Douwe Osinga's Blog: Learning languages 4 at a time

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Learning languages 4 at a time

I wrote a program that scrapes a database of languages to calculate how many you need to learn to be able to speak with most people. Depending on the assumptions it is at least two hundred. Way too much to be practical. Of course to be able to speak a language a little bit and be able to look at a newspaper article and to know what the article is about, you need a lot less. This seems like the sort of level that I think I could attain in Italian or Spanish quite easily. I suppose a lot of people starting to learn a new language should realistically shoot for that level, rather than fluency.

But it got me thinking, why settle for one Roman language? Wouldn't it be cool if you could learn the basic words in like 5 different Romananic languages at the same time? It would probably not be that much harder than learning one and it would be quite interesting because you'd learn all the differences and similarities. After that you could learn basic Slavic and basic Germanic and have a rather good grip on at least the EU.

Learn to speak 5 languages in 3 weeks. Badly.