Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Learning multiple Languages (at the same time...)

Should you (attempt) to learn more than one language at at time? This is something I've pondered for a while. I've read many discussions on why it's not a good idea, and a handful on why you can and how to go about it. What I've discovered is that there's really no one answer. I have a list of languages I'd like to study, some in more depth than others, and as an older language learner I'm feeling that I want to explore them sooner rather than later!

After reading Ellen Jovin's wonderful blog I felt like I'd been given permission to take a peek at some of the another languages on my list. Ellen chooses to spend about 3 months studying one language before moving onto the next, and while I have no intention of giving up Russian I'm also very curious about several other languages especially Dutch, Japanese, Arabic, Romanian, Esperanto and Toki Pona.

my slightly biased language shelf!

I was thinking of studying Esperanto, and read a number of articles on how Esperanto helps learners to improve quicker with other languages as well. I was also drawn to how fast people seem to be able to use it, and how you can become quite good at it in a relatively short time. However, I was getting strong urges to take a look at Dutch, and after finding a Teach yourself Dutch book for 75p in a charity shop (plus some great Russian books!), I decided to go with this instead.  I also really wanted to try out duolingo (after reading lots of great reviews), and not one of the other languages on my list is available there (yet).  Plus because Dutch is suppose to be quite close to English I was curious to see how true this was, and I thought it would be a complete change from Russian (I also read about how it's best to learn two languages that are not related if learning more than one at a time).

my great charity shop finds, cost me £3 in all!

So, I started very enthusiastically a couple of weeks ago, spending about 10/15 minutes on duolingo (which I do enjoy, finally feel part of that club! :D), doing a basic memrise course and (if time) working through a lesson in the Teach yourself book or at learndutch.org - all in a very laid back way. My only rule was that I had to get my Russian all done first. I have found Dutch easier then Russian, helped by similar words (sometimes the same words as in English), and the familiarity of the Latin alphabet. I have not struggled with confusing the languages which is a concern in some of the articles I read. Probably because I'm at different levels with them, and they are very different.

However, after a good start I began to get frustrated with a few things. My time is very limited, and some days I don't even get to my Russian. On bad days like that I will try and get on memrise to at least review my words, but that's all that happens. Over the past week I've had ill kids and been poorly myself, so my learning time has been very sporadic. This means that no Dutch gets done, and when I do get back to it I have to go over the same stuff as it's leaked out of my brain! So, the slow progress is annoying particularly when I feel I could get further in Dutch much faster than I have in Russian. I'm also unable to dig as far into Dutch as I would like, I'm reaching the point where unless I just want to carry on studying Dutch casually and for fun, I need to look at rules and grammar. But to find myself at 1am reading about when to use de or het is making my head spin! First world problems eh?!

So what to do? I love Russian, however hard it is, and no matter how terrible I am at it I can't stop! I'm also really enjoying Dutch though, and would love to progress further. I'm not sure if it comes down to realising what my limitations are and just carry on as I am, or tweaking things to maybe doing a couple of days of just Dutch a week, or dropping Dutch for now until my Russian level improves. I think it may just take some trial and error to figure out what's going to work.

Any tips? Leave a comment below! :)

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