For those of us who would like to learn or study several languages, learning and focusing on one language per year may be the most practical and most effective option – unless, of course, it is your aim to reach complete fluency – which may be very challenging to achieve within 12 months, depending on various circumstances. My language learning experience so far has taught me that it IS possible to make significant progress in a language within a year’s time, and depending on your personal language learning goals, this may be the key to gaining competency in several languages.
At the beginning of 2015, despite having studied French for several years, I was no where near fluent and still experienced several difficulties in speaking, reading, writing, listening, grammar and pronunciation. It was at the beginning of that same year that I promised myself that I would work hard enough to achieve fluency before my final exam. 2015 for me was characterised by my efforts to completely immerse myself in the French language as many hours per day as possible. I would listen to French music on the way to and from school and in my spare time. I would listen to French radio, podcasts, TV shows and news bulletins. Despite not being able to understand every word at the beginning, my listening comprehension significantly improved as my ears became used to the language – its sounds, intonation, stress and pronunciation of words. I would read articles, news and texts in French, looking up any unknown words and using flashcards to learn new vocabulary. I would read texts aloud, listen to the pronunciation of French speakers and attempt to imitate what I heard. French became a large part of my daily routine.
I was determined to achieve my goal. I was falling in love with the French language and French culture – little did I know at the time that it would become such an important part of my life. A few weeks before the final oral exam, I remember discussing my progress in French with my tutor. We both agreed that after all those months of preparation and practice, I was able to speak comfortably, without thinking or searching for words or encountering difficulty in structuring phrases – it all came naturally. Fluency does not refer to knowing or understanding every single word in a specific language. Rather, it is concerned with the ability to speak a language in a comfortable way without much thought.
Focusing on one language may be a challenge, particularly for those like me who can’t fight back the urge to study others at the same time. When learning a new language, complete immersion will surely help you to learn quicker, and prioritising certain languages over others in accordance with your personal goals will most likely assist in making progress faster. At the moment, English, Greek, French and Italian remain my priority languages, and although I still spend a significant amount of time in maintaining those, at the moment I have ensure that I also dedicate enough time to make progress in Spanish as well. Since it is my aim to be able to have conversations rather fluently in Spanish, I have promised myself that Spanish is the only new language I will pick up this year.
If it is your aim to speak a language to a level where you are able to at least become conversationally fluent, then one language per year may be the best option.