Mastering Multiple Languages: Practical Tips for Multilingual Learning

Becoming a polyglot has become a trendy goal online. Without much effort, one can find videos of at-first-sight regular-looking people talk five, six, or ten languages and making it look easy. But how do you become a polyglot? And how do you manage to learn multiple languages at once? When you have a full-time job, bills to pay, a house and maybe even a family to take care off, learning one, let alone several languages, seems impossible. 

As someone who speaks five languages (and would love to learn many more), I put together a list of simple actions you can take to smoothly learn multiple languages at once and get you closer to your goal of becoming a polyglot. 

1. Tip #1: Set Goals and Prioritise. 

Now this one seems obvious and simple, but it is key for sustainable long-term learning. Anyone that has learned a language has heard of the saying “it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon”. Speaking a foreign language and reaching anything near fluency takes years of dedication and practice. Do not trust anyone that sells you a two-week course as your way to proficiency, it doesn’t work like that. 

To do anything for years on end, you need to have a clear goal. Before starting any new language, ask yourself these questions:

    • Why do I want to learn this language? 

    • What level do you aim to achieve and when?

    • How can the languages I already speak help me learn this one? (For example, if you know mandarin, and want to learn Japanese, your knowledge of 汉字 kanji will be extremely helpful) 

Don’t learn a language just for the sake of it. Prioritise your languages based on personal or professional needs, cultural interests, or any other factors that are relevant to you. Focus on a smaller number of languages at a time to maintain consistency and avoid feeling overwhelmed.

A lot of polyglots give themselves this framework: one new language every two years. 

This means that for two years, they will focus solely on one new language, while they keep studying those they already speak. 

During those two years, you have time to lay the foundations, master sentence structure, grasp fundamental grammar, and hopefully be able to have conversations. 

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    2. Create a Structured Study Plan:

    As I mentioned, language learning takes time and effort, but it mostly requires organisation. A lesson plan is something YOU NEED! Without it, you will get lost and lose time (that you already don’t have).

    If you don’t remember anything from this post, remember this one thing: CONSISTENCY. I know, I know, everyone bashes this word nowadays but there’s no way around it. 

    You DO NOT need three hours a day, if you’re only going to do that once and never look at your notes again. 

    Do what you can, and START SMALL. 10 minutes a day. EVERY DAY. Once that’s a habit, make it 20. Continue like this and see how much you can achieve in just a month. 

    If you are not the self-disciplined kind, a great way is to get an online tutor or teacher. The moment you choose that time, you have to make it.  

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    They will most likely provide you with a lesson plan as well, so you won’t even have to do it.

    Divide your study sessions into segments, dedicating time to listening, reading, writing, speaking, and vocabulary acquisition for each language. Use language-specific resources such as textbooks, online courses, and language learning apps.

    Let’s say you are learning Arabic and French. You can do as such:

    Monday: French grammar 15 minutes

    Tuesday: Arabic pronunciation and listening 15 minutes (basically just a Youtube video, easy huh?)

    Wednesday: French writing 

    Thursday: Arabic grammar

    Friday: Class(es) with online teacher

    Saturday: French speaking and listening

    Sunday: Arabic writing

    Useful links:
    Tips to pass the French DELF B1
    Book a class with me. The trial is on me! ❤️

    3. Language interconnectivity: Don’t use your first language to translate

    Now this one I know you all are going to hate. Oh my goodness do my students LOOVE to ask what something means. 

    Breaking news: not everything needs or can be translated. Every language has words and expressions that just do’t make sense in other languages. 

    HOWEVER! The more languages you know, the more connections you can make between them, and the easier it gets for you to understand concepts. Recognise common vocabulary, grammar structures, or patterns across languages. This will help you leverage existing knowledge and accelerate your learning process.

    For example, in Mandarin Chinese, there are multiple words that could be translated to the English to be. As it turns out, that is very similar to Spanish and Portuguese. 在 is more similar to estar, while 是 is more similar to ser. And, in certain cases, 有 would be the equivalent of haver (there is). If I didn’t know any Latin language, this concept would be much harder for me to grasp. 

    So don’t use your first language to translate everything. Instead, combine languages by, for example, learning Mandarin with a Spanish tutor, or buying a Japanese book for Arabic learners. 

    Teacher tip: Be mindful of false friends or similar-sounding words that might have different meanings in different languages. Stay alert and make a conscious effort to differentiate between similar words or phrases.


    4. One Language Per Root at First 

    Growing up in France, the vast majority of kids at school choose to learn Spanish as a second language, as opposed to German. Do they have a fondness and appreciation for Spain? Not really, but it’s significantly easier to learn for a French native. 

    But easier is not always best, especially when it comes to languages. 

    I took German. It was hell. I don’t remember much of it. But to this day, I can still read basic German and Dutch, even though I have never had a single class of the latter. 

    Choose languages from different roots. 

    First, you are less likely to mix them up.
    Second, it will make it so much easier in the long run to learn other languages.
    Third, challenging yourself is just fun. 

    If you’re an English native who has been learning Spanish for three years, don’t learn French now. Why not Korean, Arabic, or Russian? 

    In five years, when you start your fifth language, Mandarin, after studying Korean for so long, you will see how much easier it is, as they have so many similar words. 

    Of course, always choose a language you know you’ll stick to. If you love France, its culture, and want to visit asap, then learn French. Just don’t be afraid to try something different and new. 

    5. Be Okay with Making Mistakes

    Ah, the human mind and its fear of failure. In your language learning journey, you will make mistakes. A lot, a lot, a lot of mistakes. So just embrace it. Do the thing, say the sentence, make the joke, and just hope the native in front of you understands it. 

    If you can, take note of your mistakes, and try your best to remember for next time. It’s okay!

    6. Each Language In Its Place. Don’t Mix Them Up.

    A common phenomenon among polyglots and multilingual people is mixing up languages. You are making a sentence and for some reason, you just can’t think of the word you want. It comes to you in language number 2, language number 3, but not in the one you are using at the moment. 

    If you are a beginner or intermediate learning, this happens even more often. Luckily, there are some ways around it. 

    1. Colour code

    Separate your notes by colour. Give one colour to each language and stick to it as you learn. Visualisation is a key part of learning

    2. Make friends

    Do you know that if you start talking to someone in a language, it’s really difficult to use another, even if they speak it? 

    My parents are both fluent in French, but I cannot say a full sentence in French to them, as my brain automatically switches to Portuguese. 

    If you make friends with natives and start speaking to them in your target language, you will see that eventually, it’s going to get more and more difficult to switch to your mother tongue or to English. 

    *But Jéssica, how do I make native friends?*

    TECHNOLOGY. There are so many tools out there that connect you to natives and other learners. Hello Talk, Tandem, HiNative, and of course tutoring websites such as iTalki and Amazing Talker. 

    Take advantage of our digital era. It has never been easier to learn a language than it is now. 

    Useful links: 
    How to learn a language effortlessly 

    7. Have fun!! 

    Most importantly, have fun with it. Learning a language is a hobby, something for you to enjoy, not a burden. Find ways to learn that you enjoy, be creative, make friends, watch videos, listen to music, anything that you find enjoyable, you can do in your target language. 


    Learning multiple languages simultaneously is an ambitious endeavor, but with the right approach, it can be a fulfilling and rewarding experience. By setting clear goals, creating a structured study plan, utilising language learning tools, establishing boundaries, focus on interconnectivity, embracing your mistakes, and immersing yourself in each language, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a proficient multilingual learner. Remember, patience, consistency, and dedication are key. Enjoy the journey and celebrate your progress as you navigate the fascinating world of language learning!

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