Seeking advice for learning two languages

Hi there! I’m new to LTL Flexi Classes. I’m only a few classes in, but so far I am enjoying myself.

I’m seeking advice for learning two languages simultaneously. Some backstory for context: My husband is Taiwanese and his parents don’t speak English so I want to learn to be able to communicate with them and stop having my husband act as a translator so we can have a stronger relationship. Being Taiwanese, my in-laws speak Mandarin and they want me to learn Mandarin as they believe it is the most practical language to learn (I agree). However, they exclusively speak Taiwanese amongst themselves so I know I want to learn Taiwanese too.

All that being said, Mandarin is still my main focus, but I want to start learning Taiwanese as well. Does anyone have any suggestions for the ratio of lessons/study time that would be recommended for learning both? Thank you in advance!

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Love to hear this Bethany. Not too dissimiliar a story to mine (Italian wife, family primarily speak Italian).

I remember when I first met my mother-in-law - my wife was laughing all the way through the meal translating because we couldn’t speak the respective language. Since then we’ve both made great progress and can now communicate pretty freely in English and Italian.

Learning two languages at once isn’t easy. I don’t have a solution for it honestly but I would absorb as much as possible and don’t mix them up in your studies.

Dedicate one week/month to one language, then switch. Maybe spend January exclusively on Mandarin, then February on Taiyu…

Listen to podcasts, speak to family and friends and use Hack Chinese to increase your vocab (

It’ll be a long road (I’m still very much on mine) but so worth it as the conversations start to flow :smile:

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I’ve jumped around quite a bit with languages, but ultimately decided to dedicate time to one at a time. The problem I was having is that I was backsliding too much in either language. I was doing mandarin and korean simultaneous. I’ve since put korean on the back burner for a year or so until I can get my mandarin to B2 which should be good enough to coast while I work on another one. for me it wasn’t getting confused in the languages (which people complain about) but rather that I know it takes at least 2hrs/day in these languages to really make progress and doing both Mandarin and Korean at the same time needs ~4hrs/day for at least 2 years to get fluent… and no way am I that dedicated lol. (unless you are a language savant which i’m not).

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Right now, I am juggling three languages, Mandarin, French, and Yiddish. Generally it’s not that bad … but sometimes I do answer my French teacher in Chinese.

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I have this issue too!

Little words often trip me up - ma is a good example.

In Italian it means but, in Chinese it’s the question marker.

In Italian I always sometimes start a sentence with 那 (na)

Must think I’m an fool :laughing:


I keep saying ‘dui’ 对 and sometimes say ‘wo’ 我 instead of ‘je.’
Once, I answered my Chinese teacher in Yiddish. She said, “说汉语!我们不是犹太人!”
Everyone’s a critic. :wink:

Haha yes 对 is another likely common one.

I sometimes do that and also 是的 - glad there’s more than one of us!

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I used to learn Japanese for years before, but ever since I started learning (and hyperfixating on…) Chinese my skills got much worse :sweat_smile: Now I’m trying to rescue my Japanese by taking classes in both at the same time, but my brain will occasionally mix words/character readings - just recently I said 对 in Japanese class and はい in Chinese class :rofl: My absolute favorite was how I once somehow conjured “zuotian wa haha no ri deshita”.
I feel like the best advice would be focusing on one language until you get to a solid enough level in it, but I understand it might not be feasible.


I would also suggest focusing on one language. Though it depends on the two languages and your respective language level. A few examples:

  • Spanish / French: I can’t speak or learn both languages at the same time as they are too similar. I tried several times, but it ended in a weird mix between both languages.
  • Chinese / Russian: Currently taking classes for both here, works as I am advanced enough in both languages and they are completetly different.
  • Chinese / Shanghainese: Part of my family is Shanghainese and without me around, they only speak Shanghainese. I have been playing around with Shanghaise classes recently and while I make progress, it is not as fast or efficient as it could be when focusing on it.

Also, I agree with Jordan that you need to dedicate quite some time each week to make significant progress. Soo with roughly 10h of Mandarin each week, I am making the progress that I want in my prioritized language. I added a few Russian classes to refresh my memory and Shanghainese to help me with family gatherings, but nothing too serious as there’s no energy/time left.

Soo I would suggest focusing on Mandarin or at least getting a good base in Mandarin before jumping into Taiwanese. Though in the end, it always depends on you, your priorities and how language learning works for you. 加油!


You’ll still mix languages, it’s normal. The brain is a wonderful organ, and will help you express yourself in the most efficient way possible. This means, you know what you want to say, you’ll pose your mouth to say it in the target language, but you’ve forgotten a word in the target so your brain will give you the word in the other language. Because it’s faster and more efficient than battling through trying to remember one word, lol!

Not what we want, but it is what it is.

English is my first language, I’ve been speaking Spanish for 20 years (less than half my life), learned a little German as a teen (relearning now), a little Japanese as a young adult, and actively learning Mandarin. I remember I was taking a Chinese class with a tutor and one other bilingual English/Spanish student. I was trying to put together a sentence talking about where my parents live. It started in Mandarin, the middle was English, and it ended in Spanish. Crazy funny!

Every time I want to practice a sentence in German talking about myself, I still want to say “wo.” The thing is, in German “wo” is pronounced “vo” and means “where.” I know “I” is “ich,” but yet my brain reverts.

It’ll happen. Just be aware of it, embrace it, have fun with it, and then refocus. Getting to a certain level in one language before starting another is no guarantee it won’t happen. If anything, the first target will be so engrained, it will pop up more when learning the second target.

For families that do more than one language, sometimes it is done situationally. For example, we have Mandarin mornings, but school is English, and afternoons and evenings with dad are in Spanish. Splitting the languages into situations or settings may be helpful if learning more than one language at a time.


haha, yes, I also have the “ma” issue. And in Italian I like to start with 她/他。

Thanks for all the responses! I appreciate everyone’s insight into this.

I totally get mixing languages up in your head sometimes. I grew up speaking Flemish and even now find that sometimes Flemish words make their way into my English (but this mostly happens when I’m speaking with my family). hehe

After giving it some serious thought and considering what my ultimate goals and intentions are, I have decided I’m going to approach learning both Mandarin and Taiwanese. I do have a decent foundation in Mandarin so I’m not starting both from scratch (which is what is giving me the confidence to pursue both). My main focus is to become at least conversationally fluent in Mandarin this year and want to just start introducing myself to Taiwanese, learning at a slower rate and just picking up words and phrases so I can follow along contextually when my in-laws converse around me for now.

My language learning approach is going to be quite aggressive this year with taking Mandarin classes every day and one Taiwanese class a week (along with ALL the studying that will go along with that). We’ll see how my language skills progress, but I’m feeling pretty good about it since I have family that speak both target languages and will be supporting me along the way!


Sounds great Bethany, keep us updated with your progress and most importantly, enjoy the journey.

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Something really interesting that I’ve come across recently that you might want to try is language stacking.

Essentially you learn a third language through your second language, in this case that would be learning Taiwanese through Mandarin. (Or for example @Max you could study Japanese through Italian!) and you not only strengthen/practice the second language, but you also get to study a new third language.

BUT it does come with the caveat of generally needing to be upper intermediate or above in the second language. If you’re just starting out with Mandarin, it could be something for you to consider in a year or so.

There’s a good explanation of it here What Is Language Stacking? (Laddering) - Reaching Fluency

Best of luck with your Chinese / Taiwanese journey! Keep us updated :star_struck:


Never knew there was a term for this. Language stacking! I like it.

Time to sink or swim isn’t it…

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Language stacking - :grin: This is the norm for anyone who is not a native English speaker. I learn a lot of English when I learn my Chinese vocabulary. My latest ones are Ferris wheel and warranty card. :sunglasses:

Same here! I have learned Mandarin at uni where lessons were taught in English, so I learn a lot of new words. Same thing when I watch Korean tv shows with English subtitles

And I am every time so close to say to my Chinese teacher はい instead of 是的 or 对 :smiley:

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I did that at the 7/11 in Shanghai yesterday! Struggle is oh so real!

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Spanish is my second fluent language and do some of my Mandarin learning in Spanish. I’ve considered studying German through Spanish as well, but Spanish is already a huge part of the day (bilingual/bicultural household)…