“Should I learn two languages at once?”
It’s a question I get asked all the time. And I understand where it’s coming from.
You see me online, speaking 6 languages. You see other polyglots around the world who have command of seven, eight, nine languages – and you think, hey! I want some of that action. I want to speak all of these languages.
And I want to do it all at once.
So then you think to yourself – how hard can it be? If this guy speaks six languages, why can’t I learn two at the same time?
Well. I get it. I really do.
But learning two languages at the same time usually isn’t a good idea. Unless you just want to practice hearing and pronunciation in multiple languages.
Let me explain.
Have you ever tried to carry two bikes at the same time? Maybe your friend has left her bike at yours, and you need to return it to her.
At first, it seems easy, right? You can ride one bike and lead the other bike. Or maybe you can walk along with both bikes, a handle on either handlebar.
But when it comes to actually doing it, you realize how awkward it is.
You can’t cycle properly while holding onto the other bike, your weight distribution is all wrong and the wheels of the other bike keep going in the wrong direction. You scratch your ankles and smack them with the pedals. It’s painful.
Why is it painful?
Because you’re not doing either thing properly.
You can’t ride the first bike properly because you have to lead the second bike. And you can’t lead the second bike properly, because you have to ride the first.
So what you end up doing is two things half as well.
A much better way of giving your friend back her bike would just be to ride it back, right?
Take the bikes one at a time.
This might seem like it will take longer – but ultimately it will be a lot easier. You can ride both of the bikes properly, with both hands on the handlebars and both feet on the pedals. You’ll be able to control the bikes more effectively, and sure it sucks to have to walk back and collect the other bike – but at least you haven’t bashed your ankles this time.
It’s the same for learning a foreign language.
Learning a foreign language is hard. It takes time, commitment and most importantly – focus. You need to sit down with that language and get to know it.
You should stick with one language until you hit conversational fluency.
Then, and only then, should you go back for the other bike.
There’s an exception.
In our language philosophy, there are three stages to learning a foreign language (say it with me guys):
- Hearing and pronunciation
- Understanding and speaking
- Reading and writing
If you’ve taken our courses, you’ll know we save reading and writing for the end to really improve your command of the language. The way kids learn.
Our focus instead is on (1) – hearing and pronunciation. Because before you can understand someone, you need to be able to hear them. And before you can speak to someone, you need to be able to pronounce the sounds in that language.
Now here’s the caveat.
If you’re learning two languages at the same time, the phonetics will interlink.
That’s because we all use the same mouth.
When you add a new language, you’ll pick up new ways to use your mouth. Each language gives you a new perspective and helps you master your mouth and get more familiar with the shapes and sounds it can make.
For me, I learned Spanish first and then Portuguese later on.
When I was learning Portuguese, I went back to my Spanish and realized I could pronounce and hear things in Spanish better because I had more dexterity with my mouth. Not only this – my ear was also sharper, so I could pick out the sounds of Portuguese a lot better.
So, when it comes to hearing and pronunciation alone – I actually do recommend exploring several different languages at once. Tune your ears to different languages. This’ll give you more perspective, more control, and something like a comparative phonetic study of the mouth. Which sounds fancier than it actually is.
So here’s what you need to do:
- Decide which language you really want to learn. Maybe you’ve got dreams of moving to Berlin, or Paris. Maybe you want to be able to chat to your girlfriend or boyfriend’s parents in Portuguese. Regardless – pick your language.
- Make this your sole focus and goal for conversation – understanding, and speaking.
- When it comes to hearing and pronunciation, start exploring the other languages you want to speak. They will help you train your mouth and will actually benefit your learning speed with your first language.
And remember – you get a discount on your second language when you purchase the Mimic Method courses.
Just don’t try riding two bikes at the same time.