Several languages

Hi everybody, I notice a lot of people learning several languages simultaneously. What’s the advantage of studying several languages simultaneously? I’d rather see this as a disadvantage. Isn’t it true that if you want to learn a foreign language very well in a short time, you should focus on just that language? Because time is time and time will not add up even though you multiply research subjects if you know what I mean, you are just spreading your time and energy instead of focus on one subject. Maybe someone can “enlighten” me…?:slight_smile: Thanks!

gr. sjoerd

I guess everyone will have personal reasons. In my case, for example, I study advanced English and basic French.
I started French both for curiosity of using LingQ’s method from scratch and also because it can probably be useful in a foreseable future, maybe an year or so.
But I haven’t mastered English yet, at least to the point I feel completely satisfied. And I really need to know English very well. So I just can’t stop studying English to study only French. Then, I decided to start French little by little, maybe using 30% of my study time.
If you are in a hurry or a specific reason, of course, it is better to concentrate in one language. But I’m trying to avoid being in a hurry with French. Although I can see the benefits of concentrated study, I also believe the brain need some time to consolidate information, so I guess studying French half an hour during an year can be more effective than studying it for 3 hours during two months.
I hope it is not too confused, I’m a little sleepy…

Welcome to LingQ! Many of us have been learning languages for many years, and you don’t lost interest in your existing languages when you start to learn a new one! If you do you get rusty.

Like anapaula, I’m not in a hurry either. Most important, I find it’s enjoyable to study different languages. Whether it’s advantageous or detrimental I don’t know (or care).

If I were to spend some time in a foreign country, I would of course focus a little more on the language spoken but that’s it.

Can someone tell me when a person speaks a foreign language averagely? So how many hours per week do you think someone needs when he wants to speak a foreign language averagely?

gr. sjoerd

That’s impossible to say, but there are some estimates out there. I think it’s about 600 hours of study, but the method/focus/aptitude/enjoyment/et.c. will vary a lot.

Some people manage to get by with whatever skills they have aquired in a short period of time, while others want to perfect every detail before uttering a single sentence in a live situation.

Personally, I devote ~1 hour a day on each language.

Each language?! Do you really devote three hours a day? I see you are studying three languages right now.

gr. sjoerd

How many languages you study at the same time is a matter of choice and pesonality. I tend to be somewhat obsessive about the language I am learning and have no room for a second language. I spend all my learning time on Russian and then struggle through my weekly discussion in Portuguese with Ana. I may listen and read some Portuguese just ahead of my discussion, but really I would rather be doing Russian. It is only because I enjoy my discussion with Ana that I stay with the Portuguese.

On the other hand, when I did concentrate my listening and reading and LingQing on Portuguese for about 3 weeks ( few months ago) I made noticeable progress. Intense study of one at a time is my approach.

I couldn’t imagine trying to learn more than one language at a time. I really want to learn Spanish and Japanese as well, but I just don’t feel like I’m ready. I wish a had the same level of language talent as some of you. I’d study all three at once. ^^


In answer to your question on how long it takes to achieve an “average” level, I wrote a post on my blog.

How long does it take to become comfortable in another language?

How long does it take to achieve some fluency in another language and how do we get there? I get this question all the time. I should point out that fluency is a vague term. You will never be perfect. There will always be words you do not understand, and constructions that you get wrong, and times when you struggle to express yourself as elegantly as you would like. Language learning is a Sisyphean task.

I think you need 60-90 hours to get over the initial strangeness of the language, and to start learning from authentic content (i.e. not just created for learners), another 180-360 hours to get comfortable with authentic language spoken around you, and then at least another 180-360 hours to be able to express yourself comfortably. This depends on the language and how you study.

I am assuming you study the way we do at LingQ, one hour a day, following your interests, and focusing on listening, reading and vocabulary review. The speaking and writing activity starts at a low level, no more than 30 minutes a week in total, and grows with each period.

I wrote a series of three articles on this some time ago, for a website called Pick the Brain. I am going to develop these ideas into a speech that I can make at libraries and elsewhere for interested people. I have a short Power Point presentation to help me. I attach here a link to the power point presentation (4 slides) and to the original series of articles.


Language learning success is fundamentally linked to our attitude, our will, our attachment to the language we are learning, our confidence that we can achieve our goals, our enjoyment of the language. Therefore it should be forbidden for LingQ members to say “I am not good at languages” “You are better than me at languages” or anything similar!

We have different approaches. Some like to study several languages at the same time, and others do not. We enjoy different languages and different aspects of the languages we are studying. I fundamentally believe we all can achieve our goals and enjoy our learning, if we have the right attitude.


Each language?! Do you really devote three hours a day? I see you are studying three languages right now.

That’s correct. Due to the nature of the LingQ system, a lot of my study time is spent listening to the language:

  • actively (focusing on the sounds, trying to follow et.c.)
  • passively (in the background - no particular focus)
  • while reading the text (also a kind of active listening)

I have written in other threads about how I spread an item over a few days, don’t save every new word at once et.c. Sometimes I listen passively to BBC Russian/Deutsche Welle, do a lesson of FSI Chinese, “shadow” my Assimil CDs, have a glance at an Easy Reader (either German or Russian), copy Chinese characters by hand and more… And I go through the daily flashcards sent out by email.

I keep track of all this in an Excel chart (for a more complete overview), so I know exactly how much I have studied. The LingQ related exercises are kept track of automatically.

This being said, some days are German, some are Russian and some are Chinese - it all depends on my work schedule, what I feel that I have “missed”, and most importantly what I like to do at the moment.

"* passively (in the background - no particular focus) "

Does it help to listen passively to a foreign language? Does it impregnate the brain in this way even if you are not listening actively (trying to understand what is being said)?

Secondary, I noticed free users were spending time writing and speaking foreign languages. Do you pay for this all or is there a possibility to write and speak for free? I can pay 10 dollars a month to have a basic account when lingq will be reorganised in the future, but I just don’t have the money to have my writing corrected and to speak with a native speaker. So how you (free users who write and speak) do this?

gr. mackenzie

Oh Steve thank you for your reaction/ post! Ofcourse I also want to thank everybody who reacted on my question!

gr. mackenzie

Passive listening may not be the most beneficial method, but at least my ears get accustomed to the sounds. That can never be detrimental for one’s studies. It’s not the same as listening to a totally unknown language - take your native language as an example. I’m pretty sure that you can “listen” to a local radio station while doing something else, and still pick up things from what you hear.

As a free user you can buy points which in turn can be spent on conversations with any of the tutors, writing submissions and more. There is also a possibility to earn points according to your activity score (if I’m correct).

I haven’t yet done any of this, but practice my written German with a penpal, and I will join a conversation here in a not too distant future.

Because I have relatives that speak these other languages and there are “exposure opportunities” that would otherwise be lost, I think that concentrating on one is good, but having another “on-the-side” can’t do too much harm.

I regret having started Vietnamese, for instance. I dabbled in it a bit, but I’m still consumed with French. I’ll give you an example: Just recently, I spent a whole day at the zoo with my girlfriend’s vietnamese family. I was with them for about 6 hours in total and 90% of the conversations they were having were in vietnamese. She would translate things every now and then, but all of it was practically for naught since I didn’t really have a foot-hold in the language at all.

In other words, I spend hours upon hours seeing and hearing interactions in these other languages. Another example is this afternoon, it is my cousin’s anniversary and they are having a party at their house tonight. When I go there tonight I will be exposed to countless hours of tagalog. That WILL all be wasted. It will go in one ear and out the other, just like it always has. Why? Because I haven’t started learning tagalog in earnest yet.

If I had at least started these other 2 languages that I wish to learn and have it at even a beginner level, simmering if you will - these bits and pieces of exposure to the language would at least have some utility. I’m going to go though these anyway in my daily life, so why not use it to your advantage.

This is of course my own situation and it may only apply to me. But, I’m sure this explains my point of view that there are certain situations where having a few other languages on the side can’t hurt.

oops in 2nd paragraph i mean I regret having not started … etc.