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I have studied German for the whole year last year. But I want to study other languages too. I haven't mastered German yet, and I am seeking advice whether I should start learning a new language together with German.

My issue is that I know learning a language is not easy. Let's assume, in 3-4 years time, I can master German. But when I am going to learn Japanese (for instance) then that would take me another 3-4 years (for example only). That would be around 8 years.

But what if I learn them together--I know my practice time then would be doubled-- would that be possible and more practical?

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    Some important information is missing. (1) What do you mean by "master"? (What level do you want to reach? There is basically no such thing as perfect knowledge of a foreign language.) (2) What do you need both languages for? – AModHasNoName Jan 4 '18 at 19:16
  • I don't need them for anything. I just want to learn them. Let's say by saying master, you can write a whole book/magazine/paper with your thoughts just flowing naturally. You can express your thoughts without stops and gaps. So more specifically, it's way above conversational level. – Bwrites Jan 5 '18 at 1:57
  • During 3-4 year, how many hours per week you dedicate to learning L2? Can you learn L2 faster than in 3-4 years if you simulate total immersion? And if you do immersion into L2, will it be possible to learn another language L3 during immersion into L2? – Peter M. Jan 11 '18 at 22:48
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In some countries, this is how many people learn foreign languages at school. This was the case when I was attending school in Belgium in the 1980s and early 1990s: we started with French in the fifth year of primary school, I added Latin in secondary school, English in the third year of secondary school, and German one year later. There are other countries where learning two or more foreign languages in parallel is not unusual.

However, what you do in your spare time is a different matter. In that case, your decision to add another language depends mainly on two things: time and motivation.

The time aspect was already mentioned in the question. In theory, adding another language would double the time you need to achieve mastery. However, if your native language is a Germanic language, you may find that Japanese requires roughly three times the amount of effort than German. This ratio does not improve much (if at all) if your native language is a non-Germanic Indo-European language. You'll need to manage your time so you spend at least 30 minutes on Japanese every day. (When I was attending Spanish and Chinese language courses in parallel for some time, I spent at least 30 minutes per day on Chinese and 60 minutes per week on Spanish.)

The other aspect is motivation. Knowing why you want to learn the language will enable you to set specific goals and will keep you motivated. On the Mezzofanti Guild website, Donovan Nagel recommends setting both "macro goals" and "micro goals". In a comment on a different post he says that learning just to pass a language test is not very motivating. The conclusion I draw from this is that you should be able to define at least one macro goal and a few micro goals before you start learning Japanese. (You should also have these for German, by the way.) If you can't think of any goals, you need to think a bit harder about why you want to learn the language.

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Some polyglots actually advocate that learning multiple new languages in parallel is better than learning one. Valery Kurinskiy (the link is in Russian) was one of them. Valery was hyperpolyglot, he knew a few dozen languages.

However, all people are different. You need to find what works for you best. I personally, find it difficult learning 2 languages at once. I find that my brain gets overloaded and my work performance suffers. I prefer to learn one language at a time. I spend 1-2 months learning/improving one language, and then switch to another one. I don't aim at mastering languages. I'm content to be limited to a tourist vocabulary in some languages. Over years my skills in a few languages improved so that I can read books, and watch movies.

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I have had this same issue where I've been forced to learn two languages, and I also switch between which one I focus on often. Finally, I have decided that I will focus on one very strongly for the next several months.

I have found that without making a firm decision about either I am adrift, but when I focus I'm able to learn better and quicker.

  • why forcerd? what is your problem' – simon Nov 25 '18 at 15:49
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Learning how to learn a language is a skill in and of itself, so studying another language, even if you haven't mastered German, can have a positive effect on how well, efficient and fast your learning is.

Depending on the language family, there will be similarities in grammar and I've found that one concept which was difficult to understand suddenly makes sense when come across in a separate language. Even languages from widely disparate families with large differences in grammar can have the same effect; the difference itself can be enlightening.

Also, mastery is an unattainable goal. Language learning is a life-long endeavor. Even when you someday can speak German in all situations comfortably, read the newspaper without a dictionary, etc. you'll always come across new words you've never seen before and the occasional minor mistake will always creep in. But this happens with native speakers as well.

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