Can I learn two languages at once?

I received this question:

I am going to start my rising 6th grader in Latin this year. We have decided to use Visual Latin – Thank you! She started a Mandarin class last year and has decided to continue. I saw one of your interviews on foreign language and it sounded like it is okay to learn two languages at one time. My thoughts for my daughter is that I will learn Latin with her, but Mandarin she is really on her own. However, she is young and can work a pace that works for her (no hurry). Do you think this is too much for her or is fine? If you think it is okay for her to learn both languages at the same time, what would be your recommendation be for time/schedule. She would like to work on both languages twice a week with consecutive two days. I think if she wants to do that then she would need a fifth day for a short review of each. Do you think it is better for her to spend shorter time and do both languages 4 days a week? We will figure out a plan eventually working through it but thought you could give advice as someone who has done this and also homeschools their children.

Here is my reply:


Well, it took me long enough.  I would like to apologize for the long delay.  Every June I run away from my online business.  Every July, I spend a lot of time catching up.  :-).  Catching up now.

The famous Isaac Asimov wrote over 400 books in his lifetime.  How in the world did he do that?  Turns out, he gave his secret away. Here it is:

“I never get Writer’s Block because I have multiple  projects on my to-do list. So when I get tired or get stuck on Project A, I simply move to Project B.”

I believe the same can be applied to languages.  I spent four years in Holland as a kid, and three years in Germany.  Nearly all of my local friends spoke three or four languages.  Before high school.  These kids forever shattered my excuses.  The human brain can handle multiple languages at once.  I have experimented on myself.  In fact, I continue to experiment on myself.  I am currently learning Italian, French, and upper-level Greek.  Somehow, my brain is able to compartmentalize.  The multiple languages do not seem to clutter my brain.  Instead, my brain seems to use all the different languages to create new and interesting connections I would not normally make.  

Encourage your daughter to plow ahead.  She can do it.  She will need determination, but she can do it.

As for scheduling, well that is a different issue.  That is a tough topic for my wife and I.  With five kids at different levels, we spend a lot of time trying to nail down a schedule.  If your daughter is on her own, have her imitate Isaac Asimov.  When she gets tired of Latin, have her move to Chinese.  Or, vice versa.

As for my family, we always start the day with Latin.  It’s best to get Math and Latin out of the way early in my house.  Make the day run smoother.  If we push those two off to the afternoon, everyone gets depressed just thinking about it.  Latin and Math are tough.  At least for us.

Let me know if you need more help!

I apologize again for the long delay.