Learning a new language can be a useful and fulfilling achievement. But it’s also a huge undertaking. From understanding new grammatical rules to figuring out vocabulary and pronunciation, language learning takes time and commitment.
So, what if you’re feeling extra ambitious—can you learn two languages at once, or is it too much for your brain to process?
Good news! You can absolutely learn two languages at the same time (if you go about it in the right way).
To help you decide if this is something you’d like to try, we’ll discuss some pros and cons of learning two different languages at once. On top of that, we’ve got some handy tips for you to make your dual-language-learning journey as smooth as possible.
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Learning two languages at once: Pros and cons
When you’re asking yourself, “Is it okay to learn two languages at once?” there are a few things you’ll want to consider. Here are some key advantages and disadvantages.
Pro: You’ll save time overall
If you study two languages in tandem, you’ll gain skills in both faster than if you try to master one first and then start to learn a second one afterward. The only caveat is that you need to plan your time wisely—we’ll dig into that a bit later.
Con: You might get mixed up
Learning two languages at the same time could cause you to confuse the two. You might mistake one word for another, or use the wrong spelling conventions, for example. This is especially true if you decide to study two languages that are fairly similar.
Pro: You’ll increase your career opportunities faster
It might come as no surprise that being able to communicate in more than one language leads to more career benefits, such as being qualified for a wider range of jobs. So, it makes sense that if knowing one additional language can give you a career boost, then knowing two is that much better. Better yet is learning two at the same time. Not only will you increase the number of jobs you can apply for, but you’ll be able to do it more quickly than if you learned one after the other.
Con: It might slow your progress
We mentioned above that you would save time by learning two languages at the same time. But that’s only if you have enough time and plan well. If you have limited time for learning and you need to divide that time between two languages, you might not advance as quickly as you would if you were devoting all that time to only one language.
Pro: You won’t have to worry about getting bored
No matter how motivated you are to learn a language, it’s normal to hit a plateau. It isn’t possible to stay 100% focused on something non-stop—sometimes you just lose interest. The nice thing about learning two languages simultaneously is that you have more than one thing keeping you interested. Rather than studying the same language day in and day out, you’ll be able to switch it up regularly.
Con: You might play favorites
You may start off with the best of intentions: You’ve picked two languages you want to learn, made a schedule, gotten some solid resources and you’re off. But before long, you realize you actually prefer one language over the other—maybe it’s easier for you, it might be more interesting, etc. Whatever the reason, if you start to play favorites, you’ll end up focusing more on one and progressing faster while the other language will be forgotten.
Helpful hints for success
Now that you know some of the pros and cons of learning two languages at once, let’s go over some advice to help you along.
1. Pick two dissimilar languages
Remember earlier when we said you might get confused if you’re learning two similar languages? This is pretty common. Take Italian and French, for example. The infinitive “to do” in French is faire; in Italian, it’s fare. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that you might have a hard time keeping these two similar languages straight.
Luckily, there’s a way around this issue. By studying two languages that are nothing alike, such as Korean and Polish, you’ll be able to separate them in your head and avoid making embarrassing or frustrating mistakes.
2. Keep them separate
Another useful way to avoid mixing up your languages is to have separate study times and locations. Practicing one language in the mornings in your bedroom and the other in the evenings in the living room will help keep your mind organized. Having that time between study sessions will also give you a much-needed breather and a chance to absorb and reflect on what you’ve learned in one language before jumping into the other one.
3. Have impeccable time management skills
Learning two languages at once means double the study time. If you want to make the most of your time, you need to ensure you’re making equal time for both languages. If you spend an hour a day learning German, you’d better make sure you’ve got another hour to dedicate to Japanese. Creating a daily or weekly schedule that you can hang on your wall can be helpful: You can write down mini goals to meet in each language, see what you’ve covered and visualize if there are any areas in which you’re lacking.
4. Pick one familiar and one less familiar language
Starting to learn two languages that are completely foreign to you can be overwhelming. Instead, try choosing one language that feels more familiar—maybe it uses the same alphabet as your first language—and another that’s less familiar. This can make the whole process feel a bit less daunting. Just make sure you don’t fall into favoritism, as we discussed earlier!
Learning two languages at the same time: double the fun
Can you learn two languages at once? For sure! Not only is it possible, but it can offer several advantages if you go about it the right way. Just be aware of the challenges of learning multiple languages and use our helpful tips to set yourself up for success. There’s nothing stopping you!
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Andrea is a Canadian freelance writer and editor specializing in English, e-learning, EdTech, and SaaS. She has a background as an ESL teacher in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia. In her free time, Andrea loves hanging out with her husband and children, creating recipes in the kitchen, and reading fiction. She also loves camping and jumping into lakes whenever possible. Learn more about Andrea on LinkedIn or check out her website.