Learning language concepts from other languages
While I’ve never tried the full language laddering approach (where you use your second language to learn your third, and your third to learn your fourth, etc), I certainly take advantage of the languages I’ve previously learned when studying a new one. Each language has its own set of grammatical methods and concepts, and while I don’t believe any two are quite the same, most individual concepts are used across more than one language. This gives the (partially) polyglot an advantage, since we don’t expect our new language to work exactly like our first, and given a new idea in language D can just think, “Oh, that’s the same as in language B”, rather than having to get our heads around it all over again. Here are some examples of when I’ve consciously used this approach.
I think the first time I really noticed how helpful even an unrelated language could be was in my second year of secondary school, learning German. All those of us in the second-year-beginners-German class had been doing French from first year, so that when bei was introduced, we could easily equate it to chez, rather than having to explain the usage from scratch all over again.
Looking back, I can’t understand why our teacher made such a big deal over German ob and wenn, since Hiberno-English, which we were all speakers of (including her), unlike standard British English (which may have been what our textbook expected), pretty much only uses whether in whether or not contexts and otherwise uses if. Just telling us that wenn meant if and ob meant whether would have saved a huge amount of confusion and second-guessing, and any wrong usages could have been corrected later.
Hebrew, like Irish, distinguishes between the question-word when (“When did you go to the bank?”) and the conjunction when (“I saw Tracy when I went to the bank.”) Therefore my little notebook didn’t say מתי = when = כאשר and then give some complicated explanations, it said מתי = cathain, and כאשר = nuair and had done with it. No matter how badly I may have learned to speak Irish in school, I’ve understood the difference between cathain (question when) and nuair (conjunction when) since I was a child.
Hebrew is also similar to Irish in that both conjugate prepositions, so this wasn’t a new idea to me either.
The reason all this came to mind again that the Russian usage of пожалуйста seems a whole lot closer to the German bitte than to the English please, so I will take advantage of the similarity, and not have to learn the contexts for using пожалуйста as a whole new idea.
I hope some of these thoughts can help other language users. Obviously the examples you come up with will depend on the languages you know. I’d love to hear about some of them.
- What is needed to learn to read any given language? (readingwithphilology.wordpress.com)
- How I’m doing with Russian (kaetslanguages.wordpress.com)
- iMendi Now Offers Russian and Arabic Vocabulary Practice (freetech4teachers.com)
- Core Vocabulary Learning (teachinglearnerswithmultipleneeds.blogspot.com)
- Inside the Mind of a Polyglot (billzart.wordpress.com)
- Importance of Learning a Second Language (easysimpleenglish.wordpress.com)