Learning Multiple Languages Simultaneously

There’s one question that I get asked a lot: How are you learning multiple languages simultaneously without your brain becoming a pile of jelly?

There’s no magic formula or simple answer, but there are some things you can do to make it easier on yourself, and in this post, I’m going to share some of my tips for doing just that.

Tip 1 – Plan and manage your time

Learning multiple languages simultaneously is often considered a big no no. But, hey! It doesn't have to be. There are plenty of things you can do to help.

Whether you’re learning one language or seventeen, time management is key. If you can’t manage your time then the rest of this post isn’t going to be of any use. Get on that then come back.

You can go about managing your time in 2 ways when learning a language. You can either do a day or two of just one language then a day or two of the other, or little and often of both. Personally, I prefer the latter because otherwise I feel guilty of giving one language more love than the other. I know, it’s ridiculous, but it works.

Related: Nailing Time Management + 7 Productivity Apps to Start Using Right Now

Tip 2 – Location, location, location

Learning multiple languages simultaneously is often considered a big no no. But, hey! It doesn't have to be. There are plenty of things you can do to help.

One thing I find really useful when I want to switch between which language I’m learning is by moving. Change rooms, switch your seating position or simply stand up and go get yourself a drink then come back. All of these will help your brain to stop and ‘reset’!

Tip 3 – Take a break

Learning multiple languages simultaneously is often considered a big no no. But, hey! It doesn't have to be. There are plenty of things you can do to help.

If you really only have one place where you work well then take a little break before swapping language. Call a friend, put on some washing, or even better go for a short walk or a run to get your blood pumping, and consequently get your brain sharper!

Tip 4 – Ease yourself in

Learning multiple languages simultaneously is often considered a big no no. But, hey! It doesn't have to be. There are plenty of things you can do to help.

Don’t be so hard on yourself! When you switch, start with a little Memrise or reading in the language you want to swap to. That way, you’ll feel more relaxed and you’ll also be surprised at how much you remember after giving your brain a chance to tune in. Just be sure not to get carried away and do too much of the “easy” stuff instead of the learning you set out to do.

Related: Language Learning: Quality or Quantity?

Tip 5 – Driving = Korean

Learning multiple languages simultaneously is often considered a big no no. But, hey! It doesn't have to be. There are plenty of things you can do to help.

Set yourself specific languages at certain points during your daily routine. For example; while you’re driving, listen to Korean, but when you’re eating your breakfast, read some Mandarin. One way we learn is by association, so for best results, I’d recommend swapping which language you do and where every now and then to keep your brain fresh…and to make sure that you don’t become fluent in Korean only when you’re in your car.

Tip 6 – Mix it up

Learning multiple languages simultaneously is often considered a big no no. But, hey! It doesn't have to be. There are plenty of things you can do to help.

In the same way that changing location can help to make that mental switch, changing resources could also be something worth considering. Maybe focus your energies in one language on computer based learning and use books to help you learn the other language.

Tip 7 – Become an impressionist

Learning multiple languages simultaneously is often considered a big no no. But, hey! It doesn't have to be. There are plenty of things you can do to help.

It’s recently been big language news that people who speak multiple languages adopt different personalities when they speak different languages. Take advantage of this! Firstly, you have to visualise different languages in different “boxes” in your head. Of course there will be some cross over, some of which will be correct, some of which you will have decided is correct when it’s wrong. Hey ho, it will happen, let’s get over it.

When languages are separated in your brain, the next thing to do is really impersonate speakers of that language to get a sense of how things are said. At first, your best bet is to do this alone. You don’t really want to have to leave the area because your neighbours think you’re loopy. The more you watch and listen to people speaking in your target language(s), the more you will begin to sound authentic and almost develop a new persona when you’re speaking that language yourself.

Tip 8 – Which languages?

Learning multiple languages simultaneously is often considered a big no no. But, hey! It doesn't have to be. There are plenty of things you can do to help.

Some people may not have a choice of which languages they learn at the same time. However, if you do, then you’re lucky. Pick wisely. Some find that learning similar languages at the same time is helpful to them because they can make associations and see where things vary between languages. On the other hand, this can confuse the heck out of most people! There’s nothing wrong with this. It’s not a flaw and it certainly doesn’t make you a bad language learner. Decide whether you learn best learning 2 similar languages at once or learning 2 completely different languages at the same time.

Related: 4 Essential Questions Before Learning a Language

Do you have any other tips that help you to stay sane learning multiple languages simultaneously? Share them in the comments!

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About Lindsay Dow

Why hello there! I'm Lindsay and I do Languages. I blog, vlog and teach all things language. I blog about languages right here at Lindsay Does Languages, and about travel over at Mundo Trundle. If you're looking for language learning inspiration then stay a while. You might find just what you're looking for. :)
  • This is a really helpful post Lindsay! I’ve considered learning two languages at once and always shied away from it but now I feel like I’m going to have to do it soon. I want to learn Latvian before I go there for the summer but I haven’t finished my French Challenge yet. So far, focusing on my French and just gently easing into the Latvian with 5 or 10 minutes a day of a Beginner’s Memrise course. What I’ve found so far is that this let’s me keep my focus on French which is my main goal but I know those few minutes of Latvian vocab are going to give me a big headstart by the time I’m ready to really focus on that language in a couple of months time! I definitely think it helps that they two languages are very different!

  • Nina JoliΔ‡

    Hi, Lindsay! I am, for the first time, serious about learning 3
    languages at the same time. They are English, French and Greek. The
    problem is that I have deadlines for each of them. At least, some kind
    of. My cousins from France are coming to my country in August, I’m going
    to Greece in the last week of October, and in the meantime, I want to
    brush up on my English. It’s a little bit rusty because I haven’t
    practiced speaking for a long time.My French is at a weak intermediate level, English is advanced, and I am a complete beginner in Greek. I wanted to set aside everything and *just* learn Greek, but I just couldn’t do that. I studied it for 2 weeks, and then I’ve suddenly changed my mindset about my French. I learned that I need to approach my learning differently. I’ve read about learning multiple languages at the same time a lot, but I am specifically concerned about my own learning. Perhaps I should learn only French by August, and then only Greek and English by October?

    By the way, is there a “hidden pun” in the part where you wrote “just be sure not to get carried away”, because of the book you’re reading in the photo? πŸ˜‰

    • Hi Nina!
      Perhaps it’s a good idea to focus primarily on one at a time given your deadlines but still allow a little “fun/down time” to enjoy the other languages and do something “lighter” with them? πŸ™‚

      No pun intended! πŸ™‚

  • This is a tough one for me, because I don’t have a whole lot of time for studying. I also feel like I’d be cheating on Spanish with Portuguese lol. I’ve listened to some podcasts in Portuguese but I still want to do things in Spanish, especially with my son. He’s been enjoying both languages actually, because we found some fun children’s videos on YouTube in Portuguese:-) I am working on mapping out time for each so I can be more intentional with my study and my son’s learning as well

    • I think it’s a great idea to map out some time. Or even a day each week or a certain time of day when you allow yourself to do some Portuguese and it won’t feel so much like you’re cheating on Spanish! πŸ˜‰