Learning a foreign language has so many ups and downs, which makes a learner completely give up. Learning two or more foreign languages at once looks like an impossible task not only for learners but also for most people around the world. But let me remind you, “nothing is impossible.”
Now, the question here is: “Can you learn Spanish and Japanese at the same time?” — Yes, it is possible to learn Spanish and Japanese at the same time, but it’s difficult. I’m not saying that the Spanish-Japanese partnership “is” difficult, but “learning more than one language” is what I’m portraying to. The people who have mastered several languages also had a hard time before, but still, they actually did it!
The trick here is to choose wisely on what languages should you learn together, plan effectively on how much time you need to dedicate for each and use all the possible ways to reach a certain level of fluency. For learning Spanish and Japanese languages at once, I have listed all the important things and narrowed down the factors to consider when learning them together.
Learning Two (Or More) Languages at Once
When choosing more than one language to learn, there are two main styles that are “always” a part of every learner’s arguments:
Learn two similar languages. This will help you unconsciously learn one language while learning the other language since there are similar vocabularies, and you won’t be overwhelmed with the grammar rules, writing system, and pronunciations. If you choose to learn two (or more) similar languages together, your learning process for both languages is faster. However, the downside of this — well, a real downside — is that everything is so similar that you ended up mixing them together. If that happens, you will be a fluent “mixed languages” speaker!
Learn two very different languages. This will help you avoid mixing up two languages together. (This contradicts the first one.) Although learning the languages will take more time using this method, at least, you’ll be able to study the two (or more) languages without any confusion. And this is where learning Spanish and Japanese comes in, there is no way in the world where you’ll end up mixing them together! The writing system? Check. The vocabulary list? Check. The grammar? Check. And since we are talking about Spanish and Japanese languages, we will stick first with “learning two different languages at once.”
Whichever method you choose, it is best if you study two languages at a different level of proficiency.So wait until you reach a certain level with your first choice of language before you start learning the second or (third) language, in particular, intermediate for similar languages and high novice for different languages.
Now, you are planning to study both Spanish and Japanese, but you will be needing to choose which one to start first. I have written some factors to consider that will help you decide based on your own preferences:
Spanish or Japanese? Which Language Should You Start Learning First?
1. Your Learning Background
Your exposure to either Spanish or Japanese will be helpful when deciding on which one to start first. If you have studied Spanish while you were in middle school, then you probably know some Spanish words and expressions. But if you can’t remember anything, at least you have the idea of how to learn the Spanish language. If you have some experience (even a little) of learning Japanese, you’re probably aware of some Japanese words and expressions, although it’s not necessary that you also remember them, the experience is more important.
If you haven’t had any learning background between Spanish and Japanese, then you can depend on your previously learned languages. Do you speak French or Portuguese? Then choose Spanish. How about Chinese or Korean? Then Japanese it is. However, if this is your first time to learn a foreign language, it will be easier if you choose the one with the same writing system as your native language. This will make your chosen language faster to learn.
2. Your Location
This is one of the obvious factors when choosing between Spanish and Japanese. Choose the language that is most commonly spoken in your place. There are about 20 countries where Spanish is the official (or one of the official) language whereas Japan is the only country where Japanese is the official language. But this doesn’t mean that you must be living in those countries before you start learning Spanish or Japanese.
What we’re talking about here is that the place where you live affects your learning process, not necessarily the country, but the people around you who speak the language. If there are hundreds around you who are speaking either Spanish or Japanese, believe me, your learning process will be faster than you ever thought.
YOU, more importantly, is a big factor when choosing on which one to start first. “Why me?” You may ask. Because your personality, your hobbies, your likes and dislikes, and your future goals, have the biggest impact on your studies.You cannot “just” choose to learn a language that is farther from your likes, dislikes, hobbies, dreams, and future goals.
If you are into Latin music and culture, loves to eat paella and tortilla, have dreams of doing European paintings, and loves to watch bullfighting matches, I’m pretty sure that you know what language fits you. On the other hand, if you love reading manga, dying every day to eat fresh sushi, have dreams of being a car maker, and loves karaoke, you know that Japanese is a perfect match for you.
“Does it really matter?” Yes, it is. Because once you choose the language that matches your personality, then learning will be fun! You will end up wanting to learn more and more about that language and unconsciously becoming fluent in a short time! That being said, you can start with the next language earlier than you expected.
4. Your References
This isn’t actually a big factor, but yeah, this will help you save money and have more ways to learn the language easily. Gather all the available references that are possible to use for your learning process. For example, if your house has five Spanish/Japanese books that your father received as a birthday present from his boss, why not use them? If your sister has so many Spanish/Japanese tracks on her playlist, why not copy them? If your mother has a Spanish/Japanese friend, why not ask some help? If you tally your references, you will probably end up having more learning references for one language than the other.
5. Your First Choice
Before you came up with choosing these two languages, be honest to yourself, you know that there’s this “first language” you’ve decided to initially learn before this “second language”. What I mean here is that before you came up with “I will learn Spanish and Japanese,” you probably have thought of either: “I will learn Spanish.” Or “I will learn Japanese.”
That “first choice” shows that you really want to learn that language. You love it. You’ve been dreaming of it before. So maybe you want to reconsider again and remember the reasons why you have decided to learn it.
Upon reading this, you might still be torn on choosing which one to start first. That’s understandable because it won’t take 700 words to convince you on which language is best to start with. That’s why on our next topic, we will talk about the similarities and differences between Spanish and Japanese to help you know more about these two languages.
How Similar Are Spanish and Japanese Languages?
Like we’ve talked about a few moments ago, these two languages are very different from each other, but that’s not the end of it. The Spanish and Japanese are two languages that have so little but really significant similarity — both are pronounced phonetically.Meaning, words are pronounced and written as exactly how they spell. If you can read THIS article, then reading a Spanish article will be easy for you (basically, reading English is harder than Spanish because there are silent letters in English like the g in “thought” and i in “business”).
But in Spanish, you can easily guess the pronunciation of the words, such as “De nada” (You’re welcome). Once you know the correct sounds of the Spanish alphabet and learn the straightforward pronunciation rules, then you’re good to go! Here are some Spanish words that are pronounced as exactly how you see them:
Meaning: Nice to meet you.
Meaning: Excuse me
Meaning: I’m sorry.
Meaning: I am fine.
And If you’re not yet used to the Japanese characters, I must say that if you look at the written romaji, (romanization of Japanese using the Latin script), you can probably read most of the words like “Konnichiwa” (Hello!). The language uses the Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji characters where each syllable represents a certain sound. Once you know the sounds, then you can possibly read Japanese words. Here are some examples of Japanese words and the romaji form, which you can read them exactly how they’re written:
Romaji: Onegai shimasu.
Meaning: Nice to meet you (for the first time)
Meaning: Excuse me (formal)
Meaning: Sorry (polite)
Romaji: Moshi moshi
Meaning: “Hello?” (greeting on the phone)
That is one great thing about learning them together since you won’t be able to deal with so many troubles in pronunciations. Yet, this is the only (but significant) similarity between Spanish and Japanese languages. Just remember that you need to learn the appropriate sounds so that a native Spanish or Japanese speaker can clearly understand you.
How to Learn Spanish and Japanese at the Same Time
And this is one of the most common questions every language learner is confused about. Looking at the details above, your mind is now thinking “If it’s possible but difficult, how would I do it then?” Don’t worry, I will make sure that this article has everything you need.
Now here’s what you need to do.
1. 80% for one language, 20% for the other
“What’s with the numbers?” This is where you really need to choose which language is your primary and which is your secondary — if you’re planning to start learning them at the same time. You can read again the upper part of the article to help you decide. In this arrangement, you will focus 80% on your primary language to learn and 20% on your secondary. This will help you create more focus and organize the ways how you study two (or more) languages. Let me emphasize more by giving you a sample schedule.
For example, you chose Spanish as your primary language and Japanese as your secondary, and planning to dedicate 8 hours a day for language learning:
✔ Two hours of online Spanish classes every morning, Mondays to Fridays.
✔ Five hours of active immersion / self-studying, Mondays to Fridays.
✔ A whole day rest, have some paella or sushi, every Sundays.
✔ 30 minutes of active immersion / self-studying, Mondays to Fridays.
✔ Three hours of Japanese classes (online or institute), every Saturdays.
✔ Three hours of active immersion / self-studying, every Saturdays.
For the active immersion and self-studying, that includes reading books, listening to music, talking to Spanish/Japanese speakers, watching movies and learning videos, listening to podcasts and audiobooks, doing assignments, and do all the possible ways to learn the certain language.
One way or another, it’s better that one language has more attention than the other. That will help you play the “quick game” for your primary language, and the “long game” for your secondary language, ending up learning even the tiniest thing for both languages.
And to make it more effective:
✔ In order not to be too slow in learning your secondary language, swap the two languages every 4-5 months. That means if Spanish is your primary and Japanese is your secondary, after 4-5 months, then Spanish will be your secondary and Japanese will be your primary language to learn. Same schedule, same routine. After a couple of months, then switch again, until you figure out the most effective ways!
2. Strictly one language at a time
“Wait, what?” No, I’m not saying that you only learn one language. What I mean here is that don’t learn the two languages in the same hours. So if 8:00 to 10:00 is your Spanish time, whatever learning method you’re using, do not study Japanese within those hours. Do not read manga, don’t write characters, and don’t open your Japanese book, or else, you will lose focus. Same as your Japanese time, don’t think about any Spanish word for once.
3. Be patient
And now we’re talking about patience, like what every reader is expecting to see! (Lol.) Of course, it’ll be different in this case. Once you feel like giving up on either Spanish or Japanese, try to pause for a while. Plan a one-week vacation, either travel around without seeing Spanish and Japanese words or lock up yourself inside your room and binge-watch some English movies. Just like the popular song “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” — “Everybody needs a little time away, I heard her say, from each other. Even lovers need a holiday far away from each other.” (Lucky that you can’t hear me singing right now!)
Okay, going back to the topic. Yes, it’s so possible (and always true) that you will get tired of learning, especially in your case where you are learning multiple languages at once. One effective way is to take a break, maybe you just need some time away from Spanish and Japanese. Don’t worry, I’m pretty sure that you’ll miss them! (Please expect that I’m winking right now.)
I hope that this article has all the answers to your questions. You might want to check “How To Learn Multiple Languages At Once?” to know more tips and suggestions for your Spanish and Japanese journey.
Remember, always enjoy the learning process. Good luck!
1. Can I learn three (or more) languages at the same time?
Just like learning Spanish and Japanese at the same time, yes, it is possible but more difficult. Maybe you should try to learn two languages first. And once you reach the proficient level for your primary language and an intermediate level for your secondary, then you can start your third language to learn.
2. Is it possible that I’ll forget the previous languages I’ve learned once I started a new one?
It is possible that you’ll forget them IF YOU COMPLETELY STOP USING THEM. That being said, even if you’re already learning a fourth or fifth or sixth language, still, try to use the previous languages at least once a week. Don’t abandon them, or else, they will abandon you. (Is that a threat? Lol.)