According to the BBC:

Knowing how to go about learning a language can make all the difference to how successful you are. There is, however, no single ‘correct’ way of learning; everyone is different and you’ll soon find that some strategies work better for you than others. Trust your instincts … but at the same time don’t close your mind to new ideas and tactics.

When it comes to focus, my main approach is: less is more. If your goal is to learn four languages, let’s say: French, Russian, Chinese and Portuguese, then I would suggest prioritising.  I would start with the ones you feel are the hardest, once you are comfortable with the first, then add the second then the third and so on.

In my case, my language choices are both Chinese and Japanese for now. My aim is to concentrate on Chinese first for a couple of months (listening, speaking, writing) then add Japanese (speaking, listening and writing).

Writing characters is NOT a priority to me however being able to recognise the words is, especially when watching CCTV in English/French/Chinese with Chinese subtitltes or simply being able to read signs ‘toilet, exit, no entry’.

Conversational Chinese or Japanese  is my priority because I want to be able to exchange with natives as well as express myself via a new medium of communication.

In the past, I was interested in both speaking and writing but I soon found out that writing was a never ending exercise that demanded MORE time than listening and speaking. I pretty much saw no real progress when I devoted more time to writing than speaking. Result: I could read Chinese characters well but I could not always tell you what I was reading. At the time, I had managed to learn 300 characters in a month but I then stopped.

Today, my outlook has changed. I want to learn Chinese to speak it, then read it, and then write it and the same goes for Japanese. My aim is to learn it in a HUMAN way and not learn it like one learns a subject one has to cram. I want to learn it for myself and I want it to stay in my long term memory. I want to learn vocabulary and expressions that are useful to me and my lifestyle. ‘Learning what a ‘gorilla’ is in Chinese, really and truly is a waste of time. Sure, there are gorillas in Nigeria but how often do I get to talk about them in English? Zero! On the other hand, ‘monkey’ 子 is more likely to crop up but for now I am a beginner and I will concentrate on the basic themes: Introducing myself, getting directions, falling ill, introducing family and so on.


Decide what it is that you want to learn: (writing, listening, speaking)

Decide what themes you want to master: Introducing yourself, getting out of prison, making a marriage proposal.

Then focus on that and progress. Each theme that you learn is an accomplished mini-task.