There are many skills that a person can acquire during a lifetime. Each set of skills scales our potential, allowing us to progress faster and easier. There are many valuable skills that we could adopt, however, the ability to speak a foreign language opens more doors than many other traits. It allows us to look for job opportunities beyond our homeland, it brings us closer to other people, and gives us even more learning opportunities.


For all of you who are preparing to undertake this path, here are five rules that you should keep in order to successfully master, not one, but two languages at once:



1. Learn different languages


One might think that learning two similar languages at the same time could be a good idea. However, the truth is quite the opposite. The more two languages have in common, the more difficult it would be to separate their individual grammar, vocabulary, and structure.


For example, learning Spanish and Italian at the same time could sound fairly easy, however, these two languages are so mutually intelligible that you would only get more confused than making any real progress. It's really important to do whatever you can in order to minimize the chances for confusion if you decide to start learning two languages at once.  


It’s a good idea to start learning Chinese and Portuguese at the same time. These two languages come from completely different language groups, their vocabularies have nothing in common, the scripts they use are not even remotely connected, all of which makes it more difficult to get mixed up between the two.



2. Prioritize


Even if you feel like you are up to learning two or even more languages at the same time, it’s a smart strategy to have one “priority” language and another one which is more like a “side” language. This doesn’t mean that you should keep the side language completely on standby, it just means that the priority language should have more of your attention span. It will allow you to progress faster with the first language while the second one will also get some of your attention and create a firm base for the time when the priority language won’t need so much of your attention. In short, as you move forward with the priority language there will be more room for the “side” language. People who don’t follow this rule often take a lot of time to complete their learning process.




3. Cut the “middleman”


When you learn a new language, common practice is to translate words from your native language to foreign and vice versa. Everything you learn relates back to your native language, which only makes the new language an extension of the language that you’re already fluent in.


People who learn two languages should translate between those two languages, and practice their vocabulary and grammar this way. It allows you to practice both languages at the same time, but it also cuts out the middleman that is your native language. A great way to have fun and learn more is to write in one foreign language and verbally translate to another.



4. Learn similar topics


Psychologists have a technique called “priming” which comes down to this: If you hear one word, your mind will be prepared for words that are related to that word. So if you’re learning German and Japanese, for example, and you learn how to say “Cat” in German, try and learn how to say “Cat” in Japanese. Your mind will be better prepared to learn the word “Cat” than “Doorknob” due to the priming effect. However, you can relate different topics by looking at pictures that include both “cats” and “doorknobs”.



5. Schedule your learning periods


Planning ahead is the key to learning a new language, and this especially true when you're trying to take on two different foreign languages. Some people would opt for scheduling one week for the first and the second week for another language. This might not be such a good idea because it would create a gap between lessons. Creating a daily schedule, where both languages would get a certain amount of time provides regular practice. You can even take it further and use prioritization rule mixed with different languages rule. This way you could spend 70 percent of your time learning priority language and 30 percent learning the secondary. In time as you move forward the priority language could get less time until you master both languages.



Each of us has our own learning habits, so there is no universal recipe for success. These rules are here to guide you and make your learning experience easier. Hope you'll put them to a good use.


Michael Gorman is a high skilled editor and proofreader who currently works at Write-my-essay-for-me. He is proficient in blog writing and online freelance networking. Feel free to contact him via Facebook.


Hero image by Deanna Ritchie on Unsplash