How many is too many?

As much as I love languages, I’ve always limited myself to learning ONE or TWO at a time.  I’m not sure I admire people who say they are learning six languages at the same time.  Mostly, I’m just skeptical of them.

Personally, I think it’s okay to learn multiple languages at the same time if you’re definitely at different levels in each language.  For me, my Korean isn’t impeccable or anything but my Korean abilities >>>>>>> my Japanese abilities.  Now, when I learn new things in Japanese, I liken them to things I already knew in Korean and that actually helps me learn better.  It also helps that Japanese and Korean have quite a bit of similarities, both in terms of vocabulary, SOME general grammar constructions (though I find that most Japanese grammar is quite different from Korean grammar), and even some expressions.  So studying Japanese sometimes helps me reinforce what I already know in Korean; at least, it forces me to think, “Hm. Is there an equivalent expression in Korean?” or “How would I express this in Korean?”  I think it might actually be helpful to learn two somewhat related or linguistically similar languages at the same time rather than learning just one or two completely unrelated languages.  That way, if you get exhausted or frustrated studying one language, you can switch to the other one but still somewhat unconsciously be reviewing the other one.  Does that even make sense?  Haha.  At least, that’s the kind of relationship I have with Japanese and Korean.  Also, once you’re quite comfortable with one language, you could use that language to learn another linguistically similar one.  For example, learning Japanese using Korean (or vice versa) is probably an infinity times easier than learning either one from English, just because English is SO different from Japanese and Korean.  (But, of course, you’d probably want to stick to using English to learn languages French or Spanish, rather than any East Asian language.)

But suppose you’re learning like two NEW (zero-experience) languages at the same time.  If they’re completely unrelated to each other, personally, I feel that you’d be doing a disservice to yourself.  You’d hinder your progress in BOTH languages.  It may take you longer to digest different sets of vocabulary and completely different grammar points.  And I feel that the time that you divide between two languages (specifically if you’re at the zero-experience, BEGINNER level in both) could be better spent in progressing faster in ONE language.  Once you reach a certain degree of comfort in one language, I think it’ll be worth starting a new one.  That way, like I said, if you ever get tired of one, you could take a break and study the other, even if the languages are unrelated.  On the other hand, if you’re starting from ground zero in two “similar” languages – like Hindi and Marathi or Korean and Japanese, again, I think you’d be at a disadvantage.  It’s possible you could easily get mixed up and hinder your progress in both.

Honestly, I’m VERY skeptical of people who say they’re learning Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, French, Spanish, etc. etc. all at the same time.  I just don’t think it’s a fruitful way to become proficient in ANY language.  But that’s just my opinion.  What do you guys think?  (*SOB* Not that anyone leaves me any comments anymore…)


  1. hangukdrama says:

    Me too! Learning a language involves so much effort and time, it’s impossible to say you are learning a few unrelated languages at one go. I’ve heard many people saying such stuff though. O.o I wonder how they define ‘learning a language’.

    p.s. I’m a regular silent reader! hahahaha :D


    1. Archana says:

      Awww thanks, Shanna! I’m forever your silent reader too. *hugs*


      1. owbEe says:

        I can be silent and vocal at the same time. ㅋㅋㅋ

        Btw, I’m a silent reader of both your blogs. I think I don’t sound silent now, do I?


  2. Chantelle says:

    I don’t know anything about learning three or more languages at a time. Once, I was studying both Japanese and Korean – that was a headache. Now, I just stick to one (I dropped Japanese for the moment b/c I’m more interested in Korea and Korean was harder for me) Nonetheless, if people have tons of free time and love language study, studying multiple languages at once should be feasible. I’ve yet to see someone pull it off though.


    1. Archana says:

      Yeah, I think it’s feasible but I don’t know of anyone’s who’s been successful either.


      1. Archana says:

        Yeah but he’s a genius ahahaha. But seriously speaking, I don’t know if he staggered his language-learning to learning two or three at a time or if he actually did study his 157698298 languages all at the same time. XD


      2. owbEe says:

        I guess you’re right. Probably one or two at time. But really, I think he’s a pure genius.


  3. Jeanne says:

    I totally agree with you. One language at a time!
    And yes, I also believe that you should focus on reaching a good level at your L2 before, and then learn the L3 through L2 material, so you don’t forget the latter. (Sadly it happens, my mother lost her proficiency in Spanish when she learned French…) Although as you said, if the L3 is related to your L1 and not your L2, it’s a waste of time. But in your case (L2 Korean and L3 Japanese) I feel like it’s the best thing to do. ^^


    1. Archana says:

      Yup!! I’m really curious as to how people claim to learn “five” languages at the same time though. It seems impossible. XD


      1. Jeanne says:

        My take is that they’re probably quite sh*tty at all five languages.


  4. isaberuchan says:

    I agree with you. My knowledge of Japanese is helping me with Korean but that’s because I started Japanese nearly 4 years before Korean. And althougj I want to start learning Chinese I won’t until I reach an inyermediate level at Korean.
    But anyway, I think that only counts for self-studying. I’ve been studying English and French at school for some time and I started Latin and ancient Greek at school too at the same time as Korean but I didn’t get confused or anything… Maybe it’s because I haven’t worked on these languages outside class, I don’t know.


  5. Greg says:

    That has been the guiding principle of my life. But darn, I spent far too much time on each language! Instead of just learning three, I could have learnt six if I’d played my cards right!


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