Learning one language is not difficult. However, learning two languages at the same time can get quite challenging – unless you manage things well. Polyglots are no different from normal humans, they are just more passionate about learning languages, or are able to motivate themselves than most others. If you have zeroed down on your target languages, great! But, if you haven’t, then here are two points that you must consider.
- Congruence: Pick up languages that resemble closely, for instance, prefer picking up Spanish and French instead of Spanish and Mandarin. It isn’t some hard and fast rule, and sure, you can pick up Mandarin and Spanish at the same time, but languages that closely resemble each other helps you maintain the balance.
- Objectives: If you are learning for professional competence, then there is absolutely no choice. However, if you are learning it for a rewarding career, consider taking some time out to think objectively, availability of job opportunities in languages that you intend to learn etc.
Once you are set, it’s time for you to effectively maintain the balance. So, how do you maintain the right balance? Well, if you have read my post about how long it takes to learn languages, you would see that it takes a longer time to learn a few languages than the others. Therefore, set aside about 20-30 minutes extra study time per day for the more difficult language.
Now, here is how you organize things, and a breakdown of why you need 20-30 minutes extra on the more difficult language. As a rule, I always start with more difficult first, although it may vary from person to person.
- Language Study Time Table: Always try to keep separate sessions for each language. Generally, it is not a good idea to come back and forth, as the overlearning and sometimes pressure can cripple your learning abilities. Keep a wide variety of learning stuff, for instance, Mandarin Flashcards and Spanish Podcasts on one day and vice versa on the other day.
- Keep Language Sessions Short: Each one for about 30 minutes. You can learn and concentrate much more than that, but the key here is to retain maximum focus and energy. So if you start off with a 1-hour session of mandarin, you would quickly deplete your mental energy and draw reserves from your Spanish quota.
- A special 20-minute revision for difficult language: With languages, you need execution along with positive thoughts, and keep these 20 minutes for the difficult language, 30 minutes if need be. But just make sure that you have revised your language material completely. There is no shortcut to revision.
- Confidence: Have faith in your brain’s ability. There are people who can speak 10+ languages yet never get confused, and you too won’t. But it is important to weed out negativity, if you can’t keep it away, just take a break, deep breathe for two minutes, and come back.
- Focus on Process and not the goal: Here’s where the art of thinking less comes into play. If you think of the goal, then it would overwhelm you. It isn’t the most helpful way of doing things. Try to dissociate from your overall language goals – only during your study sessions. Thinking of anything else – even your language goals – at the time of studies is very distracting. Try avoiding it, and if you can’t avoid it, just let it happen and refocus.
Now, try to maintain some variation. Like whenever I learn two new languages at one time, I tend to change my facebook’s default language to one target language and my computer’s default language to another, and switch it, in order to maintain a good variation.
If you keep these language learning tips in mind, you won’t find it difficult to learn two languages at the same time.