Two questions!

Hey guys! I hope your language learning is going well. I have two questions and I cannot seem to find the answers anywhere.

  1. In the past I have tried learning many languages at once and it did not work for me. Therefore, this time around I am going to try to focus on learning one at a time. If I am doing one language at a time, when will I know when to move on to another language? I am thinking of maybe once I have a large enough vocabulary of starting the next one, but I do not want to neglect quality of the language for trying to achieve a high quantity of languages.

  2. Similar to the first question, some of the languages I am learning, I do not really want to speak, so much as be able to read. Is there anything wrong with that? Or should I just go ahead and learn to speak too? For example, I want to learn Latin. I mean a person can speak it, but there really are not that many places other than in a Catholic church that a person could speak it. However, I am a Greek and Roman history instructor/professor and I would love to be able to read in Latin. I feel that it would be able to bring more to the classroom. Do you guys have any languages that you are just learning so you can read the language, or is that just me?

Any answers would be appreciated.


  1. A good question, but the correct answer probably varies widely by individual. I’m fairly well along in Russian here and have toyed with a couple of other languages. But I must not want to learn German or Portuguese or Dutch badly enough to risk sacrificing further progress in Russian, so I’ve not stuck with them. Someone who truly wants to be a polyglot of some sort probably would have started another by now at my stage. The balance of depth vs. breadth is up to the individual.

  2. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be able to read another language. Duh! If you don’t need to speak it, you don’t need to learn to speak it. Whatever fits your goals. I haven’t started really speaking Russian yet. I would rather like to, but not so badly as to pursue it yet, and there’s no real opportunity in my environs to practice speaking. I’m doing this as a hobby. So if I don’t actually need to learn to read Russian, then how can anyone tell me I that I need to learn speak it?

FWIW, I took Latin for two years in high school long ago. I appreciated the fact that I did not have to keep up with native speakers (the Jesuits who taught it notwithstanding).

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khardy, thanks for the answer!! I have so many interests in so many different languages it is hard to resist the feeling to dabble in them all at once. I have tried that before and it did not work well. I am trying to be more methodical this time around. I have the most experience in Spanish so I am going to try to get that one to the highest level. Currently, I have almost 6000 words, and I hope to get to an advanced 2 level for word count. Now the other languages I think I will be more just satisfied with being able to read it and basic communication. However, I am going to Portugal this summer, so I would love to get a little headstart on that language so I can try to communicate while I am over there. So I think I might do a little dabbling in Portuguese in about a month or two. What do you think?

This subject has come up before. You might find some older threads about it, if you’re lucky enough searching the forums. And maybe someone else who has pursued multiple languages will chime in here.

Re: Portugal this summer. If I was doing that I’d at least “dabble”, sure. I doubt that I myself would go whole hog on it, but I’m sure there are others who would. I’m just cognizant of how long a road it’s been with Russian and wonder whether I could get far enough in 6 months to make that much difference. On the other hand, Portuguese is probably much easier, especially if you’re already familiar with Spanish or other romance languages, so maybe you could make some meaningful progress.

Sure, if you like Portuguese and are going to visit the country, by all means focus on it. Working a bit every day you’ll probably be able to communicate to some extent. In about 3 months and with some previous knowledge of Spanish, you may be able toacquire a nice A2 level, which is very useful for tourists. At that level you’ll be able to communicate in structured situations in which you know what kind of messages to expect: asking for directions, ordering at restaurants, … I’d try to study everyday for about 3 months in order to achieve that result. Do take a conversation guide along.
I’ll give you my opinion about your original two questions, I begin with the second one:
2) Yes, I’ve studied Latin and ancient Greek. The goal is to be able to read original texts as fluently as possible. It’s a worthwhile goal. Whereas that changes a bit the way you study, I would argue that it’s not a dramatic change: the main methodology is still similar to what you do in order to learn a language you want to communicate with. Consider the “reading Latin” series, which I think uses a nice methodology and has the clear goal of getting you reading real texts asap. I don’t have direct experience with it because I learned Latin back in school but I have gone through the “Reading Greek” texts and I enjoyed them a lot. After you finish the books, keep reading. Lingq can help you with that.

  1. There’s no rule about when to change languages. Feel free to experiment. However, I think that there’s a tendency to change too much and too early and you seem to have fallen prey to it. IMO, it has a lot to do with your expectations and the way you think about learning languages. Many people seem to be thinking in terms of how many languages they want to learn, whether that languae is interesting because of its grammar, or how many speakers it has, …
    That kind of motivation tends to be very weak and it mostly keeps you thinking about when you’ll learn the next language, what you’re missing out because you chose a language, and not another, etc.
    Instead, find reasons for wanting to enjoy material in a given language day by day and stick with it. Learn a language whose literature you enjoy or whose music/cinema/… you love or where there are particular people you want to know or that you really want to travel to, etc. Make those goals your main focus.

I wish you success

Hello Adam,

This is how I will answer #1.

  1. I would recommend getting a firm grasp on your current language than move onto another, what the “firm grasp” is depends on you.

For me: When I am able to talk easily and understand most things and can speak fluidly and I am comfortable speaking in the Language. At that point I can move onto another. The problem with “Studying” more than one it can get a bit frustrating. So… once those words are activily working in your Active Memory you only need to maintain the language at that point.

For example: I am Fluent in English. I am Fluent again in Spanish now again. Since April I use LingQ to increase/improve my Spanish Level and to improve the vocabulary and I commununicate with People every day speaking in Spanish.

However, I am activily Studying German . I want it up to at least a conversational level again before going back and revisiting my Japanese and Russian. Right now I only have enough energy to re-add one language at a time. Since April I am now approaching where I need to start conversing with people in German. Once I am able to start conversing with them then the German will take off more and I will have to continue to Focus on it still for a few more months until it is at a very fluid level and I can swtich easily between German and English or German and Spanish and of course Spanish and English. At that poing once I am very comfortable I will go onto my next Language.

You will know for your self when you are able to maintain what you have and add another language.

I listened to a Poliglot on youtube in April and I realized he had a valid point. Not an exact quote: " If your goal is to speak five Languages but you only know three; ‘learn one more’. If your goal is to learn five languages but you only know one; ‘learn one more’. If your goal is to learn seven languages and you know six; ‘learn one more’. When you have learned that ‘one more’ and are comfortable with it, then move onto the ‘next one’ and learn ‘one more’ and repeat that process utill you achieve your goal."

  1. On that note I would say “Yes, I have a problem with that.” I havn’t finished reading your question yet. But I would like to respond right now.

“WHY” would you EVER want to limit your self in a language and only “Read it”?

Ha ha ha Funny… I was just going to say unless you are learning Classical Greek or Latin and I just went back up and figured I better read the rest of the question before continuing to respond. Ha ha ha. I will leave what I said in place and qualify it only with the following word ‘Live’ language.

It comes down to why are you learning the language?

However just in case you might know me in person I will add another qualifyer here ha ha ha. Yes before my head injury two years ago I was studying alphabets for year and approached language learning very differently by learning how to read the alphabet first and I learned to read Russian, and Arabic and Japanese while I was at university and I had a moderate level of speaking in all of the above listed languages that I have mentioned so far. …oh ha ha ha ya… I forgot about the “Knowing me part”… Klingon, and Quenya too… It all started with Tolkien as a child… It was the Quenya script in TLOTR that fasinated me and I learned to read and write that first and of course speak it. Then it was the Klingon and yes there is a script too but most people use the “Latin alphabet”. My point: Unless that language you are learning is not a LIVE language. Why limit yourself to not fluidly speaking it.

Example: As I am learning I repeat outloud everything that I am hearing line by line as they say it. As in they say a line. I stop the recording and say it too. When I page to the next page and my words come up for review. I say outloud all of what I am shown and answer the questions and when that is done of course it takes me back to the next page of the lesson. As I walk around the block pushing against the headache on my daily walk I listen to the lessons, over and over again. But as I am listening I am also reapeating what I am hearing outloud. Some of my lessons it says I have listend to 52 times before I dumped that lesson for space for a newer one.

Yes, reading and writing the language is great and is very important. Because it takes your language to the next level. But you will only become fluent in it by speaking it. By gernerating the words withing your own head and saying them outloud. By having conversations with people in that language and interacting in it. I might add also; What was the process you did to learn your first langauge? Was it learning to read it first? Learning about the Grammer first? Learning about the Sentence structure first? No. You spent the first two years of your life listening to it. You then tried out a couple of sounds and you cintinued listening to it. Then you tried out a couple of words to get the sounds right and within just a few months you were speaking in full correct sentences… but you still havn’t read a single word yet… then you learned how to read it years later once you had achieved a level of proficiency at it.

All three aspects of any language are criticaly imporant in the end. By listening your improve your comprehension and vocabulary. By speaking you improve your vocabulary and fluidity in the language and by reading you improve your sentences structure and vocabulary.

That which you presist on doing becomes easier. Not that it’s nature has changed but our capacity to do that thing has increased. If you want to be a good translator then “Translate”. If you want to be a good speaker then Listen and Speak it.

I hope that you have found this usefil.

I like your points, I agree with those points and hadn’t considered them in my own responce. But yes, the process is part of it too. As an example I much prefer watching star wars in Spanish then in English. It’s so much more enjoyable experiance not to have to listen to Jar Jar Binks. I agree. Touch your language every day. Speak it, Listen to it, Read it.

As of question no. 2 - there is no right or wrong. Do you need to be able to read? Work on your reading skills. Do you need to be able to understand spoken language? Work on your listening skills. Do you need to be able to speak? Read, listen and speak.
Your goals and needs are yours. Whatever others think about them is irrelevant.

I agree.

  1. There is a difference between “moving on” and “adding on.” I never move on from a language, I just decide to add on another language into my daily routine, once a previous language has reached a level where I can easily maintain it with regular daily activities such as passive listening, reading etc. Usually this will happen at the intermediate levels.

  2. Technically, you don’t have to speak a language in order to speak it :slight_smile: What I mean by that is, if you get really good at reading and listening, you will be able to speak it to some extent. It’s impossible for your brain to separate the two. BUT, the more speaking practice you do, the less of difference there will be between your passive vocabulary and your speaking ability.

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