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
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.
Tip 2 – Location, location, location
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
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
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.
Tip 5 – Driving = Korean
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
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
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?
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.
Do you have any other tips that help you to stay sane learning multiple languages simultaneously? Share them in the comments!