You have decided to learn two languages at the same time, either out of necessity or because you wish to. You’ve set yourself a great challenge! But don’t worry, with proper planning and a few tricks, there is nothing impossible about it. Let’s look at the prerequisites for learning your target languages well and how to avoid ‘mixing them up’.
Learning two languages at the same time: which ones to choose?
A Dutch word that slips into a German sentence, a little “¡vale!” that pops up in an Italian conversation… When learning several languages at the same time, there is always a risk of “mixing them up”. If you are reading this article, there is a big chance that this has happened to you too. Although it’s not a big deal, you may find it annoying and even frustrating.
To avoid these little mishaps, it is best to choose two languages from two very different language groups. The further apart the languages are, the lower the risk of confusion. An English-Italian language combination will be less difficult than a Spanish-Italian one, for example.
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Nevertheless, there is a little incentive to learning two languages from the same group. You can use the vocabulary and grammar of your stronger language to understand the second (weaker) language more easily. However, this is best done by people who already have an advanced level in at least one of the two languages.
As you have already realised, the level you have in each of the two languages will greatly influence your ability not to mix them up. It is not advisable to learn two languages at the same time if you are an absolute beginner in both of them. You need to have at least one of the two languages already ‘ingrained’ in your brain so that your brain can distinguish one from the other.
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Ideally, wait until you have an intermediate level (B1 minimum) in the first language before you start learning the second one. This will give you a stronger and a weaker language, which will require less effort from your brain to switch from one to the other without confusing them.
Segregating your language learning
In terms of time
To avoid mixing up the foreign languages, you should segregate your learning. In practical terms, you are going to tell your brain that learning both the languages are two distinct activities.
The first thing to do is to choose different time slots for your language lessons. Plan your weaker language when you are most alert, as this is the language that will require the most effort. For your stronger language, choose a completely different time of the day. Let’s say you are learning German (weaker language) and Italian (stronger language). If you are a morning person, schedule your German lessons before noon and your Italian lessons at the end of the day, after work for example.
On a technical level
To go a step ahead in organising, you can also consider other parameters. For example, you can choose a blue folder for your German lessons and a red one for Italian: this creates a visual differentiation.
You can also create a “geographical” distinction. To do this, learn each language in a different area: the first one in your office and the second one in the living room, for example. Needless to say, make sure that the places where you study do not have too many distractions so as to avoid losing your concentration.
Finally, try to vary the teaching materials to avoid having lessons or exercises that are too similar for the two languages.
Bien s’organiser pour apprendre plusieurs langues étrangères simultanément
Focus on proportionality
Learning two languages simultaneously does not necessarily require twice as much time, but it does require a little more planning. You will need to spend proportionately more time on your weaker language than on your stronger one.
If you are a complete beginner in the second language and already have a good level in the first one, you can allocate 25% of your time to the first language and 75% to the second one, for example. This allocation will change as you progress. When both languages are at the same level, you can devote 50% of your time to each of them.
Remember to be consistent in your learning
Don’t neglect your stronger language completely in favour of your weaker one (or vice versa). It is important to be consistent in your learning to avoid either of the languages becoming ‘rusty’. Otherwise, you will lose a lot of valuable time getting it up to the mark.
✨ Going further: Organise your language learning
One of the keys to success in learning two languages at the same time is to be well guided. At 1to1PROGRESS, your coach and trainers work together to help you achieve your language learning goals. Find out about the 9 languages available and our unique teaching techniques!