Sarapan Nasi Goreng
How many languages can be learned simultaneously?

Or better yet: In your opinion, to get maximal result, how many languages can be learned simultaneously?

Jul 23, 2014 6:26 PM
Comments · 20

Mario, that's a fantastic article! Thank you. 


My brain hurts out loud with studying and speaking another language. Digging, escavating through those brain cells has got to hurt. :D


It's funny how I have intuitively done exactly what the author of your article suggests! I learn Spanish first thing upon getting up and watch my Spanish programs in the living room on TV and I do that as more of a concentrated intellectual process to increase vocabulary. Mandarin I will be just learning the sounds of in the evening sitting at my computer. It will be a very different kind of activity. Italian I just started because I have an Italian style kitchen and I just LOVE doing Italian while preparing food using the auditory Pimsleur method. This is another totally different method and physical local. I also have come to realize that my Spanish just hit a level where I am no longer confused by learning Italian. It's like the Spanish has become a good enough foundation to make a diving board off of for the Italian. As for Sanskrit I like to sit and chant anyway for a period every day so it's just something that happens anyway so why not learn how to do it right?! That's almost background and takes no extra brain cells. :) 


Sometimes it blows my mind Mario what incredibly valuable information you share with us here. Thank you!!! 

July 23, 2014

Here's the thing though, if you learn pronunciation wrongly or badly at the beginning that is very hard to un-do! Once I have the basics in pronunciation there are tons of resources for increasing vocabulary and learning advanced grammar.

Everyone does have a different style of course and they have different amounts of time and money to spend too.

I'm not familiar with the other courses you mention. I'll look into them as I'm curious but for me right now having no written material is a tremendous asset. I have a time in my day while doing other things that Pimsleur fits perfectly. It might not be right for every person or every language, but for me it's ideal, so it's hard for me to hear it reviewed to harshly. It's a little like if you had a favorite teacher here and someone said that they weren't good. You'd want to defend them right? I'm feeling a little defensive of Professor Pimsleur. :)

July 24, 2014

Thirdly, Pimsleur found that someone can concentrate fully for only half an hour on a foreign language at a time without the learning degrading quickly. That is why the lessons are this length that you seem not to like. He found that his students could only take in so much information in a 24 hour period and so doing more tha one lesson in a day is counter-productive. Pimsleur says you should never repeat the same material immediately as you can only concentrate well for half an hour at a time. You can do the same lesson later in the day but you should never do more than one lesson in a day. This is to allow the brain to assimilate the information properly according to his experiments with thousands of students.

Fourthly, Professor Pimsleur was the guy that came up with spaced repetition. He studied his language students for a very long time to determine exactly how long to wait before a word is repeated to put it into long term memory. That is the basis of how often the words are repeated in the course and why so few words are used. It is because that is exactly how many words, repeated exactly at those intervals, the standard human mind can take in the new information and actually remember it.

If you expect more from Pimsleur than what it is, then you would be disappointed. Fluency takes many more hours of study than the Pimsleur programs! It is illogical to expect to become fully fluent after the Pimsleur course just like it would illogical to go to any other course of that length and time and expect it. Even going to a foreign country and living there for the same amount of days wouldn't get you to fluency. I have accurate expectations and therefore I think it's an amazing program that I got free from my local library! I feel blessed to have found it.

July 24, 2014

Depends on your situation and goals as well I would assume. If you study independently and decide to take up three new languages at the same time, well, you'll probably get better results focusing on one at the time. It also means you see results faster, which is very encouraging for learning! Even if you don't take into account that learning many languages might slow down learning, you still have so that the results in one language that you get in one month of focussed study you would see in 3 months if you split your time between 3 languages. Of course you can have one language you focus properly on, and then some kind of relaxing side project that you do a little of every day just for fun.


But if you go to school or university and the option is between taking classes in only one language or in two or three, and it's not up to you to choose how intensely you study, then choosing one language will mean you will end up learning only one language, and two will mean learning two. I took three languages at school without any problems (admittedly we started in different years so all were at different levels), and the only thing that would have happened if I had chosen less or more languages would have been to learn less or more languages.

July 24, 2014
Show more