For years I “grazed” I had spent a couple years on Spanish in High School, a year on German in College, six months or more studying French on my own and I just listened/read/flitted back and forth between each. I wasn’t making any progress I wasn’t really trying. In fact, now that I think about it at that point it was really aimless wandering. I wanted to learn more but didn’t know quite what else to do. So… I dedicated myself to picking one of the three languages and really pursuing a longer term course. I’ve now spent 5 years or more (with a few interruptions) studying Spanish primarily and now I have decided that I am comfortable enough with my understanding of Spanish to branch out a bit… (see my language routine post)
I’ve been dipping a toe in the waters of French the last week. I see many similarities of course to English words, as well as Spanish words. In fact, I’m thinking vocabulary will likely be the easy part…. pronunciation is the part that seems most challenging.
In general I think it’s possible for people to learn many languages – likely at the same time. However, I think it may be easier to keep things straight if you wait until you have a certain skill level with one before moving on to the next.
It’s also worth noting that in considering third and fourth languages to learn it might be easier to pick a language related to your first or second language because the learning curve will likely be a bit easier. For instance, due to my understanding of Spanish I can catch a BIT of Italian. The pronunciation is closer (compared to say… French.) and those latin roots show through quite a bit. In fact I’ve considered studying a bit of Italian after French.