How many languages would be enough?

Posted on 02. Jun, 2014 by in education, Language Learning, Product Recommendations

Hello

What do you think of languages and learning them? Do you love it? You live and breathe languages? That’s me when I started learning languages 36 years ago. And through those years I’ve crammed as much as my brain cells could hold – and they were really struggling hard. Today, after all that, I have studied over 55 languages, fluent in 10 of them, the rest are at different levels of fluency from a basic conversation to an almost advanced stage.

Question is: Do you have to study as many as I have?
Answer: No

I am a linguaholic. As I mentioned above, I live and breathe languages. But not everyone can do what I have done – I spent pretty much every spare minute of my life studying languages. But if you don’t have the time, then don’t do it.

I have some friends of mine who are also learning more than one language. One of them told me he was feeling unmotivated, and his list of languages he wants to learn was too much for him. So I asked him what languages he had on his list. He had 60 languages listed!! I advised him to cut it down to at most five languages.

So how much is enough?

I really can’t tell you precisely, only you will know that answer. But depending on your motivation and how much time you can devote to the language, one language is enough for most people.

Now if you want to learn more than one (or your job requires it), then there are some things to consider.

  1. Have you studied a language before?
  2. How much time can you devote to learning?
  3. What resources are available for the target language?
  4. Is there a community where the language is spoken on a daily basis that you can visit?

If you can answer them confidently and still feel you can take on another language – that’s great! Oh, and let me give you a little secret on how to learn more than one language.

Keep it in the family

There is a little secret that I like to give out that makes learning multiple languages a little less painful. Just like humans, languages also have families – brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents, cousins, etc. Take advantage of that as much as you can.

For example, if you are learning Spanish, no matter if it’s in school, college or on your own, you may find that you can learn Portuguese, Italian, Catalan, French and even Romanian without a problem. That’s because these languages all come from Latin (the grandparent) and have similar grammatical structures and vocabulary.

Learning German will help you with Dutch, Afrikaans and and even Yiddish. Are you learning Russian? Then you can learn Ukrainian, Belarusian, Serbian, Croatian. And if you’re an advanced or fluent speaker of English, you already have a jump on learning over 11 European languages – including Greek! I’m not kidding. Wikipedia has some maps showing where some language families are spoken and gives you a great idea to how much territory can be covered.

So to answer the question “How many languages is enough?” more precisely, I do not recommend learning more than you can handle. Take is slow and small at first, maybe give yourself a goal of learning two languages within a year or two and see what you think. Do not force yourself to rush it, or stress over the fact you may hit some obstacles. Take your time.

The very most I would recommend learning within a 20 year period would be ten languages if your circumstances allow it. That was my limit to fluency. And remember – keep it in the family, form a relationship with the entire language family and see what they can do for you.


Try it out today

If you want to see what language you’d like to learn, and see what families you can learn from, Transparent Language’s free BYKI software gives you a taste of the language, and at the same time you can learn basic conversational skills. There’s over 70 languages to choose.

Image from http://www.outsidethebeltway.com

About Sean Young

Learning languages since 1978 and studying over 50 (achieving fluency in 10). Sean L. Young loves giving tips, advice and the secrets you need to learn a language successfully no matter what language you're learning. Currently studying Hindi and blogging his progress right here at Transparent Language - http://blogs.transparent.com/language-news.

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