November 20, 2016

One language? Multiple languages? Change of perspective on learning multiple languages at the same time.

I remember when I started...

I decided to learn Norwegian. It was my first language that I seriously wanted to learn, and with it came the beginning of my full-time passion for learning languages. I liked languages even before that, but I have never converted it into my main passion.

After Norwegian, came Hungarian. I failed. I went to Budapest, and I didn't really know too much. When I came back from Hungary, I decided to dump Hungarian, start learning a language that would be easier and more familiar to me and try not fail this time. I found German, and it worked.

I spent 7 months with German. Exclusively. I didn't learn any other languages besides German. I was totally indulged in the intricacies of the German grammar and the beauty of its sound. German was THE language, and not learning it was almost impossible to me.

After German, when I have gotten to the point of being able to communicate with people in it - and with that succeeded with my challenge - I decided to take a stab at yet another language. That was Spanish - a language that I disliked but knew that I would be able to learn fairly quickly. I started and spent the next 6 months studying it. The rest is getting blurry but at some point after learning two language to a fairly good level, I lost it.

The madness has started and I began dabbling in an incredible amount of languages. Dutch, Afrikaans, French, Italian, Portuguese, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, Somali, Arabic, Serbian, Cantonese, Slovak, Russian, Danish, Faroese, Greek and multiple others. I have never managed to learn any of them as I have managed with Spanish and German, and I was getting very frustrated with myself. I wanted to pick up languages as quickly as others seemed to do it. I wanted to make friends and read great literature. Listen to the radio and watch movies without subtitles. Still, no progress was seen ahead and I frantically started looking for a middle ground. By the end of 2015, I migh have found it.

At the beginning of November, I decided to try to learn three languages at once, but no more. After trying to learn fifteen languages at once, three was a great middle ground of not learning only one language  but not learning too many at once either. Portuguese, Faroese and Italian. Let's do it!

What has happened was that I spent three months learning only Portuguese and the feeling was amazing. I did only Portuguese and didn't let my mind get clouded with other languages. I managed to have a pretty decent conversation in Portuguese by the end of those three months. Unfourtunately, since then my Portuguese has detoriated a lot.

After the success I did Welsh for two months but a bit later I, once again, started changing languages like socks, until recently, when something very interesting happened. Tired of everything I decided not to learn new languages anymore but  improve my current ones and spend at least a month with each reading books, improving my pronunciation and grammar. It was then that I felt something.

At the end of the month, I didn't want to stop with that the language. I didn't feel ready yet. I didn't feel like I have learned enough. I wanted to do another month and that was what I did. It was Spanish that I worked on.

Today, I am learning Turkish and I need to say that after three months I am still at it. My  motivation is still very strong and every day is just another opportunity to tune in to the language and learn more. I have said that I will learn Hungarian, Esperanto and Romanian, but in reality I can't. I just can't stop learning Turkish  and that is a success. The feeling that I had studying German is coming back. From a person that used to study many languages at once I have become a person that can't learn more than one language at once. Even if I sometimes wander off to do a Romanian lesson on Duolingo it still doesn't change the fact that Turkish is totally occupying my heart and sharing my time with another language is just not possible for me now. I would have to quit Turkish to be able to learn another language - a success indeed, but there are some cons of it that I have noticed a couple of days ago.

Every time that I try to watch a movie or do anything in another language, I feel self-conscious. I feel like the time spent on watching that movie in English should be spent learning Turkish. That time that I have spent doing Spanish grammar exercises because I don't want to forget it, should be spent doing Turkish grammar exercises. I am a stupid person.

Unfortunately the journey of a aspiring polyglot is not as easy as it seems. If I don't actively use the languages that I have already learned, I will forget them. But what am I supposed to do when every time that I pick up a book that has nothing to do with Turkish, I feel like shit because I feel like I should be doing Turkish instead? I have a couple ideas (like learning Turkish through my other languages etc.) but I am just writing about this because I feel that this is one of those things that I don't see happening to other people. I am sure that there are others going through the same thing so maybe you can share your experiences of learning multiple vs learning only one language at once.

Todays lesson is that every method has its negatives

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