Language Juggling

I’m going to have to change my methods a bit, specifically in how I approach dealing with all of my target languages. For the record, currently I’m studying:

  • German
  • French
  • Russian
  • Spanish
  • Dutch

German is still more or less a task of vocabulary learning. The others, however, still involve a lot more, and trying to balance them all out is proving to be more difficult than I expected it to be.

When I first threw Dutch onto the pile, I figured I could just do a bit with each language each day. But even if I only put in 30 minutes a day with each one – which I wouldn’t be overly happy with – it would still be 2.5 hours a day, which sometimes, I just don’t have. The end result has been that while I hit a few languages each day, the others are often ignored almost entirely.

Rather than giving any up completely, however, I’m considering making a schedule of some sort, like having set days for certain languages. If I put in the time with those for the day and still have more time, I’ll “allow” myself to study something else. Or perhaps I’ll just keep better track of which languages I’ve been studying on what days, and just make sure that I make contact with all of them on a regular basis. I think this may be a better idea than a strict schedule, as I fear I wouldn’t stick to a set schedule very well.

For those of you who have tackled numerous languages at once, how have you handled this dilemma?

By |2009-06-24T12:31:33+00:00June 24th, 2009|All Entries, Language Journal, Language Learning|7 Comments


  1. Petr June 27, 2009 at 7:48 am - Reply

    Personally I’m trying hard to resist the temptation to look into another language until my Russian is at least at the point where my English is, which won’t be for several years. But one language in functional state beats two half-broken, half-unbuilt any time, I reckon.

  2. GeoffB June 28, 2009 at 3:29 pm - Reply

    For those of you who have tackled numerous languages at once, how have you handled this dilemma? Poorly.

    Seriously, though, if you don’t need to know any of these languages, you’re best off setting your studies by inspiration than a schedule. Make sure you’ve got some music for all the languages on your MP3 and listen in spare moments. Then, make sure you’ve got a dedicated half-hour or hour a day for language. When that time comes, study whatever you feel like. With the music, you’ll have all the languages rolling around in your brain. With that, your own instinct will guide you to study where it will do the most good – where you’re most enthused, thus most likely to stay focused and maybe even go over your allotted time. Some languages will get more attention for a few days, others none at all. But with the music there, you’ll start missing the ones you haven’t studied and come back to them on your own.

    The program I propose is neither scientific nor efficient. But if this is something you’re doing over the course of years for personal satisfaction, not months to win a contest, you’ll probably learn about the same amount in the long term but you’ll have a cheerier attitude about “language time” than you’d have about the fact you “have to study German” because it’s what’s up on the rotation. Best of all, if you notice you just don’t seem to come back to a language, you’ll know you’re ready to drop it – at least until you pick it up again.

    I know there are people out there who are really competitive about how many languages they know well and how many they’re learning. Maybe it’s worth their while to mess with training schedules, etc. In my experience, however, I can ignore a language for as much as two or three months and after a couple hours of music and study it starts coming back. So, if you just want to be able to chat a little bit with others who speak your languages, don’t worry about day to day work to maintain language. Focus on a program that maintains the fun in language and you’ll achieve your goals over time.

    (I say this as someone who has tried tables, calendars, diaries and everything else in the book – you can check my archives!)

  3. Maria July 4, 2009 at 1:19 am - Reply

    If are good in English then you may learn all these languages easily. You are a Blogger and you are having good knowledge of English so it’s not going to be very difficult for you to learn. However, it needs to make certain plan and strategies. You make a plan according to your daily routine. If possible make month wise plan, I mean to say in January month German, in February Spanish, in March French and so on. However, you need to revise all these daily.

    I would suggest you one thing and that is listen of your heart and do accordingly. 🙂 If you want to earn Spanish in madrid then contact us at babylon-idiomas.

  4. Francis O Reilly August 18, 2009 at 5:24 am - Reply

    Hi Josh,

    Good work on the Language Geek blog – very interesting stuff there. Liked your post a while back on motivation / stop skirting around following your study plan for learning languages and actually go do it!

    On the post though, if you’re starting out from scratch in a number of different languages and want to build up a bit of vocabulary quickly, may I recommend looking at – a free service that provides mnemonics for basic vocabulary in a number of languages. Doesn’t cover all the languages you’re simultaneously studying yet, but the coverage will expand over time.

    It’s ideal for students beginning from scratch or for those wishing to quickly pick up the basics for that foreign vacation or business trip.

    Please feel free to have a look at, and if you have any further questions please do not hesitate to ask! (email Only too glad to oblige. Any comments or suggestions are very welcome also.


  5. Jess August 19, 2010 at 10:29 am - Reply

    One of the things I’ve done, rather than make a daily schedule or rotation, is to make a weekly checklist, and then move by inspiration during the week until most or all of the items on the list are completed. For example, a weekly checklist might include 20 minutes of Japanese kanji and vocabulary building, 30 minutes of watching a Japanese film, 30 minutes of reading Japanese literature, 20 minutes with a Spanish language news article, 30 minutes of an Egyptian Arabic dialect film, 20 minutes x 3 with Arabic news articles, and 30 minutes x 3 working on my academic reading skills in French with a dictionary. (I am actively studying Arabic at the graduate level and use French for research; the rest is for maintenance of my other languages, or at the most very gradual vocab acquisition.) But I find that smaller chunks of time, and the flexibility and variety on my checklist, are less discouraging – I can always continue past the 20-30 minute mark if I have the time or inclination, I can switch to another language if I start to feel burnout, or I can add on other activities in the same language if I hit a good stride. The less of a burden I “require” of myself, the more likely I am to actually pursue the language practice, and I find I usually exceed my minimum requirements because I am enjoying myself.

  6. Josh August 28, 2010 at 9:10 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the ideas, all.

    Geoff, I can now safely say that keeping a diary failed; I still like the idea of doing so, but on many days, the idea of spending 15-20 minutes tracking what I’ve done, then writing it up, just isn’t appealing. I’ve largely fallen back to doing what you recommend: grabbing language materials based solely on inspiration. Some days I’ll hit two or three of them; other days, just one.

    Jess, that’s an interesting idea, and it may indeed work better than having a set rotation. My problem with a rigid rotation is that it’s, well, too rigid. If Tuesday is a “German and French” day, Tuesdays tend to be pretty infuriating if I’m really, really wanting to work on some Russian!

  7. Puttering along | Language Geek November 3, 2010 at 5:49 pm - Reply

    […] ironically, in poking around in my archives, I discovered that I faced a similar dilemma back in June of 2009 – actually, the exact same dilemma: how to handle trying to learn […]

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