How many languages is too many?

I'm a sixth-form student interested in studying languages at uni, but I can't decide which ones - I study French and Spanish A-level but would also really like to take up Italian. Is 3 languages too many?

This question was asked on 17th November 2014 and has been read 5523 times.

  • Jack Sellen (CIOL) · 8 years ago

    Hi there anonymous person! Firstly, well done for wanting to take languages at university. I did it and am a happy person for it.

    From both personal and professional experience I would recommend studying two languages at university to begin with. It takes a great deal of effort to master one or two foreign languages, let alone three: don't forget that your English is an asset that you must continue to develop if you wish to use your languages professionally. So in doing two languages at university you'd be graduating qualified in three languages in reality!

    A further point: a fair few of my coursemates have learned a third foreign language after their degree (by living abroad in a new country): once you know how to learn a language, picking up a new one becomes easier!

    Bon courage 


  • Jack Sellen (CIOL) · 8 years ago

    FWIW I am wary of people who state they can know four, five or more languages fluently, owing to the fact that it is such a feat to truly master just two or three.

  • Philip Harding-Esch · 8 years ago

    Remember that the languages you choose as your degree subjects will be a different learning experience to any languages you learn independently or as an extra course. I would say, choose 2 languages as your core degree subject, then - of course! - why not learn more languages on the side - so many opportunities to do so at university (language centre, clubs, students from around the world...) and if you find it's too much at any time you can take a break and come back to it later... I loved my extra language lessons at university and really enjoyed them! But obviously my main subjects were my 'bread and butter'.

  • Alex Rawlings · 8 years ago

    Hi there! I've studied 14 languages, and I would say that even that is not enough! However, there are certain rules that help you to achieve multlingualism in several different languages.

    French, Italian and Spanish are too similar to each other for you to learn them all well. You will find that there are days when you can speak one and not the other, or that one will always remain weaker. I think it's a good idea to study French and Spanish at university first, get a really solid advanced knowledge of them, and then start looking at other Romance languages, if that's what interests you.

    It can be frustrating to set the bar too high, and learning languages really is something that gets easier with time, so stick to two for now, and look at branching out once you've got some experience of how you learn by yourself. I have friends who speak 30+ languages, but they got there with patience, careful planning, and plenty of hard work!

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