Project Multilingual: Two Timing Troubles

I’m worried that it’s too early to be doing this… too soon into a new relationship.

I know that some of you are getting on top of two, three or even four(!) at the same time, and I do wonder how people are managing this.

I moved to Spain primarily to get to grips with Spanish. I’d been studying the language before, for years, on and off, and I knew that I was never going to reach a (for me) satisfactory level of competence without actually going to live in a Spanish-speaking country.

So I did. And I put in a lot of effort to improve. For the first nine months, I took classes to plug the remaining grammar gaps. I listen to teaching podcasts every day, and to the radio, for hours and hours. I engage in 1-2-1 intercambios (language exchange) sessions with a number of people every week. I spend time with Spanish friends. I’ve just started reading novels in Spanish, which, thanks to the integrated dictionary on my Kindle, is going quite well. I’m not yet where I want to be with it – progress is a lot slower than I expected.

I’ve harboured an interest in Portuguese since my teenage years, and it was next up on my list of languages to tackle, but, to be honest, I’d rather have waited another year for my Spanish to solidify a bit more. However, an opportunity arose to go to Brazil for a few months with a friend at the end of this year. I don’t want to miss out, and I also want to get the most out of that experience, so I started learning Brazilian Portuguese a month ago, from zero.

Pronunciation is tricky. To stop it from sounding like Spanish, I figured, after watching a whole slew of podcasts on the matter, you have to speak like a 13-year-old Italian boy with a stonking cold whose voice is breaking. The fact that Portuguese is so close to Spanish is helpful and confusing all at the same time.

Portuguese HuecosBut grammar is grammar is grammar, in any language. Suddenly, I find myself once again filling in endless gaps on photocopied pages, requiring the right articles, pronouns, verb tenses. Because there is no other way, at least in the beginning. I’d only just left this phase behind me. (In Spanish.) It’s like the terrible twos all over again.

At the moment, I’m trying to do a bit of Portuguese each day, spending maybe between 20 minutes to an hour, and, overall, I am enjoying it … but…. I do feel terribly guilty for not investing that time in my Spanish instead. Even before starting on this new language, I felt that I wasn’t giving my Spanish the attention it deserved.That’s because I have to do other important stuff like work for a living, and for that, my head needs to be in English mode.

Any tips from anyone studying multiple languages at the same time…? At some point, I’d quite like to get back to my Japanese, which I abandoned four years ago… but that would be totally crazy, right?!?

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21 thoughts on “Project Multilingual: Two Timing Troubles

  1. The Polyglut

    I have to admit that my four languages don’t all get equal attention, but it is possible to find a balance. I find that it actually helps to be at different stages in each language so that I have a clear focus for each one and can keep them separate from each other. I usually spend some time each day tackling a new goal in each language. For example, I might write some sentences based on the same sentence structure in Chinese so that it sticks, then learn some Italian vocabulary based on a particular subject, listen to some German audio then read a French book. I don’t spend hours doing it, but a little bit of each one every day helps to keep them all going at their varying levels. You might be a bit too advanced now, but have you looked into the Michel Thomas vocabulary courses? They’re not part of the original MT series but they have done wonders for my Italian and German!
    I don’t claim to be a master but I hope you can find some inspiration from my experiences!

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Thanks for your thoughts on the matter! I think you’re right re. varying the activities. Being right at the beginning of my Portuguese journey, I’m focusing on quite different things compared to Spanish. I’ll have to check whether MT offers Brazilian P.
      Re. goal setting – also a good idea. Otherwise I’ll always feel like I haven’t done quite enough, no matter how much time I spend on it. And yes, I’m also an advocate of the “a little every day” approach. Maybe worth writing a post on that someday…
      Cheers 🙂

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  2. italkyoutalklanguages

    I know those pangs of guilt very well! Every so often, I find myself thinking, “if only I’d stuck to one language instead of three, I’d be fairly decent at it by now.” But language learning is a bit like an addiction isn’t it…

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Maybe it’s a type of OCD?? I’d never thought about it like that, lol.
      How’s it going with your Chinese? French? Bulgarian?? We haven’t had an update in ages! Just sayin’… 😉

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      1. italkyoutalklanguages

        I’ve been out of the country for a few weeks so I’ve done nothing! (Excuses excuses!) 😉

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Well, you could teach me an Aussie expression/slang word every week, I’d so love that!!!
      I can’t tell the difference between an NZ and an Oz accent, even though someone explained it to me once.

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  3. languagewanderer

    I’m in favor of studying only one language at a time but it also depends on a current level. If you think that you are quite good in one language and don’t need to invest that much time, then I would go for the 2nd language. But of course it does’t mean abondoning the first language, in your case Spanish:) so basically it’s my outlook on this matter 🙂 Good luck!

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      I agree… it’s just that circumstances propel me to start on a new language sooner than I’m comfortable with… but seeing as both are long-term projects, I’ll just go with it for now 😉
      Hell, I keep finding new (to me) words in English and German, so it’s an ongoing process on all fronts, lol.

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      1. languagewanderer

        So wish you good luck!:) I’ll be waiting for the updates:) I’m curious about learning 2 languages at a time since I’m planning to start Chinese in October. then I should achieve more or less b2 level in Norwegian so I’ll give it a try!

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  4. Pingback: Is Learning Three Romance Languages At The Same Time A Route To Insanity? | Lady Of The Cakes

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