First, we need to start with attitude and thinking patterns around learning a foreign language. I would like to start by addressing the perfectionism idea behind learning foreign languages, especially if it comes to learning multiple languages at the same time. There is this need people have to become perfect in their target language, or to be perfect while learning a foreign language or to do it right and hard and with the perfect effort to have perfect results. And that’s because we fear rejection. We fear we are not going to be good enough if we do not do it perfectly. This is going to be even harder to take in if the one you feel you are disappointing is yourself because you have set up incredibly non-achievable goals and objectives.
The reason that may actually be holding you back from learning a new language may be that you fear to be rejected by your own self, your own high expectations when it comes to performing, when it comes to bringing in results, because, hey, I have put this amount of efforts in self sabotage thoughts. If you are a perfectionist, you will feel that if I do not do this perfectly, I will not be good enough and I will lower my self esteem even more. If I am not perfect, I am not good enough, therefore I cannot do this or worse, I do not deserve this.
I do not want for this goal of mine to learn multiple languages at the same time to sound unrealistic for you, because that is not the point. Everyone has specific goals. I am not trying to compensate for the time in which I always wanted to learn a specific language but slowly had given up on that because I was feeling it was not useful. I am simply wanting to learn multiple languages because I know I can do it and because I really like these languages in which I want to gain fluency, at least at a conversational mode. Again, these languages are initially Italian and Portuguese and a little bit later on, Estonian. I also need to perfect my French. So the ones on which I will focus my attention will be initially Italian, Portuguese and French. Again, I do not want to be perfect or achieve mastery. And I know I will probably struggle and want to give up in the first month I decided to do this, but that will only happen strongly, if I set myself an unrealistic goal of mastery around these languages.
I am interested in letting you know that you can learn one language at a time or multiple languages if you want, even though everywhere on the internet I see that people and linguists say you should focus on one language. But that’s only if you wish to be advanced, truly advanced. So, I am sharing here tips and my plans on learning 3 languages (of which 1 I already have the skills and knowledge, but need practice – French, and the other 2 I can understand a little bit of) that I am already a little bit familiar with.
The trouble with perfectionism is that, first of all, it hunts me pretty well, and of course, I am not going to lie, I do wish deep down to gain fast and easy this fluency I am seeking, but, I know that it actually showcases an attitude of “I cannot be satisfied with nothing of what I get to accomplish”, because nothing is ever good enough, nothing is ever perfect, nothing is ever timed right, nothing is ever going to satisfy us. It’s a never ending formula of perform, perform, perform. The key is actually consistency when it comes to anything in life, and especially so when it comes to learning a foreign language, or in my case, with planning on learning multiple languages. There is also the fear of failure. If I do not get to learn this, then I will label myself as a failure, and then people will also see that, because I was not able to do this. But failure is normal. It’s human. As much as I do not like to encounter that, I know it will happen at some point in my journey, I will probably hit hard and who knows, I may come up with a blog post, Why you should not learn or set yourself goals to learn multiple languages at the same time. Which I really hope and will do my best, to not happen. Obviously, this article may make me sound or look perfectionist. Why would anyone need to learn more foreign languages, when you already know the universal one, English and 3 more, on top of that, that you can speak anyway good enough. And since the focus in life is “good enough”, then some people and maybe even myself if I was reading this, would assume that another polyglot has made you believe you need to learn more languages. You are not enough with 4 languages. You need to be perfect.
I do not need to be perfect. I simply like foreign languages. And Italian is thought to be the easiest language to learn. Portuguese is something I am familiar with because I can speak Spanish and these languages have lots of cognates between them, which I believe will make me learning them easier.
But without more rambling, let me tell you how I plan on learning these languages at the same time by pinpointing the second aspect I will take into consideration: Consistency & Persistence.
If there is something that is far more important than setting up the right language learning goals, it’s persistence. Without this, learning will never happen. How can you plan to be consistent though? With the right tools and the good time management.
I do not want to feel like in school, I want this to be fun and for me to want to come to the activity of learning. To achieve this result, I need to have in action specific tools that will assist my progress. That is, sourcing for the best resources out there. Not grammar handbooks. Because I am not going to learn that much if foreign languages was only grammar study.
My tools will be self made tools consisting of: 1000 most common words of Italian, Portuguese and French with pronunciation; learning the most common verbs, learning 2-3 verb tenses to be able to speak of past, present and future activities, learning connecting words to be able to create sentences with proper usage of these connecting words, studying the connecting words, the conjugation and words that I want to know in that specific language (because I want these languages to be a part of my life from now on, and not happen what happened to me with French – no use, unable to speak it fluently), creating connections by listening to specific music in that language, understanding the culture, listening to podcasts in that language and translating the songs that I enjoy the most in all 3 languages, thus creating connections; then understand how people actually speak in that language by searching maybe Youtubers or blogs related to my passions and interests; try to read the news in that target language, consuming thus the culture and art of that specific language as it will create excitement and variety from the memorising stage. I also think using or trying language learning apps could help and I will try to use it to see how it works but I will not rely solely on that.
As my goal is a human interaction in the target language and not a perfect discourse, I believe everyone can, thus, learn a language easy and fast and without much stress or pressure to feel they need to be perfect. It will give space for mistakes, out of which we should be able to learn better after. A polyglot is after all someone that enjoys learning new languages for the sake of that language, culture, country and art with the focus on being able to interact with people, it’s not about becoming a linguist.
The last aspect about planning to learn multiple languages at the same time or any foreign language is connected to having fun. Making it easy for you to maintain persistence and that comes, always, with entertainment. In my case, discovering bloggers, youtubers, people that inspire me, from that country, reading their articles, following them on Instagram, thus listening to their stories, reading in their language what they write, keeping up with books from authors of that country or reading in the target language your favourite book can make it exciting and for me, it offers that feeling of “I cannot wait to be able to do this”. It’s a sense of accomplishment and as an example with my current foreign language, polyglot skills, when I hear people speaking in Spanish or French and they do not know I can understand them, because living in a multicultural city you encounter lots of people from all over the world, the feeling you have when you know what they talk about is like anything else in the world. It feels like, you knowing another language, you have the power to do more, to achieve more, to get along with anything that may come your way. It feels you can overcome any obstacles. That’s how I feel when I am able to speak multiple languages. Plus, you can also move anytime to that country and be able to be in a sense footloose. Free.