How to Learn Two Languages at the Same Time 3

learn two languages at the same time

How to learn two languages at the same time

Some of you may remember my blog post about how to learn several languages at the same time. It’s a topic that many, many people are interested in for some reason! The post I wrote about it a couple of years ago is actually one of the most popular posts on the 5-Minute Language blog ever.

And that’s great! I’m happy to see that so many people want to learn more than one language. But…

There are also people who don’t care about being polyglots. They don’t want to learn multiple languages but one is not enough. So, I thought it’s time to share something with them. In this post, I’m going to talk about my favourite tips for learning two languages at the same time.

Before I start, I just want to make you aware of a video I made on this topic. It’s published on my YouTube channel and I want to invite you to subscribe to that to make sure you don’t miss any of my language advice I post there!

How to learn two languages at the same time 

Take a look at the tips below if you want to know how to learn two foreign languages at once.

Associate a different study routine with each language

Having two separate routines will help you see learning each language as a separate task. For example, if you’re learning Spanish and Russian, you can have the following routines:

  • Only learn Spanish on the bus on your way to work
  • Only learn Russian in your favourite coffee shop

That way, you’ve got two separate routines that you don’t mix up, and there’s a clear distinction between your two languages.

Use personas to keep the two languages separate 

A persona is a character you embody when you learn a language. It’s almost like having two separate personalities. For example, if you’re learning French, your persona can be that of a French impressionist painter. Imagine what this person is like, how they speak and behave, and try to ‘become’ them when learning French.

Use a completely different persona when learning your second language. If it’s English, for example, you can pretend to be an American rapper. It’s very different to being a French impressionist painter, isn’t it?!

A persona can also be a character from a film or a book. Be creative and choose two very distinctive personas!

When using this method, you will again create two separate contexts for the languages you’re learning and you’ll make it less confusing for yourself.

Choose languages with different levels of proficiency

It’s easier to learn two languages at the same time when you’re at a different level with each of them. For example, if you’re at the intermediate level with one language and a beginner with the second language.

The difference in your levels of proficiency will create two separate contexts and you’ll be less likely to mix up the languages.

Learn two very different languages

There are some benefits in learning two languages which are similar to each other. I’m going to cover this in the next paragraph and I’ve actually written a separate post about the benefits of learning languages which are similar to each other.

But for now, let’s stick with learning two very different languages at once. For example, I’m learning Japanese and Spanish. There is no way in the world I’m going to mix them up because the writing system, the vocabulary and the grammar are completely different.

If I was learning French and Spanish at the same time, though, it might be more confusing because of the similarities they share. In fact, this has happened to me. When I first started learning Spanish, I would use French words unintentionally instead of Spanish ones!

Now, let’s move on to the next tip, which kind of contradicts this one!

Learn two similar languages

The reason I said this tip contradicts the previous one is that you shouldn’t do both at once. You should choose one of them – the one that works better for you. We’re all different and some of us will find it useful to learn languages which are similar while others will be extremely confused by that.

So this tip is about choosing two languages that share a lot of similar vocabulary. This can certainly speed up your learning.

Schedule your learning

My final tip is about scheduling and planning your language learning.

First of all, make sure you have a good balance between the two languages. If you’re learning two languages at the same time, you want to make sure you don’t accidentally abandon one of them.

Here’s an example of a schedule based on language weeks:

  • One week for one language
  • One week for the other language
  • Then one week for the first language again, and so on

And here’s an example based on language days:

  • Learn one language on weekdays
  • Learn the other language on weekends

Try not to learn both languages on the same day. Go to sleep, get up with a fresh brain and learn your second language then 🙂

Are you learning two languages at the same time? Share your experiences in the comments below! 

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  • Mario Morales

    I´m learning japanese and english.
    I have an upper intermediate level english and pre intermediate level in japanese.
    It´s been some difficul for me japanese because there are a lot of kanjis and grammar is different than spanish and english grammar. I´m going to practice your advices because I want to be an expert speaking japanese and english.

    Thank you very much.

  • Cate Loveland

    For me, I just get too confused with two. I have tried, but my brain doesn’t like switching. At all. I’m working on modern Greek right now, and would like to add Latin or German, but my brain gets so immersed in one. I do maintenance on my French and Italian the one per day, though, and that works well.

  • W. Jus

    Hi Agnieszka, thanks for this article. I am also a native Polish guy who has lived in Ireland since 2004. I can actually read English pretty well, I can understand a lot of spoken English as I love listening to all kinds of podcasts. For example I listen to Irish RTE, British BBC (also BBC Scotland), CBC Canada, ABC Australia or New Zealand Talk Radio. Of course I listen to many American podcasts as well (Stuff Mom Never Told You is one of my favourite ones). I think that the worst part of my English is writing. I speak English fluently but of course speaking is worse than listening and reading skills. Of course it’s the problem with active and passive knowledge of the language.

    Now I decided to learn French as a second foreign language. It’s very difficult for me. French pronunciation is much more difficult than English. Although I am a total beginner from the very beginning I listen to French Radio. I am happy if I understand even one word, for example – Mercredi. 🙂 But I get used to French pronunciation, the melody of this language and I hope it will pay off in near future. Additionally I think about learning Spanish in a few months but first I want to be much better at French. I will use exactly the same method of learning. I even have similar courses so it looks like it might help me.
    Just today I discovered your website so I am going to read all your articles and listen to your videos. Thanks a lot! Waldemar from Ireland