Learning a new language while maintaining Japanese

Continuing the discussion from Reading Goals 2023:

I didn’t want to overwhelm the other thread with unrelated stuff, so here I am, making a new thread once again. XD

Specifically I wanted to ask @cat what made you decide you are ready for a new language?
I’ve been eyeing Bulgarian for a while (I want a kyrillic language and Bulgarian is pretty much the easiest of them :rofl: ) but my Japanese still needs some time before I can go into maintenance mode. :eyes: Basically, I would like to be on a level, where I could potentially use material for Japanese natives learning the new language.

Also, you said you wanted an easy language. Are you just “collecting” languages or do you have a specific goal in mind? If you don’t mind me asking. I am just very curious. :see_no_evil:

If anyone else is learning a new language, feel free to add your 2 or 200 cents as well. :hugs:

Edit: After actually checking, there seems to be next to no textbooks in Japanese for Bulgarian. So learning via Japanese is out. :face_holding_back_tears:


I tried that for Spanish and would not recommend it. The main issue is pronunciation. You’ll get a katakana approximate for everything.
I guess it’s fine if you are already fluent enough to know how things are supposed to sound like, but, generally, Japanese is lacking a lot in terms of sounds.

In the case you are intermediate level in a language (so, past the problem above but before the point where you can rely on resources in your target language), I guess it would make sense, though :thinking: I have no experience with that, though.

Those were my 2 yen.

On an unrelated topic, I wonder what language would be the best to learn most other language, i.e., the one that has the most sounds and intonations.


In addition to Japanese I am learning German (currently lower B1 level), but in general I wouldn’t recommend learning multiple languages, especially so different, at the same time. It’s quite straining if you also have a full-time job and additional commitments.


I don’t know how much I can really add to the conversation, but here’s my situation: I learned Spanish for something like 7 or 8 years in school (my level is not as high as you might hope after all that…), and have been learning Japanese on and off for about the same amount of time (only just prioritizing it in the last few years). Japanese has been my main focus for a while now, though I’d like to dust off my Spanish and start using it again. In addition to all that, I’ve started learning a little bit of French on the side, partly due to a few books I’d like to read and partly due to an upcoming trip to Paris.

What I’ve always heard is that it would be preferable to have as strong a grip as possible on your first foreign language before you move to another; if that’s not possible then you want to make it as easy as possible for your brain to be able to switch “language modes”. I.e. alternating focus on what language you study each day, or something like that, or only learning a language in a particular context (in school, for example). You don’t have to do any of this, of course, and I honestly can’t give any advice as to anything that’s particularly worked out for me, since I’ve never had to worry about it.

To be honest, Japanese is so far removed from so many of the common (European) learner languages, I can’t imagine you would have trouble getting your brain to separate stuff into its own language category. It’s mostly people trying to newly learn Spanish and Portuguese or French and Italian or something who have to be careful.


So I studied a few languages unsuccessfully when I was younger, and it basically came down to one or both of 2 things:

  1. I wasn’t that interested in the language
  2. I didn’t know how to study a language

I studied Japanese as a teen and picked it up again more or less on a whim as an adult. Teenage me didn’t know how to study. Adult me did. So after ~5 years of learning as a hobby (full time job, social life, volunteering commitments also competing for my time) I can do these things:

  • I can read basically any book I want to provided I have a dictionary, and many mass market / pulp books are accessible to me without one.
  • I can watch many TV shows/YouTube videos/etc that interest me without subs and the rest I can understand with Japanese subs
  • I can have written and verbal communication which while far from perfect, is not a burden for the other person to understand and interact with me It helps if it’s not a stranger though as that first stage fright is rough :sob:

I’m not learning Japanese for any grand reason other than just to read books, watch crime shows, and have fun. I feel like I’m basically ‘there’ and the next ~6 months will have me really pushing myself to polish my skills, but it’s exciting to look forward to something new.

I like the idea of Swedish because it’s on the opposite side of the spectrum of ‘difficulty’ for a Native English speaker, and because it’s completely, radically different. Different culture, different history, different alphabet, different everything but it’s also something I’ve never attempted (I have attempted Spanish, French, and Italian).
I did and am still vaguely contemplating German, which is one level higher, as it’d open up even more doors for me in terms of literature, but Swedish has already caught my interest and while irrational, it’s hard for me to argue with :joy:

As for collecting languages - probably not. I think once I get Swedish to whatever feels right for ‘maintenance mode’ I’m going to pick up a new hobby (thinking about learning to draw) which I can sink hundreds/thousands of hours into which will bring me joy. For me, it’s more about having things which give me a sense of purpose and which consistently challenge me than about collecting or anything. I’m happiest when I’m working towards a goal, so continually learning new skills (I guess that’s what I’m collecting :rofl: ) feels like a good choice for me.

Sometimes there’s just something that draws you in, isn’t there? :heart:


I studied Korean and Mandarin each for a semester at uni and I would not recommend either. Korean was WAY to similar in a lot of aspects and Chinese was a.) really, really difficult and b.) the hanzi messed with my Kanji. :see_no_evil: which is why I would think going for a language that is not similar would be better.

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You’d be surprised. The way I think my brain works is, that it has boxes for languages based on their level.
German and English each have their own box but because my brain isn’t very good at tidying up some German words sometimes end up in the English box and vice-versa.
Now, French (which I learned in school for 5 years) and Japanese are approx. on a similar level and my brain put them in the same box. I never use French, so all the French sits at the bottom and when I go fishing for French, mostly Japanese turns up. But I can still read French and I feel I could probably unbury it quickly. (But at the least I always know that something is French or Japanese, not like with Italian and Spanish were I get confused sometimes.)
And then I have a box with everything else. Random Spanish, Italian, Korean, Mandarin, and any other language I know like 3 words in. :rofl:


You are basically were I want to be with Japanese. :face_holding_back_tears:

We get lots of translated crime fiction from different countries. holds carrot on a stick :rofl:

I am with you on that. It’s why I am not sure I will actually seriously pick up another language. So many things I still want to learn. My e-piano is looking accusingly at me as well. :face_in_clouds: but I might take a couple of classes, just so I can finally properly read cyrillic. :see_no_evil:

I also have online friends I game with who are Bulgarian, otherwise it probably wouldn’t have crossed my mind as an option. I think Russian when I think cyrillic. :sweat_smile:


I think this thread is better suited in the Language Learning category?

I actually think it’s harder to go into maintenance mode after a certain level.

This is speaking mostly from experience and observation.

If your goal is to be able to read and have basic communication skills, you can probably take it slow, and spend time on other hobbies and languages.

I basically took a 3-5 year break in Japanese after having passed the N1. At the time I read Japanese novels (Murakami’s and others) and could have basic conversations.

Last year I restarted Japanese, and it took me over half a year to get back to feeling like I’m actually improving. Any gains, especially in speaking, seem to vanish if I miss 2-3 days of serious study (> 1 hour beyond Anki/reading).

Also, being completely honest, there are overwhelmingly more negative emotions associated with mistakes. I consider this a biological impulse as a result of critical self-review. That being said, I still have a positive outlook on studying and improvement.

At this point, I can’t imagine dedicating time to another language just to rollback my progress.

Perhaps my gains don’t solidify because I started learning Japanese as an adult. Perhaps I don’t have language “talent” in me.


I follow a YouTuber/ patreon user called Robin MacPherson who is a polyglot and studies several languages as well as maintains the ones he has.

He speaks about how to do this in some of his youtube videos but also brought out a book “how to maintain languages” which does look at some ways of doing this while learning learning languages or other skills at different levels by using downtime reviewing and active studying. His process may be something to look at and consider.

If you need the ISBN to search for the book: 978-1987400601


I think he speaks in some of them in this video.

I really hate putting other people down, so while I respect people putting time in learning a bunch of languages, you should really judge for yourself from that video if you want to be where he is now, especially given that he had “worked in Japan as an interpreter” and “spoken a lot”.


True. I completely forgot about changing the category. Sorry. :see_no_evil:

I started learning japanese after moving to Montreal in Canada. But everyone keep telling me to drop japanese and focus on French (because it’s the language spoken here). I’ve started taking french lessons while continuing my self study of Japanese (i have absolutely no intention of dropping). But I find really hard to study two languages at the same time. I end up neglecting one. Since I haven’t found any content I like in French, and there are a ton of things I like in Japanese.
Sorry my incoherent and broken English :sweat_smile: