SSi Forum

Interesting book on the advantages of learning multiple languages at the same time


#1

I recently found a very interesting book called ‘How to become fluent in multiple languages: learn more than one language at the same time in a fun and efficient way’. I’m not affiliated with the author or the method in any way, shape or form, however I thought this might be interesting to those of you who want to learn and maintain many languages in a time efficient way and without getting them mixed up:

It’s by a polyglot called Elisa Polese. She specialises in helping people learn multiple languages at the same time and even in the same lesson, which is something I’ve never seen anyone doing before. So I bought the book out of curiosity and it was a compelling read.

Part of her philosophy is that learning multiple languages at the same time doesn’t lead to mixing them up as most people would expect. She clearly shows that it actually helps you remember the differences between each language better than if you learn them in succession, because she compares the similarities and differences between each language side by side and then gives her students exercises to get used to switching between each language quickly. She also shows how this actually produces results faster than learning one language at a time.

Having read the book and listened to some talks and interviews by her, I think this is something really interesting.

In my own personal experience, I’ve found that the brain does not get different languages mixed up. It’s almost as if it puts them into separate folders, but still links the similarities between them without getting them confused when you switch between them. I don’t know the exact mechanism behind it, but this has been my experience. I’ve always preferred to learn several languages at once and it has not been a problem, besides finding enough time for it really.

I was actually thinking of having a few lessons with her myself to explore her philosophy a bit more and to help me to come up with a way to revise the main points of each language I know, as time is of the essence when trying to learn and maintain many languages (obviously using them a lot in your life helps maintain them too).

On her website, she states that she has studied more than 25 languages, and teaches 13 of them, (some at different levels than others), and she can also teach with other languages besides English as the base language too:

I was wondering if there are other people here who prefer to learn several languages at once, and what your personal experience has been?


Confession - and can I catch up?!?
#2

It’s an interesting topic!

From my personal experience and quite a few people I’ve met through the years it’s certainly possible to learn more languages at the same time.

At school I had English from about age 10, then French from age 14 and German from 17 - all of them until age 19.
I don’t remember being confused by the process - just that at the time I loved English and didn’t really like French and German.
Therefore the amount of time and energy I put into learning, practicing and speaking the first was completely different from the other two, and so were results!

Since then I’ve never seriously attempted learning other languages before now with Welsh, except a bunch of words and basic sentences whenever I happened to travel to countries where other languages were spoken, or occasional curiosity for one language or another.
Especially since Duolingo exists! :smiley:

Speaking of which, during lockdown I’ve tried Scottish Gaelic and Irish but it was a failure: unbelievably complicated, and I have to admit in this case I had the impression that trying to learn both at the same time in this case was increasing my confusion.

But I admit not trying real hard, especially cause I don’t feel too motivated to put all that effort while I really want to improve my Welsh and there’s only so much and energy and time I can put into language learning right now.

Since lockdown and trying Duolingo again, I’ve been a bit caught in the competition of reaching the Diamond League and things like that! :joy:
So in a desperate attempt to gather a bunch of extra “points” to stay in the race, when I was exhausted with Welsh, I decided to give a try to Spanish - which I’ve never studied before.
But turns out that it’s really so similar to Italian that I can do all the readings (are quite funny and enjoyable), without even doing the lessons!

In this case I can also tell for sure that this doesn’t mix up with my Welsh learning at all, since they’re so different (definitely not with Italian and not even French, I would say).

The main thing for me is really just a matter of time and priorities!

And what’s your experience, by the way?


#4

Thanks for the link to this book. I had tried learning Spanish with the SSiS but as soon as lockdown began, my motivation vanished as I can’t see myself visiting Spain for 12 months or more or possibly ever. I therefore reverted to my original idea of learning Italian. I have more reasons for learning Italian, even if I never actually travel to Italy. I have an Italian cousin-by-marriage, I have an Italian friend who often posts links to articles in Italian on Facebook and it’s frustrating not to be able to read them properly, and we are huge fans of Inspector Montalbano and are currently rewatching both the original series and the Young Montalbano.

So I was already planning on learning Italian whilst maintaining and improving Welsh and now, inspired by this book (which I have bought), it occurred to me that I could also try to resurrect my school French. What I would love is a Say Something in French, but until that arrives, I’ll carry on with other materials.


#5

Just a quick update. The book was a bit disappointing. It did reassure me that learning two languages together was not a bad idea, as some people say, but it didn’t go into any detail of suggested methods or how to manage the study. To my mind all read like an introduction, which I admit I galloped through because I’m not new to self-study or finding time in a busy day, but then there was never any main body with full details of how to go about things. I have downloaded her free study plan, but I think you could get to that via the web without buying the book.


#6

Just a hint -
I have just completed SSiManx, which was great especially as it follows the SSi method and many of the English sentences are the same as in SSiWelsh. Also the spelling of the Vocab notes is easier to follow as Manx uses a sort of English/welsh type of writing.

I am now finding that Scottish is so much easier to understand. To be honest, it is really similar to Manx, as I understand that both Scottish and Manx came from Irish originally.

For Scottish, I would recommend the LearnGaelic resource, which is free and much more to the taste of an SSi learner, although of course different in method. I especially love the “Speaking Our Language” video lessons, which I have found have actually got me speaking.


#7

Thanks for the hints - they can always be useful. :wink:

However at the moment I’m not persisting with Scottish Gaelic nor Irish (which was just a tiny tiny bit easier) because…oh…they’re just too hard for me! :exploding_head:

Finishing even just one Duolingo lesson took me ages - and I’m speaking of the most basic! - and at the next day I didn’t remember anything.

I wonder if to some learners Welsh seems as difficult as those…but I think it’s impossible, since it’s obviously, unequivocably, manifestly so much easier! :rofl:


#8

A lot of people find themselves forgetting stuff from Duolingo, mainly because they are not verbalising, unless they join a speaking chat group


#9

Yes, that’s true - I couldn’t really remember much of Welsh either when I first tried Duolingo!
It’s just after SSiW which gave me the basics, an some practice, that Duolingo Welsh is working fine to try to learn a bit of writing and to consolidate what I know, and add extra vocabulary.

But with Gaelic and Irish, I can’t remember anything at all, there’s no way I can join a speaking chat group! :sweat_smile:


#10

I got confused with the past tense aspects to start with: Did, was doing, & would etc. Also when to use the equivalents of Welsh Ydy and Mae. They’ve they’ve sunk in now. Again, fortunately the Manx and Scottish sound so similar, when someone explained the Scottish, it made sense for Manx as well.

It has helped me to sympathise with new Welsh learners, though. :slight_smile:


#11

It’s interesting how people have such different opinions about language learning products I suppose, because I personally thought the book was excellent. She gives you the concepts/principles for learning multiple languages at the same time, but how you apply them is up to you. For example, she talks about comparing languages side by so you can see the differences and similarities and therefore not confuse them. I’ve done this by setting up a spreadsheet and making short summaries of the main grammar points of each language so I can compare them in this way (nouns, adjectives, articles, verbs, verb tenses, etc). I might experiment with mind maps too.

I think the point of her book wasn’t necessarily to spoon feed everything to you, but to give you the basic principles and leave it up to you how to specifically apply them. She also talks about doing exercises where you switch from one language to another too.

She offers multilingual lessons where she teaches several languages at the same time and gets the learner used to switching between them.


#12

I’ve personally never had a problem mixing languages up. It has never happened with me. I think if people want to become multilingual/polyglots etc, they should learn as many languages at the same time as they have time for, and not worry about it. The brain will separate them out.


#13

I personally think Duolingo is complete garbage. I don’t buy into the method whatsoever, and don’t understand its popularity. It’s far too slow and extremely ineffective. I think it’s just popular because of marketing and because the vast majority of people who use it don’t know much about language learning and falsely believe that spending 5 or 10 mins on Duolingo app every day during their commute will make them fluent in another language. It won’t. As a serious language learner, I won’t go anywhere near Duolingo or any gimmicky language learning systems like that.


#14

For learning Scottish Gaelic, I would like to recommend an amazing course that came out recently. It’s called ‘Gaelic with Jason’, and teaches you the language naturally, and has stories in the form of reading and listening to consolidate everything you’ve learned. By the end of the foundation course, you will be able to read part of a Gaelic novel. It’s a home study video and audio course which is fantastic:

It does cost money, but it’s well worth it. I think it’s far better in life to spend money on something that is good quality and produces results rather than to waste time with free, low quality material that doesn’t work and doggedly stick with it just because it’s free (Duolingo anyone…?).


#15

I probably should dip into it again. I did feel that it was pushing her lessons though rather than the “How To” guide I had expected…

Perhaps I wasn’t the right person for the book. I’m currently using Busuu to start learning a bit of Italian and I also plan to use it to revive my school French. Meanwhile Welsh has finally become just a language I speak and I’ve stopped saying I’m learning it. I am a Welsh speaker, even if I make mistakes!

I’m therefore not going to mix up the languages because they’re at such different stages and I don’t think word by word comparisons will help my learning because I abhor grammar and try to avoid studying it whenever possible. Studying grammar the way we did at school failed to make me a French speaker or be a competent reader of Latin.

I mean I do note interesting connections. I caught the word “carcere” in an episode of Montalbano and thought, “Oooh! That’s like the Welsh ‘carchar’!” and that will help me remember the word in Italian should I ever need to use it.


#16

On this subject and you wanting more practical info on how to apply learning several languages at once, I just found another really interesting book called ‘Comparative Grammar of Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and French: Learn & Compare 4 Languages Simultaneously’ by Mikhail Petrunin. It compares all 4 of these romance languages in a very comprehensive and detailed way and makes a compelling case that you should learn all 4 at the same time. If you’re planning on learning these 4 languages, this might be a good companion to the other book:

As I’ve currently started learning Portuguese and already know the other languages, I think this book will be a great read.

There’s also a good video by polyglot Lindie Botes about learning Korean, Japanese and Chinese at the same time if you’re interested in those too:

These are real life of examples of people ARE successfully learning several languages at once, and it’s exciting to see people pushing the boundaries like that!