Using L2 for L3

Just some thoughts on learning a foreign language through another learned language. If English is your L1, many people only attempt to learn another language through English. And that’s fair enough, but it might not be the most practical if you have other tools at your disposal. Professor Arguelles strongly suggests people that dream of being a polyglot learn French and German. With English, French and German at your disposal there is a wealth of material available for the language learner. The same could also be true for Japanese and Chinese, and to a lesser extent, Korean. But this is the argument for using a L2 because of materials access and availability. How about using your L2 to learn L3… or L3 to learn L4 even? Sometimes it is just more practical and efficient. If you’re an English speaker that has studied Spanish to a high level for instance, would it make more sense to learn Portuguese or Italian through English, or to learn them through Spanish? My vote would be Spanish because of all of those similarities in grammar and vocabulary. My own personal example is for using Korean as  tool for studying Japanese, again, due to grammatical similarities and the large cross-over in vocabulary due to the Chinese influence. It’s not just a matter of making it easier for yourself though, there are other things to consider. Like what things? Well, in using your L2 to learn L3 you’re going to appreciate the finer details of your L2. You will effectively be learning your L2 in more depth by studying your L3. These are things I have found with my own studies. Through elementary level Japanese study I consolidated and clarified things in Korean I already knew but didn’t really know. You may learn things you never knew, you may have a few a-ha moments when you finally understand something that you have been using but didn’t really know the why behind it, or you may just find it more time-efficient because of the similarities. There are of course negatives that include misunderstandings of explanation and what-not, but you do always have the dictionary option to cross-check anything you’re not certain of. But basically, what I’m mainly talking about is using a language that is similar to one you are learning to lessen the burden. It doesn’t have to stop there though. Professor Arguelles’ suggestion of learning French or German first is a valid one. Even if these languages aren’t similar to the one you are studying, due to the quality of materials available they may still be the best option. I know a number of people that have learned English and now use it learn...

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Self-Study Materials 2

In the first Self-Study Materials overview we covered the big names of Assimil, Linguaphone, FSI, etc. This time we’ll go over a few of the other big names; the big names that many of our readers will be more familiar with – Teach Yourself, Colloquial, Hugo and Living Language. Teach Yourself: In many parts of the world, the TY Series is the best on offer. This isn’t a bad thing per se since the course offers quite a solid introduction and is available in a large number of languages. The modern courses provide dialogues with audio and some grammatical explanations in an overview format. To be honest, I don’t really like the modern TY courses. However, the older TY courses I find invaluable (circa 1960-70’s). These courses are heavily influenced by the grammar translation method where each chapter provides English and you are asked to translate to your target language, and also provides target language where you are asked to translate into English. I don’t see grammar translation as being as bad as is made out… If you use the text in the way that you practically ignore target language to English translations and instead opt for understanding the target language, then you are doing the right thing. The second step is to look at the English to target language sections as being merely prompts that you are free to expand upon. As testament to these great TY products from the 60’s and 70’s, I’m proud to say that I own texts in 10-15 languages. Colloquial: Like the TY Series, Colloquial is available is a multitude of languages. The structure is much the same as the TY Series. And also like the TY Series, the older courses offer more than the modern with regard to content. I will say that I prefer the modern Colloquial courses to the modern TY courses, but if you have the chance, try to get an older publication. I personally find the publications from the 90’s quite pleasant and informative, and you have the added bonus of usually being able to get a hold of the audio to go with it. Hugo in Three Months: Another overview course like the TY and Colloquial but with a few differences. The main one being that I find the Hugo audio more useful and a little more natural to the others. I’ve only really been through the Japanese course though, so whether this is across the board or not is yet to be seen. I have copies of Spanish and French from the 70’s and don’t really enjoy them and the same can be said of the...

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Self-Study Materials

There are about as many language learning products as there are icecream flavours. And just like icecream, some are delicious and some should just be avoided like the sweet perfume of durian. To make life a little less roulette-like, I’ll give you a list of some of the products I have personally used with some of their key features. Assimil: A dialogue-based course from France. Everything is contained in one sleek book; target language on the left, translation on the right. It’s light on grammar and that’s how I like it. The audio is of a high quality, although a little slow and as a result needs some editing. The dialogues themselves are light-hearted and often a little humourous, which makes studying even less of a chore. The downside to Assimil? Not a wide collection of languages unless you have reading knowledge of French, Spanish or German. I usually buy several books at a time direct from Assimil to save on shipping costs and I’ve had them sent to both Australia and Korea with no problems. Linguaphone: A dialogue-based course from the United Kingdom. There are usually 3 books – the course book in your target language, a handbook in English and vocabulary book. Some courses also have a dedicated exercise book. Depending on the age of the course there are between 4-6 tapes of good quality audio that is often close to native speed from the outset in some courses. Linguaphone is actually my favourite overall, although I can’t really express why. Older is better (circa 1970’s being my number one choice).. I wouldn’t buy a new Linguaphone course. Foreign Service Institute: Drill-based course that was produced by the US Government for training diplomats and the like. Very heavy with the drills – substitution drill, grammar drill, variation drill, level drill, response drill. Dream of a drill and it’s in here. The courses focus on spoken language and the audio is extensive. However, due to the age of the courses the actual quality is dubious at times. I will also note that the speed is perhaps too fast from the beginning for many students but I don’t see speed as a negative. The best thing about FSI? There are quite a number of languages represented and they are all in the public domain, so free of charge. Yale University Press: These are basically FSI courses that were produced for languages FSI doesn’t appear to have public domain releases for. Identical structure and quality. I’m currently using the “Beginning Japanese” series as part of my study and finding them very useful. Barron’s Mastering Series: These are basically FSI courses...

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