahead and learn a new language.

The problem as I see it is that you’re picking two difficult languages. Russian may be an Indo European language but it’s still far from English. Korean may have similarities to Japanese but again you might find it also is very different from Japanese which you may not yet know well enough.

I’m doing more languages at the same time but they are all closely related so my task is easier. Perhaps once you get to the point where you can’t devote do much time to each language you will become motivated.

Having said this I think the most important thing about language learning is keeping it fun fresh as well as having autonomy. If you really feel you can do it and will enjoy the process then go for it. You can always put a language on the back burner later and focus on one if you have less time. Lingq will keep a track of what you’ve done so it won’t be a waste of time and you can take it back up when you have time again.

More than anything you’ll build up personal experience of what suits you as a language learner (that is you’ll find out yourself if it’s a good idea our not). You’ll understand your unique historical learning capability and this knowledge will help you in future.

With other learning systems where learning it’s out of context or the learning method doesn’t track what you’ve already done dropping a language could be a demotivating experience but as I’ve said you don’t have to worry about this with lingq because it records what you’ve done already.

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What I have come to realise is that there are “active languages” and “passive languages”. What I mean by this is that there are some languages which require an active effort of learning on my part, and others which I can just learn through passive exposure - at least to a large extent.

My native language is English. When I was a little younger I learned German and Italian to a good level (especially the former.) What this means is that I can listen to other Germanic or Romance languages and they are already comprehensible to a degree, so that I gradually learn more of them through repeated exposure.

I have a heap of old Linguaphone and Assimil courses, and I can listen to this kind of content for French, Spanish, Dutch and Afrikaans, and already understand one heck of a lot of it. Each time I listen I notice something new - which tends to go straight into the longterm memory. I have quite a lot of Afrikaans popular music too - and sometimes I literally find whole lines of these songs coming to my mind at random times during the day.

Languages like Swedish, Norwegian and Icelandic are somewhat less transparent - but they are still very far from being entirely “alien” to me the way that Japanese (let’s say) would be.

On the other hand, languages like Russian, Polish, Farsi, Mandarin and Arabic are MUCH harder, and couldn’t be approached by me in a largely or completely passive way. Progress in these would require intensive and active effort as well as time.

So what does this have to do with learning multiple languages?

Well, I have found that I can just dip in and out of French, Spanish, Dutch and Afrikaans as I feel fit on any given evening. Probably it wouldn’t be very much of a problem to add Swedish or Portuguese to the brew either. I think these could be done all at once. The only issue would be finding sufficient time to share out between them, because one really needs to devote about an hour per language per day to make any steady progress.

But learning more than one “active language” (Mandarin, Polish, etc) would certainly burn my mental fuses big time!

My five eggs.

Wow thank you very much for you exceptional insight! You have quite the talent for languages, I wished I learned more from my childhood as well. I never thought of it that way as passive and active languages. But I could see that makes sense for languages that share relationships for it to be easier and can be learned by light exposure to it. Since I have been learning Japanese for years, Korean could be nearly a passive language for me to learn since grammar is very similar, I am just having to learn the writing system. But Russian is quite the challenge for me at the moment, but I am enjoying the journey currently learning them. I do spend about an hour per day active going through Russian, Japanese and Korean. What is linguaphone and Assimil? Thanks again for your wonderful tips and insights! Goodluck on your awesome language journey!

This is awesome that you posted in your journey to also find advice. I thank you and very much appreciate it. Yes I have taken on a daunting task as I attempt to learn three languages that don’t have a whole lot in common, it may seem random that I am learning these three in particular but they have a dear relationship to me and have my reasons for learning them. Currently since I have the free time for the next few months I am devoting at least an hour a day per language. When I get busier, I will put korean and russian on the back burner and solidify my japanese. But if my learning goes well in these next few months, then I may at least be able to passively learn all three during my commute to work and during breakfast in the morning.

My Japanese is intermediate level and concerete enough that I can pick it up even after a year of not using it. Speaking is the thing that lacks alot currently, but reading and listening are my strongest still and I have a great strong grasp on grammar. I am currently going through the Tobira Gateway to Advanced Japanese textbook. Shaking the cobwebs off from not using texts in a while I feel my Japanese is slowly coming back to me.

I do agree that I should keep it fun and fresh. I use an app called Wani Kani for brushing up on my Kanji characters and finding this website is so helpful to get me to use my listening and reading skills and be active. I was passively learning through memrise and duolingo, however these just require me to brute force memorize words and phrases, however without much context it is easily forgotten. But I do like this site since I can learn many new phrases and words in context and like you said it will track my progress and what I like is that the linqs appear on new passages so it helps solidify my memory.

Thank you again for the motivation and advice!!! Good Luck to you on your personal language journey!

“…What is linguaphone and Assimil?..”

Thorough and fair reviews of these by Prof Arguelles.

Alas some of the better editions (for Linguaphone especially) are out of print now. But you can still hunt down used copies on Ebay - especially the UK section.

Thank you very much!!! I will have to check these out. How has your language journey been here on Linq? I have only been using it for like a few days, so wondering how it is for someone else with multiple language experience.

Good luck on your mission. Let’s see how we are after a year.

I would study Chinese in the past in the lingq method. This in some ways was time consuming as I would have four different types of software open in my desktop.

The advantage we have with lingq it’s that the admin time of creating cards, opening up various types of software and a pc, looking for material is already taken care of with lingq. The other thing is the portability of it all which can help fill up the dead time.

I would say lingq is an innovation for speeding up a language process many people have been doing independently for a long time rather than a new language learning technique in itsel.

However, It’s this speeding up that makes me feel comfortable doing more languages as well as having the same learning content in each language. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say two hours within the lingq machine is worth three hours out side it.

Duolingo etc are good in that they provide a ready made course that needs no administration time. However, the method and scope of the project is inadequate for serious independent learners.

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Yes let us see where we are after a year. Though I will be really busy after these next three months, I do hope to continue my language journey.

Mmmm that can be really difficult with many different softwares to use and apps and so on.

I do agree with you that it is not necessarily a new innovation to speed up learning time. Rather another way to give exposure to the language. Though I feel this is good for me as I have been lacking on actively reading and listening and so far this is helping me. Especially with Japanese since I could already read and don’t need to learn the characters from scratch and it is helping me improve on my Kanji (traditional chinese characters).

I do like that this website conveniently has all three languages I am currently studying which makes it so much easier. In past sites some languages would be there and others not, which is understandable, but I like that this site is very robust. I can say that with this website it definitely is more effective than what I can do independently on my own with a book in hand. Though I do spend at least 30min going through my grammar books to get some foundation.

Yes I agree for a quick paced learning that is very intuitive, apps like duolingo are fine. But like you said for very serious learners I think the scope of those apps are too small and not enough exposure. Becomes more of just memorizing words and phrases, which is good and all but easy to forget unless in an appropriate context. Easy to become saturated after just memorizing words and phrases.

My thoughts exactly. None of the languages seem alien. Portuguese is the most alien but not far from Spanish all languages have similar roots. This makes them mutually reinforcing.

As such I think the task I have is one that is much easier than say learning Arabic from scratch which would essentially demand one to learn two languages anyway.

I would say that both linguaphone and assimil are precursors to Lingq. The learning methods closely match what people are doing here on lingq.

Lingq contains far more material and as a machine for learning in the assimil way it greatly speeds up the admin work in learning a language, thus giving you more time to focus on learning.

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