Learning multiple languages

I am studying 5 languages at the same time, Spanish, French, Italian, German, and Hebrew, with an emphasis on Spanish mostly.

I wonder if anyone has any suggestions on how to best accomplish and organize this, or do you think it is a bad idea to learn too many languages at once?

Sometimes languages can become confused with each other, especially French, Spanish, and Italian can be similar to each other.

Anyone have any suggestions?

Are you beginner in these languages? I am studying English + Spanish at the same time. I think that it’s not a good idea to study 5 languages at the same time. If you don’t have to study them at the same time why don’t you focus on Spanish for 3 or 6 months and become fluent in the language and then start to learn another language? If you’re not beginner in these languages, Hebrew coulb be combined with German or a latin language. But 5 languages at the same time? I would freak the freak out. (Is that how you say :slight_smile: - I always wanted to use it, is this the correct way?)

lolol, it would be “I would freak the f*ck out” but I guess you just cleaned it up :wink:


I think it’s too many and, more importantly, too similar. A lot of the conjugations, etc in Spanish and French will end up confusing you and you’ll mix up which is which.
One of the suggestions from Luca Lamparello [sp?] is to learn no more than 2 at the same time, while having them be different from each other so as to avoid confusion, and spending 80% time on the “harder” language and 20% on the “easier” language.
My personal experience is from studying Spanish, Chinese, and Russian simultaneously. In the beginning I applied the Luca method, spending most time on Chinese with a little time on Spanish. Went well for a while, new vocab in each language was different from each other so they stayed in their own little compartments in my brain - but when I started to get into more complex sentences, grammatical rules and structures, it became too much to remember. When I [possibly foolishly] threw Russian into the mix that was it - Russian is a bear when it comes to grammar, modifying almost every word for different situations, etc.
At that point I decided on spending a whole year with each language before moving on to the next. This is actually an application of another principle from Luca. It’s best to build a strong base in a language before changing focus. I spent 2016 on Spanish, am spending 2017 on Chinese, and will dedicate each year hereafter to a new language. It’s still a bit of a juggle for me to throw some Spanish in between the more thorough Chinese studies and the rest of my work/family life, but I’m trying, and I think it definitely helps spending more time with one language to let it really sink in.

Two thoughts I would add to this:
Studying similar languages will help, and it will be easier in the end - if you do them separately. Simultaneously may cause confusion; consecutively may build connections.
There is no harm in dabbling in other languages while fully studying another. Steve Kaufman actually did one of his YT videos on this, calling it “exploring” other languages. I do this myself, and feel it helps the eventual monotony that builds while studying a language. For example, if you spend all your free time studying Spanish, eventually it may start to feel more like a job and less inspiring. Maybe you saw something on the news in Israel, and some Hebrew words were on the TV; if you’re like me that gets you interested to translate them, see what it means, now you end up watching a couple YT videos on Hebrew grammar, etc. Just something to take your mind off the full-time studies, and will help build a foundation in that language for when you get around to studying it full-time.

With all that said, maybe if you have more time to study than I do, and if you have a good brain that things just stick to pretty well, test your limits for a bit and see how it goes.

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I’m also studying roughly five languages at the same time. I don’t recommend it, though it’s very fun; I could spend the whole day on LingQ just switching languages when I get bored. The “similar language” problem hits me if I try to study French and Spanish: My brain refuses to give 100% with one language or the other. I get really generous with marking words as “known” without having a good grasp of usage.

When I only study one language I have more time to pick a variety of activities and approach material from different angles… I think I can probably learn faster.

Thanks for giving your input. You mostly seem to all agree that 5 languages at once is too many.

Let me clarify, and I probably should have said this originally, what my background is in each language:

  1. French - had 8 years of French as a child, but then didn’t study it for a long time, and forgot all of it. Am now trying to revise my French.

  2. Spanish - have studied this for about 4 years, but can only read Spanish and can barely speak it, and still don’t know about 30% of the meaning I come across in each paragraph or sentence.

  3. Hebrew - I have a background in hebrew and can read all the letters phonetically, but have a somewhat limited vocabulary and am still a beginner.

  4. Italian and German - just a total beginner with those.

Based on this, any other thoughts or suggestions?

Maybe try out studying French/Spanish/Italian at the same time and see if it even feels good. I think you might quickly find that you don’t like to do it.

The similarities of French,Spanish, & Italian will always be confusing, I am assuming it is less confusing if you learn them one at a time, but since I learned French a long time ago, I’m not sure what effect it will have on me.

Hebrew doesn’t interfere with anything, it is so unique. I assume German is the same way.

I welcome any other opinions on this subject, thanks.

The trick is that our brains are kind of lazy and need a strong stimulation in order to learn effectively a language. Once you convince your brain that you desperately need to speak a language, the brain will eventually have no choice but to help you and it will find a proper way to do it. Now ask yourself a question, are you able to provide enough stimulation for five languages simultaneously? Personally I don’t believe it is possible even with three languages. Now this is only about learning from scratch or refreshing languages. Once you reach a solid intermediate level, you can maintain much more languages than five, because they no more require that much attention.

Putting that aside, most people are encouraged to keep on learning, because they feel some progress. With five languages there will hardly be any progress to be noted, or at least too slow to give any encouragement.


As Steve always says, the three golden keys to learn any language are: the attitude of the learner, the time spent with the language, and the ability to notice.

None of these implies that you can’t learn several languages at same time. But, you need time and motivation. As you seem to be an inexperienced language learner I would recommend just learn one, however, if you’re quite motivated, the best suggestion is ’ just do it’, because experience is the best teacher.
We have a member at lingq - @usablefiber - and there are others great polyglots that had or are doing it. Take your time one, two or even three months will be enough to realize if it’s good for you or not.

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This is an interesting theory, that you have to convince the brain it needs to learn the language desperately. This sounds like you are linking language learning to the part of the brain that is in charge of survival.

I should have stated in the beginning that I have 8 years experience with French, and 4 with Spanish, maybe people who are giving advice aren’t noticing that.

But it general, I agree with this advice:

“Take your time one, two or even three months will be enough to realize if it’s good for you or not.”

“This is an interesting theory, that you have to convince the brain it needs to learn the language desperately. This sounds like you are linking language learning to the part of the brain that is in charge of survival.”

Perhaphs that’s the reason why immigrants learn the quickest :slight_smile:

As far as I know the majority of polyglots, including Steve, prefer to concentrate on one new language at a time, because it enables you to create enourmous intensivity and reach fluency within a short period of time, for example in two years. Maybe there are people who can start several at once, but there is a risk of never crossing the beginner’s stage :slight_smile:

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Do they, though? I feel like most immigrants just stick to they respective communities not bothering with language learning or socializing with people of other cultures. I agree that proper attitude is a key, though.

From my experience it is hard to divide your time between even 2 languages, and I just focus on French for 3-4 hours a day with no more than an hour on German, to not get bored and maintain my progress. It’s also another thing to have in mind when deciding to study more languages at once. You not only have to learn, but also maintain them. If you don’t practice your languages will become a bit rusty.

Also, as @Mariotkd said it is better to focus on one language, because your progress will be much faster. Meaning that it won’t take nearly as much time to get over that beginner content and to start reading and listening to what you truly enjoy. Best of luck to you though, people are different so you might find that this approach works for you, somehow, although don’t get too disappointed if it won’t, it’s a task that would require insane amount of time which makes it quite impossible to do.

Yes, I also believe like Steve or Luca that we have to concentrate for a while on 1-2 languages to achieve our best success.
However, if we know some other languages in a good level, we need reading or listening a bit in this languages to maintain our level. In my case I mean English and German.
I had some bad experience with my Polish - I spoke fluently Polish with my grandfather when I was a child, but after his death I didn’t speak Polish for 20-30 years and lost 80% of my ability to speak Polish and 50% of undestanding by listening.
And one more interesting note - I started learning Turkish and Greek, but till now I can’t understand the logic of these languages, that’s why it is like going in the darkness and so it’s useless for me to study them more then 10 minute a day (to have more vocabulary) even I had more time for doing it.
I don’t know how about children, but for me it has no sense to study a language if I can’t understand the very base of it, that’s why some Grammar rules amd constructures are essential important for me before my long language journey.


Maybe it’d be better to cycle between the languages rather than going for all 5 at once?

Others have rightly noted the potential issues with linguistic interference if we study closely related languages at the same time - although I think that’s much less of an issue if you are already at a very strong base in one of them. Just from a purely logistical perspective, though, it may be pretty hard to fit in 5 languages, seeing that one really has to devote at least one hour per language every day to study in order to make significant progress.

If I had the same goal as you, with emphasis on Spanish, I would try to stick to some kind of cycle. For example:

Week 1&2 Spanish and German

Week 3&4 Spanish and Hebrew

Week 5&6 German and Hebrew

Week 7&8 Spanish and French

Week 9&10 Spanish and German (repeating cycle from start)

And so on…

Hi there,
I’m confused that why do you want to learn five languages at the same time? I would suggest you may learn two languages at a time so that you will be able to concentrate on both the languages and also you can learn it by heart from its basics. If you try to learn these languages like Spanish and French I think you can become fluent within 6 months, but I’m afraid if you continue with the five languages you will be able to either a single language properly or not.


I myself would go crazy learning 5 languages at the same time.

If you focus on 1 or 2, and dabble a bit in the other languages from time to time I think you will enjoy it more.

Ofcourse all of this is just advice.

If you think you can do it, go for it ! :slight_smile:

I use the wording of your original post, I “think it is a bad idea to learn too many languages at once.”

It sounds like you are very interested in languages, and would like to speak them at least somewhat well. Pick the one you want to do really do the most and concentrate on that. For you, probably Spanish or French.

I have personal motivations for wanting to learn each of the 5 languages, but you guys have convinced me that learning all at once is not very productive.

Evgueny, your experience with Polish is my same experience with French, I had a lot of exposure to French for many years, and yet not using it for a long time caused the entire language to no longer be recalled or remembered. It shows that language can really only be maintained through constant usage.

Prinz, good idea to create a schedule like that. I am focusing on Spanish, and doing some sort of cycle that involves reviving my French and building my Hebrew vocabulary. I don’t think I can tackle Italian or German for a few years probably.

I still am wondering if once I become fluent in Spanish, that Italian and French might still not cause interference at a later time. I wonder if interference can happen at any point, but I won’t find out until I master Spanish :slight_smile:

Thank you for the help.