As a digital nomad and indie hacker who has lived in various countries, I've had the unique opportunity to immerse myself in different languages and cultures. This nomadic lifestyle has allowed me to learn languages in their natural environment, which is arguably the best way to learn.
Living in a country where the language is spoken provides a level of immersion that you simply can't get from a classroom or an app. You're forced to use the language in real-life situations, which can significantly speed up the learning process. Plus, you get to learn colloquialisms, idioms and slang that aren't typically taught in traditional language courses.
So, what's the best way to learn a language? Should you focus on one language at a time or learn multiple languages concurrently? In this article, I'll share my personal experience with learning multiple languages at once and the pros and cons of this approach.
It's More Efficient
The biggest advantage of learning two or more languages at the same time is that it allows you to maximize your study time. Rather than completing multiple language courses back-to-back, you can work through them in parallel, acquiring skills in several languages simultaneously. Over the same period, you will likely gain proficiency in more languages by dividing your time between them.
It Keeps You Engaged
Learning a new language is a habit that takes a lot of effort and consistency. When you hit an inevitable plateau with one language, having another language to switch to can reengage your interest and motivation. The variety prevents boredom and burnout that can come from focusing on a single language for an extended time.
You Can Compare and Contrast
When you learn languages concurrently, you get to see firsthand how different languages express ideas differently. You can compare and contrast grammar structures, vocabulary choices, idioms, etc. This comparison helps you grasp nuances and gain a deeper understanding of each language.
The most common downside is the potential for confusion, especially between languages that are similar (e.g. Spanish and Italian). When you split your study time, it takes longer to cement the vocabulary and grammar of each language. Until you reach proficiency, it's very easy to mix up words and sentence structures between languages.
Learning a language requires immersion and repetition to build fluency. When your time is divided between multiple languages, you lose out on opportunities for that deep immersion. It's easy for your focus to be divided rather than giving any one language your full attention and effort. Progress can seem slower as a result.
Loss of Momentum
When tackling multiple languages, you are essentially having to build momentum from scratch with each one. With a single language, the momentum builds naturally over time as your skills grow. But with multiple languages dividing your time, you never get into that focused groove with any one of them. Keeping momentum up simultaneously on several languages is challenging.
In summary, my personal experience is that there are valid pros and cons to learning multiple languages concurrently. The efficiency and engagement benefits have to be weighed carefully against the divided focus and confusion challenges. My advice is to give it a try but be ready to adjust your approach based on your own experience. Don't be afraid to shift your strategy and focus on one language if needed. Consistency over the long-term is key to language learning success.