From what point is it safe to start another language?

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learnersenpai
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From what point is it safe to start another language?

Postby learnersenpai » Sat Apr 15, 2017 6:28 pm

Hi there,

I've learnt only English for a long, long time and I would like to speak more languages! I would like to ask your opinion about when to start learning a new language. What's the proficiency point when you won't get confused by the two new languages? I started learning Japanese at the end of last year as a hobby. I spend a couple of minutes almost every day on flash cards, and I watch a few videos to learn grammar. My vocabulary is around 500-600 words at the moment. If I add different forms(like the negative) it's more than that but I am still a beginner, so I have a hard time speaking/understanding it. I've learnt Spanish for a while and I would like to get it to a B2 level this year. I think that would be 3-4 months for me. The problem is that I don't know how would it affect my Japanese. I'm new to this, I don't know how languages affect each other if you are a beginner. Do you guys need a lot of work to maintain them?

What do you think? Do you have any experience in this?

Thanks for the help!
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Re: From what point is it safe to start another language?

Postby bpasseri » Sat Apr 15, 2017 8:37 pm

I'm in the same boat as you, I've learned French and Spanish for a long time but would like to improve some other languages that I've dabbled in and get them to a similar level (while still maintaining/improving the languages I already have). What I've picked up so far is that as long as you have a solid base (which you definitely have in English) you can start adding more languages, and if you want to learn more than one language at the same time at the beginner stage they should be from different language families to minimize interference. It seems like everyone here likes to learn a million languages at the same time though, so maybe some other people have some additional advice. I myself haven't been able to choose between Italian, Portuguese, and Mandarin and sort of switch between all three depending on my mood. Hopefully some more seasoned polyglots can give us some more advice on how to best juggle learning multiple languages at the same time! :D
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learnersenpai
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Re: From what point is it safe to start another language?

Postby learnersenpai » Sat Apr 15, 2017 11:27 pm

Thanks for the reply! Yeah, people indeed would like to learn lots of languages here. My plan is to learn Japanese till the 1st of June and then Spanish like a mad man for a few months. Spanish could be really fast and WAY easier and finally I could say that I can speak that too. The progress seemed smooth when I learnt it at the university. The only thing I'm afraid of is that I will get back to 0 in Japanese during that few months of Spanish learning. :D

Which one do you like the most from those 3? Is it true that Italian is fast and easy if you can speak Spanish? At least I hope that's how it is since I imagined learning it if I'll become decent in Spanish. (and Japanese)

Anyways, maybe it's just me overthinking the case. Hopefully, some other people will share their experience too and we will know more. :)
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Re: From what point is it safe to start another language?

Postby tarvos » Sun Apr 16, 2017 9:12 am

I find that you need a B2 level in order to not forget what you learned.

As for safe, no one is putting a gun to your head to learn Japanese, are they...
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Re: From what point is it safe to start another language?

Postby zenmonkey » Sun Apr 16, 2017 10:10 am

How much time can you spend on a new language, how much time are you spending on your current language?
For me, if I can spend at 3 sessions per week on a new language (time and emotionally - new languages are exhausting for a while) then I MAY consider it.

I will stack or unstack language learning based on my priorities, I just put aside Icelandic (A0) for a few months as I concentrate on German (B2) for a test and Hebrew (A0+) - Hopefully will add that back in about 3 months.

The answer to your question is ... it depends ... only you can decide if the interference, loss of time is worth it. Personally, if I focus on only one language I get discouraged, I add a second for the motivation on the first, even if I know I spend less time on each.
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Re: From what point is it safe to start another language?

Postby blaurebell » Sun Apr 16, 2017 1:21 pm

When I take a break below B2 the grammar tends to stick and can be easily reactivated, but I forget vocabulary fairly fast and it's like as if I have never seen the word before. This is especially the case if I learned the vocabulary in a sort of out of context disjointed fashion with Anki, I don't think it works for me. That said, whether it's a small sacrifice or not really depends on how much time you spent on those 500-600 words. I wasted 50h of proper anki torture when I took a break from Russian at A1 and lost way more than 600 words. It hurt a lot since I had only spent 120h on Russian at the time! However, French was really fast for me and I gained a much more efficient learning method too through that experiment with French (Assimil+intensive reading), so it was a good deal in the end. I think I got much further with Russian now than I would have if I had continued with my inefficient and painful learning methods before the break. So, experimenting with an easier language could possibly help you make faster progress with Japanese in the end. It all depends on the circumstances.
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Re: From what point is it safe to start another language?

Postby Voytek » Sun Apr 16, 2017 4:00 pm

blaurebell wrote:So, experimenting with an easier language could possibly help you make faster progress with Japanese in the end. It all depends on the circumstances.


A good point, it's a grat idea, if you want to become a polyglot, to start with "easy" languages to experiment a bit to get to know what works and what doesn't for you. Besides, you're imrpoving your brain plasticity thus you're preparing yourself for some more hardcore stuff like the Spanish subjunctive or the Russian declination.


-----
But I think that the main point is to choose languages which you really intend to use because it incresases a motivation level and gives other benefits accrodingly to your personal goals (moving to anoher country, increasing earning capacity, givig better travel experiences). I'm not a proponent of learning languges only for doing so, or to impress others. It's really lame and may be a huge waste of time since a language which is not used will die sooner or later. So, first of all ask yourself why you want to study Japanese and other languages. There was the time when I used to think that I would be studying German, French, Chinese and a couple of other languages just for doing that but I realized that it's pointless because the main thing is to focuse on your life goals and if you want to study languages pick these which you'll be benefiting from.

My advice is to go with English, reconsider your Japanese adventure and, if you really want to study other language, to pick an easy one like Dutch, Swedish or Spanish (at least for me those languages are realively easy). In the end, it's better to speak excellent Engish than speak it clusmy (I'm not reffering to you, I intensified my study of English when I noticed how "imperfect" it still is) for speaking another language also in a clumsy way. The language study demands a lot of time and effort and, in general, it's better to focus on one task and then move to another. That's why I've abandoned studying the Spanish grammar to improve my knowledge of the English one. But when I've done with it and consider my English as excellent :) , I'll move to the advanced Spanish grammar or the Swedish one. Now, I'm spending 12 hours a day studying my languages and it's still not enough to make greater progress. I've put Swedish and Spanish "aside" ("only" 7 hours for those languages) and I stay focused on improving my English.
Last edited by Voytek on Mon Apr 17, 2017 12:47 am, edited 4 times in total.
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lichtrausch
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Re: From what point is it safe to start another language?

Postby lichtrausch » Sun Apr 16, 2017 5:02 pm

English and Japanese are different enough that you shouldn't experience much interference. I think a good general rule is that learning one language at an advanced level and one at a beginner level is manageable. Your English is clearly at an advanced level, so Japanese should fit in nicely. Beyond that, I would limit myself to some dabbling here and there, and nothing more, in order to stay concentrated and maintain a good rate of progress with the main languages.
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learnersenpai
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Re: From what point is it safe to start another language?

Postby learnersenpai » Sun Apr 16, 2017 11:42 pm

Thank you for all the replies!

blaurebell wrote:So, experimenting with an easier language could possibly help you make faster progress with Japanese in the end. It all depends on the circumstances.


I really hope so! I've learnt Spanish for a while and it seemed easy. It's good that I don't have to start it from 0. It seems you can "learn" hundreds of Spanish words instantly if you can speak English. I am playing with the thought of getting it up to B2 level because of that. My goal is to speak Hungarian(N), English, Japanese and Spanish. I would go for more only if I would feel that it is easy to maintain these.

Voytek wrote:the main thing is to focus on your life goals and if you want to study languages pick these which you'll be benefiting from.

In the future, I would like to visit Japan. Maybe even live there for a while. I am interested in their culture and shocked how politely they behave. That's the main reason why I would like to learn the language. :)

Btw, 14 hours a day is really impressive. :O Hats off!

lichtrausch wrote:English and Japanese are different enough that you shouldn't experience much interference.


Yeah, that shouldn't be a problem. :) I'm concerned about Japanese and Spanish. That's the two I will learn in the next couple of years. I like to plan ahead and that's why I wanted to hear feedbacks from people who are way ahead of me. When you see such videos like someone speaks 12 languages, it seems so easy. Then reality hits in when you actually hear from polyglots about how much effort it is needed to maintain them. :D It's good to know what to expect and definitely good to know how I can save time if I would like to learn a couple of languages in the future.

Thanks once again!
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Re: From what point is it safe to start another language?

Postby blaurebell » Mon Apr 17, 2017 8:19 am

learnersenpai wrote:I really hope so! I've learnt Spanish for a while and it seemed easy. It's good that I don't have to start it from 0. It seems you can "learn" hundreds of Spanish words instantly if you can speak English. I am playing with the thought of getting it up to B2 level because of that. My goal is to speak Hungarian(N), English, Japanese and Spanish. I would go for more only if I would feel that it is easy to maintain these.


Spanish and English has indeed lots of vocabulary overlap and Spanish has the simplest grammar of the popular romance languages. Also, there is no pronunciation ambiguity, so if you know how a word is spelled you know how it is pronounced. After English it's probably the easiest language to learn, so you will probably progress very fast. In your position I probably wouldn't even take a break from Japanese. I don't think you will have much problem with interference and Spanish is so easy that you can probably learn it on the side without much effort, especially if you have prior knowledge already.
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