Just how many can you learn? Watch

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Report Thread starter 8 years ago
Been reading a lot lately about one's ability to learn numerous languages at once.

A lot of people prefer depth over width so stick to one, maybe two maximum but if you're like me, how many do you learn and do you struggle with certain things?

I started learning Italian after my A-levels, primarily down to it being part of my degree. I thought I'd get a hard start. My degree is French, Italian and Spanish combined (all three to the same level by the time I graduate). Since the turn of the year I've started to learn Catalan because my Spanish placement is in Girona, a bilingual city. Also due to the fact that my university is in Wales, I have been picking up various Welsh phrases though I wouldn't say I was learning Welsh.

The only time I struggle is between Italian and Spanish. I'll mix the easily mistakable words such as perche and porque quite frequently. I often do the subjunctive wrong, credo che and penso che require it in Italian, where as only the negative forms of these phrases in Spanish require it, no creo que and no pienso que.
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Report 8 years ago
During secondary school I learned German/Spanish/French alongside each other for about a year, but then I stopped studying German and Spanish and chose to continue with only French for my GCSEs.

I've always been pretty poor at languages; out of all of my subjects, French was the one I did the worst in (however, studying a language wasn't optional). I didn't really get them mixed up, though.

I then went to do the IB instead of A-levels, so again, I had to study a language. Chose French again, because I didn't want to start over with Spanish/German/Italian. It's going alright, but I'm still not great at it (despite having been learning it for like... 10 years now). I started learning Japanese outside of school, because I had an interest in it, and I think I'm actually doing better in that, haha. I enjoy it more and so I remember it more. I'm still better at French (understandably, as it's 10 years of learning vs 2 years of learning), but I enjoy learning Japanese more and I remember it better than I did when I first started learning French.

I sometimes accidentally drop a French word into a Japanese sentence when I can't remember what the word is supposed to be, but other than that I don't have much problem keeping the two seperate as they are entirely different. If I were studying a language more similar to French, then I probably would. xD
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Report 8 years ago
We learn as many as we want to learn. Simple. I was brought up with two languages, and I want to learn at least four more to fluency over the course of my lifetime. Languages are my passion, and it shall stay that way.

As for getting languages mixed up, I find that it only happens when I'm very stressed. The languages don't have to be related at all, I just can't think of the word for the language in question whenever people pressure me to think of it!

For example, just today, I was asked how to say the phrase 'how interesting ...' in Indonesian. At that point, my brain was suddenly churning out that phrase in languages other than Indonesian (meaning Japanese, Spanish, Mandarin and even freaking Russian!). I had to say, 'I don't know' in the end, because I really didn't. In my defense, that phrase is hardly ever used anyway, but nevertheless, I was still quite ashamed.

Just to answer this thread and not digress ... I find that it's best if I learn one language at a time. I'm currently putting aside my Japanese for Spanish. My Japanese is already at a level where I could probably (yet uncomfortably) survive in Japan, so it's fine if I leave it for Spanish. One day, I'll learn Russian and improve my Mandarin too. Currently I have zero interest in Mandarin although I understand it and can communicate in it, and when I'm in the mood, I'll pick up Cantonese as well.

I'm sure my brain will be able to take it and not get overloaded. I love code-switching, so it's fine

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