Learning Another Language to Get Better at Learning Japanese


This is from RocketLanguages.com:

Maybe you’ve been studying German for years, but now need to know Spanish for an upcoming business trip to Mexico. Perhaps you’re a college student studying French, but an interesting Arabic class has caught your eye. Or maybe you’re just impatient and would like to learn both Chinese and Japanese as quickly as possible for an extra challenge.

Either way, you’re faced with an interesting situation: You want to learn two languages… at the same time.

Learning one language is hard enough, so the very idea of learning two languages at once is enough to make most language learners tremble. For the more adventurous, however, learning two languages at the same time sounds like the perfect way to satisfy their language-learning appetite.

In this post, we’ll look at whether it’s possible to learn two languages at the same time and, if so, how you can do it.

Learning Two Languages at Once

Whenever I’m asked about learning two languages at the same time, my answer is always the same: Learning two languages at the same time is definitely possible. Starting two languages at the same time, though, is not a great idea.

When you first start learning a language, it can take a little time for you to get a feel for how it works and how it should sound. So if you’re starting to learn two languages at the same time, the things you’re learning can quickly begin to overlap and become confusing!

This confusion can get even worse if you’re learning two languages from the same “language family” - that is, a group of languages that are linguistically related to one another. The Latin-based (or “Romance”) languages are a great example of a language family. They are made up of Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, and Catalan, among others.

If you start to learn two Romance languages at the same time, their similarities can quickly trip you up. You might find yourself confusing similar-sounding Spanish and Italian words, for example, or mixing up the different pronunciations.

But if you already have a basic understanding of one Romance language when you begin to pick up a second one, those similarities can become life-savers! For instance, if you’ve already worked hard to understand the difference between the “knowing” verbs connaître and savoir in French, then understanding the difference between the “knowing” verbs conocer and saber in Spanish becomes a cinch.

When you do it right, learning two languages at the same time can actually be a very rewarding experience. It teaches you to be more alert, flexible, organized, and proactive, and refines your language-learning skills in a way that makes learning future languages even easier. Plus, every language you learn carries the benefits of language learning.

So whether you are looking for a challenge or are required to learn two languages at the same time, we’re here to tell you that it is possible! And we want to give you a few more helpful tips on how you can do it.

How to Learn Two Languages at the Same Time: 10 Helpful Tips

1. Start with a maximum of two languages. It is actually possible to learn two, three, or even more languages at the same time! When you’re first starting out, though, it’s best to stick to just two. This helps to keep things manageable and will increase your chances of success.

2. Try to reach the survival level (A1) in one language before starting on the next. By the time you make it to A1 in a language, your brain has already started to map out a picture of how the language works. This means that you’re less likely to start confusing the grammar and vocabulary of this language with another one.

3. If you MUST start two languages at once, try to choose two very different languages. Learning two languages that come from different linguistic families will help keep you from overlapping the vocabulary and grammar rules of each language.

4. Try to choose an easy language and a difficult language . Choosing two languages with different difficulty levels will make it easier for you to differentiate between them. Plus, your progress in the easier language will give you a confidence boost!

5. Set a priority language. If you make one of your languages a priority over the other, you will make progress in it more quickly. This will not only give you greater motivation, but it will also help you to pick up your lower-priority language more easily.

6. Stay organized. It’s important that you set out a schedule for yourself, make workable plans, and manage your time wisely.

7. Set concrete goals as you go. Give yourself specific, achievable goals in each of the languages you’re learning. This will spur you on and ensure that you keep moving forward.

8. Study both languages as often as possible. If you don’t use it, you lose it! So make sure to practice and use both of your languages as much as you can.

9. Study each language in a different location and/or with different tools. Separating your languages physically and/or visually will help you to keep them separated in your brain. For example, you might try to always study one language in your living room and the other in your bedroom, or you might highlight your Japanese resources in yellow and your Korean ones in green.

10. Study each language separately. To help yourself keep your languages separate, it’s important to make a clean break between them as you’re studying. If you were to learn Russian color words and German color words at the same time and in the same sitting, for instance, then it’s very likely that you will start to mix them up!

Learning multiple languages at once takes serious dedication, time, and motivation. However, it is definitely possible. These tips can help make it a little easier for you, and Rocket Languages is here to help!

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Learning two languages at once is a terrible idea since most people on here can barely manage WK.


Well it is easier for us because Spanish is our native language. Learning to speak Spanish as a foreigner will not accomplish anything as far as sounds go.

OP can just learn the sounds in Japanese and be done with it. Spanish native speakers have an advantage because we grew up with those sounds (even the elusive L/R for many English speakers is extremely easy for us). I just don’t think learning Spanish will do OP any good honestly!

edit let me expand on the first paragraph. Non native Spanish speakers who learn Spanish, can eventually master the sound. Of course they can. I just don’t think OP has to rush to learn Spanish in order to learn Japanese. It’s not an actual bridge that will make your life easier.

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That may work for someone who has a lot of free time on their hands. Learning two languages simultaneously as an adult with a 9-5 job is simply overkill.

But perhaps there are those with full time jobs like that with enough energy to tackle 2 languages. Well, more power to ya! I couldn’t do it. I have enough on my plate with Japanese as it is. If I throw in one more language I would burn out faster than I can say help.


I wouldn’t even try to learn two at once, especially if one is Japanese! And I am retired. But I guess some people can do it if they have a good reason to, like a job offer or promotion or something.


Thanks for sharing this! It’s interesting because I’ve actually been following a lot of that advice without consciously realizing it.

I studied Spanish for three years in high school, did not become very proficient with the language, then dropped it for several years. At some point, I downloaded Duolingo and tried their Spanish course, and I was very rusty :sweat_smile:. Eventually, though, I did enough of it that I got back most of what I had learned in high school.

A couple years ago, after I got interested in pro wrestling, I started actually watching Spanish media (lucha libre shows), and started reading tweets from Mexican wrestlers and such, and I even translated a few articles and interviews because I wanted to know more about LGBTQ wrestlers in Mexico. I’d probably place my skill level around upper beginner/low intermediate, but it was enough for me to start to read with the help of a dictionary.

I kept studying Spanish when I started learning Japanese, and I honestly have never had any problems confusing the two. It definitely helps that they’re very different, and that I already had basic proficiency in Spanish, so I wasn’t trying to learn two different ways of thinking all at once. I’ve actually used Spanish words as mnemonics for some Japanese words, haha!

I started hanging around this forum in early 2021 after I’d been studying Japanese extremely casually for a few months, and I wanted to try out extensive reading after reading about it here, so I tried it in Spanish because my Japanese wasn’t good enough yet. And lo and behold, it worked out great! I read three books in Spanish while I was starting to solidify a steady WK routine and was starting to learn Japanese grammar. Neither language interfered with the other.

I considered trying to use Anki for Spanish, but I didn’t want to drown in SRS reviews, so I held off on it and just looked up words in a dictionary as needed. It was absolutely less efficient than how I’m going about Japanese, but it was also definitely the right decision because it allowed me to study Spanish without adding a bunch of extra study time to my already pretty strict Japanese study schedule.

As far as tools go, I’ve gotten pretty good use out of Duolingo for Spanish (keep in mind that I was mostly relearning grammar and vocab I had already learned previously in school). I started listening to the Duolingo podcast a couple months ago and was very pleasantly surprised to find that I could actually understand 90% of it! I hadn’t realized that I had actually managed to reach an intermediate level in the language. Besides the Duolingo app and podcast, I’ve just been practicing the language by reading books/articles/tweets, and occasionally watching wrestling shows in Spanish. I’ve also tried watching Netflix shows in Spanish with Spanish subtitles, and it has worked out decently well.

It absolutely helps to keep the two languages separate, I think, in terms of tools and such, and to study an easy language and a hard one. One thing that’s nice with Spanish for me is that it has given me a glimpse of where I’ll eventually be with Japanese as long as I keep working at it. In that sense, it’s a great motivator, because it proves that I’m able to do this, and that reading and other practice does indeed eventually translate into listening comprehension.

Honestly, Spanish is much, much more important for my job than Japanese is, so if I was smart about it, I’d be better off prioritizing Spanish and putting Japanese on the back burner. But unfortunately, my main interest is Japanese pro wrestling right now, haha, and I’m not nearly as motivated to immerse in Spanish media (especially since the lucha libre scene has really struggled the entire pandemic), so Japanese is my main focus. But I’ve been trying to actively keep working on my Spanish as well, even though it’s improving much more slowly.

I don’t know if any of these experiences are helpful to you, OP, but this is how it has gone for me. I think if you have a real need or a desire to learn Spanish, you absolutely can study them both at once (though I would definitely get to at least a basic understanding of Japanese, yeah), and I think knowing Spanish would help with Japanese, though I don’t think it would help enough to merit studying Spanish solely to help you learn another language.

Personally, I’ve gotten a lot out of studying both, and I’ve developed a real passion for language learning, period, which has been really beneficial for motivating me to study and immerse in both languages. Still waiting to get brave enough to try conversing with my coworker in Spanish, though :sweat_smile:


I only know a site that does Japanese-> JSL. Is that something you want?

One of the reasons I started studying Japanese was because I love Japanese pro-wrestling, too. I learned my first words from Naito-- 目 and 耳. I also wanted to see if the subtitles were accurate. (They are.)
Anyway, hopefully, I will order a ticket tomorrow to meet and greet Nakamura on March 12, where I can speak Japanese to him for however long they let us have, probably just long enough for a photo.

Keep up your good work!


Just practically speaking, learning two languages at once requires you to split time and resources between them, and I think that tends to reduce how much you can progress in each within a given period. That’s not necessarily very pleasant, especially if you’re motivated by tangible progress, unless you really love both languages. I started Spanish and German at the same time, and I remember that when I got to the point where I wanted to start trying native material (just to get more exposure), I realised that if I did simple immersion with some dictionary checking for one language on a given day, I didn’t really have enough time to do the same with the other. Balancing the two would mean having to stop my study sessions before my curiosity was satisfied, and that didn’t sit well with me.

Simply put, I don’t think studying two at once is impossible, but I’m not sure I would recommend it unless you need to do it (or have a lot of time for languages).


As for learning two foreign languages simultaneously, that’s what our education system actually does (or at least did in my time). In the grade school there was one foreign language - usually English or German, depending on the school. Then in the high school you had to take second one, so in high school I ended up joining beginner German class. But yeah, it wasn’t learning two languages at the same level - it was (lower)intermediate English and German from zero in my case.


:smiley: I learnt a lot of English while learning Japanese, because most material was in English and thus for flashcards etc. I had the English words and had to look up those, so I learnt new words while learning Japanese.
At the moment I use Japanese to learn Korean, because one can here see easily words which came from China and they are often very similar or even based on the same kanji. (Sometimes it’s different though.)
So yeah there’s two things working here. One is just that while you learn another language through one language, that you have to look up words which you might not know. I feel like when looking up words, there’s words suggested, which I might have not seen yet or variations of a word which is similar but not exactly the same.
Another point is learning languages which are somewhat related. (While Japanese and Korean are not directly related, they share a lot of words from Chinese. Also I do find grammar somewhat similar, that I feel it’s easier to compare it with Japanese grammar than with English for example.) Languages like French, Spanish, Portuguese are all Romance languages, and thus share many words which are similar. (Some might have some different meaning, here one must be careful with false friends. (This is something which might be rarer a problem in languages not related at all. But sure even here, languages might have taken in loan words. But I feel for similar language one might easier fall into the trap of false friends.))

:3 And yeah whether you want to learn several languages is on. I personally prefer it, since my focus might not last for hours. I feel like switching a language is like a small refresher, so that I ulitmatively could learn more hours in total than I could would I just focus on one language.
I did start new languages at levels where I advanced some in one language. :,3 Also not really fluent yet. One risk of studying several languages is that one might want to add more and more and can’t get one’s paws off to start more new one’s. (But yeah I think aim for a real fluent goal, before adding too much new one’s. Like reach at least passive fluency, because with that you can maintain a language through reading, listening audiobooks/podcasts, watch movies etc. Sure if you have some fluency in talking, you can just voicechat with people etc. Like for example I don’t think I would need to practice English actively. As you can see I just write without needing to think much about it.)
But sure, if you don’t really have several hours to spend learning on, one at a time might make more sense. (I started learning languages, when I didn’t have a job and thus learnt every day like 2-3 hours. (Sometimes up to 5 hours. But I fear my focus isn’t that much. Oh not including in this is reading books in Japanese and French. I guess that could add 1-2 hours more on top.)) XD But now I have less time and I fail to do everything I want to. (But yeah I learn like 8 languages. Focus is Japanese though. :3)


As a self experiment I started to learn Spanish, Chinese and Hindi (as a stepping stone to learning Sanskrit) about a month ago at the same time. I can tell you about the results in about one year :slightly_smiling_face:

At the moment I find it improves my ability to learn Kanji and Japanese but it is too early to explain why. Maybe it gives a more relaxed approach towards studying Japanese, which can become a bit stiff over the years.

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Your question reflects what I have asked myself many times. After many years trying to study Japanese with many tools and a lot of efforts, what really helped me a lot was the method behind the studying rather than a similar language already in my backpack.
I am Italian, I could easily study any Romance or Indo-European language with ease. BUT… I love Japanese. What makes me continue studying it with perseverance and interest is being able to read, recognize and even formulate/use sentences/kanji learned with Wanikani.
And here it starts the main boost of my study process. Wanikani created in my mind the missing piece required to learn such a different language. From that point even Chinese and Korean were achieveable (and they are! Simultaneously learning them helps a lot since they are closely related by many means).
I am not saying Wanikani thaught me Japanese (for that I still need Grammar… I wish Wanikani could make something for that <3) but really helped me and gave me the theory to study it the fun and effective way!
Sorry for the long reply, I hope it helped!


Such a great response. :smile: Thank you so much to everyone for their input. I appreciate your time and effort.

I fear I’ve been unclear in my original post, and created some misgivings with regard my intentions. I certainly wouldn’t allow myself to get side-tracked with Spanish for the sole purpose of bettering my Japanese. That would be futile, no doubt. I have sufficient interest in the culture - watching Almodóvar or Buñuel in their original language would be worth the price of admission in itself; as a European, Spain is more accessible; and whereas Japanese is solely a passion project, Spanish could open up opportunities professionally - Mandarin more so, but I’d have to be a masochist to take on that and Japanese.

I feel like this would be one of my main motivations for such a diversion in my language learning. That I could benefit from more tangible results, and with that be more confident tackling Japanese, or have faith in where I will end up. The more work I put into Japanese, the further I seemed to get from my goal of developing reading / listening / speaking comprehension.

@Jonapedia and @Windgreen Thank you both for your considerate replies. You have both provided a lot of food for thought.

@Jonapedia I have read your input in numerous threads before, and you appear to have a wealth of knowledge and experience in languages. I would be interested to hear what your native language was, and how you discovered a passion for languages. Did one particular language kickstart a love for learning? Were there failures in the process, which led you to set aside a language, and return to it later?


That might work. Yes, please

Hm… I have two native languages in the sense that I started speaking both of them as a baby – Mandarin and English – but I’ve only used one of them extremely actively throughout my life: English. Chinese was something I did in school and used to watch TV at home, but since Singapore has a bilingual policy, we were expected to do quite a lot nonetheless. (For example, the current ‘Higher Chinese’ – i.e. Chinese at a higher level than is the basic standard – syllabus states that students should graduate with knowledge of 2700-2800 characters. The character count was probably lower in my day, but we still had to write essays and letters.) I was pretty good with Chinese at various points, and I definitely was at my peak at or slightly after the point I took my final Chinese exams at the age of 16. That wasn’t what got me going, however, and Chinese was very much just something I had to do until I developed enough fluency to really enjoy reading about a month before my final exams. I didn’t have much of a reason to continue studying Chinese afterwards, unfortunately, though I do watch a few historical dramas from time to time, which I enjoy because they use a lot of old-fashioned Chinese and proverbs that dip into Classical Chinese from time to time.

What really kicked everything off was learning French, and I think I can talk about this while answering your question about whether or not there were ‘failures’. I’ve never really given up on a language temporarily with the intention of getting back to it later, and honestly, I think it’s more likely that I would give up on it entirely if things ever got that bad. Or at least, I think that’s what might have happened with French if I hadn’t had the chance to go to France for an immersion programme. Up to that point, French had been becoming harder and harder for me, and I was honestly on the verge of quitting because I was sick of vocabulary lists and random grammar facts being thrown at me. I didn’t feel like I understood how French worked or how I ought to use it. However, after the immersion programme, I realised that French was very much alive, and it was so much richer than just vocabulary lists and the fixed structures in my lesson notes. Afterwards, while trying to figure out how to improve my French, inspired by my newfound passion, I discovered a textbook publisher who used parallel translations (both literal and natural) to allow learners to learn through what I would call ‘guided immersion’: a dialogue or story would be written on one page in the target language, and a translation in the learner’s native language would be on the other, along with footnotes explaining the most important words and grammatical structures. That publisher, which is French, was Assimil. From that point on, I started to get a feel for how I could pick up languages, and a lot of it involved linking words and expressions to emotions and sensations (because I came up with a theory, after observing myself, that we think non-verbally when we want to express ourselves in our native languages, which is why we generally can intuitively ‘feel’ what a sentence means and sometimes even sense what we’re trying to say before we find the words to say it), and also diving into the language as soon as possible. One thing I’ve found particularly effective, even though it can be painful at first, is moving to a monolingual dictionary as quickly as possible: the process can be gradual, and may require many attempts, but regularly trying to understand explanations of new things in the language you’re trying to learn can help you get used to processing things in that language and also teach you new ways of expressing yourself.

In essence, I have come very close to giving up entirely on a language before, but I’ve thankfully yet to drop one because I found it too difficult. I have, however, suspended my studies of several languages because I feel they aren’t among my priorities at the moment: I’ve shelved German and Spanish, even though I completed a German course that was supposed to bring me to the B2 level, because I just didn’t have the chance to use my German or Spanish knowledge in a particularly meaningful way when I learnt those languages, and I didn’t have enough time or energy to study news articles as immersion material with the help of dictionaries because it would require too much effort given the gap between my vocabulary and the journalistic lexicon. I will get back to them soon, especially since I made a German-speaking friend in the past three years, but for now, Japanese is my priority. I guess what I will say about failure and difficulty in learning languages is that my experience has taught me that sometimes, you need to find what makes them click for you, and you shouldn’t give up too quickly because some things really just take time.


defo a big reason why we raised ours bilingual from birth. french/english with makaton to bridge in early years.

they speak english better now but if we moved back to france, am sure they’d catch up really fast. when we go there for 3 weeks, they progress at light speed, it’s amazing.

the UK is not the best place for language learning in school but they certainly all seem to pick up on languages really well. we’ll see…

agreed. just getting your brain into learning mode helps.

i still think that as you learn more languages, you do become better at many things that are important, like parsing, understanding grammar concepts, getting your brain used to different syntaxes etc…

personally though, i’m sticking with japanese only at this time. i think learning two at the same time would confuse my old brain! i really want to give spanish a try though. i might start when i get to a certain level in japanese.


Hola! como hablante nativa de español y fluida en inglés y francés me sucedió que, al estudiar japonés, no solo las estructuras sintácticas me resultaron sencillas sino que la pronunciación me resultó sencilla. Conocer y hablar otras lenguas activa mejora el oído y el reconocimiento de los sonidos del habla; te vuelve más abierto y versátil a la hora de reconocer fonemas en los nuevos sonidos de una lengua. Pero lo que realmente me parece vital, más allá de lo fonológico, es tener un buen basamento morfosintáctico como base desde tu lengua nativa. Con eso como respaldo, creo que se puede aprender cualquier lenguaje.