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BlogHow to Learn Two Languages at the Same Time

How to Learn Two Languages at the Same Time

Written by Holly on June 9, 2022

Learning a new language—to the point that you truly feel comfortable using it—can be a huge undertaking. It requires time, patience and dedication, and for many students, a high level of focus. 

So it may come as a surprise to learn that our teachers actually encourage students who wish to study two languages at once to do so. 

Hear us out: for one thing, studies have shown that individuals who know two languages have an easier time learning a third, and a study that looked at Farsi speakers in Iran found that those who studied English and French simultaneously actually performed better in their final exams than members of the control group

Furthermore, speaking multiple languages on a daily basis is proven to be great for the brain, with results showing that it increases brain mass and improves memory. In that sense, spending your mornings learning a second language and your afternoons learning a third is like an intensive retreat for your brain. However you end up using your language training, it’s sure to leave lasting benefits. 

If this sounds like just the kind of challenge you’re up for, read on for tips on how to make learning multiple languages work for you. But be warned: this feat is not for the faint of heart, or for those who aren’t fully committed to language learning!  

7 Tips for learning two languages simultaneously             

1. Avoid picking two completely new languages 

While it’s not unheard of for language students to start learning two languages from scratch, we’ve found that people are most likely to succeed when they’re at a slightly higher level in at least one of their two languages. For example, many students come to E-QIP to pursue classes in intermediate English and beginner French. We’ve found that that relieves some of the intense focus that beginner classes often require, and prevents students from having to cover the same basic grammar rules in two languages at the same time. 

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2. Carve out enough time to focus extensively on each language

While we’d love to live in a world in which 10 minutes spent on Duolingo per language per day was enough to achieve fluency, the reality is that becoming genuinely comfortable in a language takes a bit more time and effort than that. For example, we tell students that it generally takes at least 60 of our group lessons to reach an intermediate level in English or French. If you’re planning on splitting your attention between two languages, be prepared for your journey towards fluency to take a little bit longer than it otherwise might have. 

3. Try to leave some time between language classes 

When you’re in a (good) language class, you’ll often find yourself beginning to think and process in that language… which can make it difficult to jump directly into another one—let alone another non-native language! That certainly doesn’t mean you can’t schedule two different language classes in the same day—even a 30-minute lunch break is enough to get out of the “zone” of Language A and get ready to start thinking about Language B. 

4. Prioritize one language over the other 

All languages are created equal, but that doesn’t mean that the attention you pay your target languages also must be equal! Outside of the classroom, you’re probably going to find yourself wanting to focus on practising one language over the other—and that’s totally okay! In fact, it’s probably the best way to help you avoid getting burnt out or putting too much pressure on yourself. 

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5. Find speakers of each language to practice with

Having organic, casual conversations in your target language is probably the best way to improve it—as we’ve said before, it’s speaking, not studying, that will help you achieve fluency. If you’re short on fellow speakers in your home country, try joining an online language meetup—like E-QIP’s very own Talk 3 program for English learners!

6. Look for opportunities to immerse yourself in your target languages

The only better practice than occasionally chatting with fellow speakers of your target language? Chatting with fellow speakers all of the time, in all situations. Immersing yourself in your target language—not just in the classroom, but in the grocery store, the bank, the movie theatre and beyond—is an excellent way to gain authentic, practical language skills, while getting used to thinking on your feet! 

Thinking of immersing yourself in the largely bilingual (French/English) city of Montreal? Head here to find out why we think Montreal’s linguistic diversity makes it the perfect place for language students, or find out why we think Canada is the very best destination for English students!

7. Go easy on yourself!

As cliche as it may sound, learning a language is a journey, not a destination—not even for native speakers! You won’t become fluent in multiple languages in a single summer, but that’s totally fine! Our knowledge, understanding and relationship to the languages we speak are constantly evolving—whether they’re our first, second or 12th!—and while some may find the never-ending journey of language learning to be a bit daunting, we think it’s what makes it so beautiful. 

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Did you know that E-QIP offers a language program that caters to international students interested in learning both English and French? Designed for those who already have a solid foundation in English, our Explore 30 program can be adapted to accommodate dual French/English learners, with French classes in the mornings and English activity-based lessons in the afternoon. Contact our team at hello [at] clc-canada [dot] com to learn more!

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