I know what you’re thinking.

“Wait a second… learning one language is hard enough. Are you suggesting I consider learning even more?!”

Before you dismiss this out of hand, consider that adding a second language might not be as difficult as you think. In fact, learning two languages at a time can be easier than learning just one.

Why is it that some people devote ten, twenty years to learning a single language without making much progress, while others are able to pick up several languages at the same time with ease?

It’s all too easy to blame the difference on talent — some people have it, others just don’t. But this is just a lazy rationalization. The real difference is in method and in mindset. What this means is that the number of languages you learn isn’t as critical as the way you approach language learning.

In fact, learning two or more languages has some benefits:

  1. It’s less tiring. I used to think German was hard. Until I started learning Thai, that is. Now the German table is where I go to take a break. Learning more than one language helps keep things in perspective, and prevents burnout.
  2. You’ll learn faster. The more languages you learn, the better at it you get. This works in reverse, too: I know several polyglots who have gotten past a bottleneck in one language by taking a break and focusing on another language. Your brain will also get better at switching between languages.
  3. It trains your ears. Every language has a different set of sounds, a different cadence, a different musicality. It takes time and focus to teach your ears to pick out these differences, but the more you do it, the more nimble your ears will become.
  4. It improves your mindset. No matter what languages they’re learning, language learners are all basically practicing the same skill: communication. Learning multiple languages helps you focus on this commonality, which is the real heart of language learning.

How many is too many? Granted, learning takes time, especially languages that you’re just starting. Two at a time is probably the ideal number for most working people.

Have I convinced you? Then let’s get started! In our next post, we’ll talk about how to start learning a brand-new language.

Categories: Language learning

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