It’s possible to learn two languages at the same time, but it also requires more strategy and planning than learning one language. Here’s how to learn two different languages simultaneously and make progress in both.
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Pick 2 languages that aren’t closely related
It can be tempting to pick up Portuguese after you’ve started learning Spanish or start Dutch after exploring German, but learning related languages at the same time isn’t the best strategy. Experts recommend that you select languages with different features if you want to learn two at the same time. That way it’s easier for your brain to organise the information and not get the two confused.
Try choosing two languages that are in different language families so that the sounds and structure are different. These differences can highlight something you would have missed learning just one language, like important differences in grammatical gender or parts of speech.
If you love two similar languages, you can always go back and learn the second after you’ve mastered the first!
Get a foundation in one language before starting the other
If you’re passionate about languages, you might want to dive into learning two (or three, or five) languages all at once. While that might meet your desire to try new things, it’s not a plan for long-term learning success.
In fact, it’s best to start learning one language first and add the second later. That way, you already have a foundation in one language, so you’re not trying to organise all of the new information at the same time. If you’re learning with Babbel, trying making it through all the Beginner’s courses of one language before you start learning the other.
Set concrete and reachable goals
When learning two languages at once, it’s essential that you set goals for yourself. Setting goals will help keep you on track and motivated, so take some time to think about what you want out of learning both languages. Is one language for work and the other for travel? Or perhaps one is for heritage reasons and the other is to connect with your community. Whatever your reasons, write down what you hope to get out of them in the next six months to a year.
From here, you can find corresponding goals to match your aspirations. It’s important that these goals are realistic, because learning two languages means you’ll progress a bit slower than if you were learning just one.
If you’re learning to connect with your community, try setting a six-month goal to have a simple conversation with a neighbour about hobbies, food, or family. If you want to get in touch with your heritage, try setting a goal to write a two-paragraph letter to either a living relative or an ancestor. These measurable steps will make sure you’re working towards what you want out of both languages.
Make learning both languages a habit
Any language learning experience is more effective when it’s a habit, and this is doubly true when learning two languages. Before you begin your studies, think about how much time you have now in your day to devote to language learning. Ideally, you should be studying both languages every day, but at a minimum, you should study one language each day. Carve out some set time in your schedule and stick to it — even 15 minutes per day can be enough.
You should also have these learning habits be distinct from one another, so you’ll be less likely to mix them up. For example, maybe you study Spanish during breakfast, while you take time for German after work. You might also study your two languages in different rooms of your home. This way you can associate a distinct space with each language.
Want more tips on learning two languages at once? Read here.