We’ve all got a list of languages we’d like to learn, whether it’s just that one you’re trying to remember from your high school classes, or the ten that you wish you knew already. Compound this with the seemingly endless trudge that language learning can present at times, and it’s easy to start daydreaming of the next language you want to tackle. But when should you start learning another language?
This answer will be different for everyone, but there are certainly some things you should consider before diving into another language.
How comfortable are you with your current target language?
Have you been learning your current target language for a while? Can you construct sentences without needing to refer to a grammar guide? Do the words more or less pop into your head effortlessly? Basically, you want to be able to comfortably use your current target language before jumping into something new. If you’re still struggling with grammar rules, and basic vocabulary is beyond you, then adding another language to the mix might confuse things further. A good rule of thumb is to wait until you are around a B2 level (or at least high B1) in your current target language before adding in something new to your daily routine.
How Much Time Can You Spare?
While it is possible to learn a second language with limited free time, overall, the experience is pretty time consuming. In fact, I would recommend you spend at least 30-45 minutes daily per language you are actively learning.
Of course, if you are just trying to maintain a language, you can get away with less, but your progress will certainly be slowed. If you don’t have 30-45 free minutes a day to dedicate to another language, you may want to reconsider adding one to your routine.
Why Do You Want Learn a New Language?
This is a question you should ask yourself before getting started with any language, but is particularly helpful in determining whether you should add a new language to your docket. There are plenty of good reasons to want to learn a language, and plenty of less compelling ones as well.
Why should the reason matter? Well, if you’re learning a language for a less compelling reason (like, it sounds cool, or you feel like you should learn it because it’s useful), you may be less motivated to continue. What makes a compelling reason will be different for everyone, but it’s definitely worth considering!
For example, I learned German in uni and used to work for a German company, where I used the language every day. I have since lost most of my German abilities, and had started to try and learn the language again because I felt like I should. Basically, I was guilting myself into trying to re-learn it, as I had already put so much time and effort (plus resources!) into it. This wasn’t a good reason for me at all, and I ended up getting bored, and putting German on the back burner.
On the other hand, my god daughter is being raised bilingual (her mom is Guatemalan, and teaching her Spanish alongside English). This has inspired me to add Spanish back into my language learning routine (I took it in high school, up to a B2 level but forgot most of it over the years). Being able to communicate with her in a different language, as well as with my dear friend and her mother, has been amazingly motivating.
Do You Want to Start Learning Another Language?
So, no matter what you’ve answered to the above questions, the decision to start learning a new language will ultimately come down to this one question. You can plot out schedules and make pros and cons lists until the cows come home, but if you really want to start learning a new language, odds are it’s going to happen.