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Benefits of Laddering?

If I were to learn three languages - German, French, Spanish.
So if I do laddering:
German to French, French to German
German to Spanish, Spanish to German
French to Spanish, Spanish to French
6 full trees....

If I was learning 4 languages - Arabic, French, Spanish, Chinese.
12 full trees?...
(5 languages means 20 trees)

That is a lot of work... are there a lot of benefits in terms of understanding and fluency?
Vocabulary, Grammar, Sentence Construction, Situational Conversations and so on.

thanks for reading !

December 9, 2017



I always understood laddering to be more like:
English is my native language. First, I learned Spanish (for English speakers).
Then, once my Spanish was at a reasonably strong level, I started French for Spanish speakers.
One day I may learn German for French speakers.

I never thought of laddering as being learning every language from every other language. Just using one non-native language as a stepping stone to the next.

It's helpful because it allows you to practice one acquired language while learning another. If you always learned from your native language, your other acquired languages would suffer due to lack of (or at least less) practice.

I wouldn't spend too much time in the translating phases of language acquisition, personally. I'd move to books, videos, radio, etc. as soon as possible because the goal is to think in the target language. It's possible to spend too much time in the "translating" zone and delay fluency as a result.


Ah, that makes more sense. I see now that my comments were more relative to doing a "Reverse Coure." Good advice on developing fluency.


I think laddering is quite useful. You get practice in your first second language, while learning a third. I'd focus on the language I want to learn most (for me, Spanish), then learn every language you want to learn through that language. It may help, for the first couple of languages, to simultaneously do the new target language through English, if available (Jopara and Catalan are only available through Spanish). I also found that it lessened the tendency to confuse Romance languages with each other.


I have laddered both from Spanish to English (my mother tongue) and from Korean to English. Though helpful, I don't think it was the most efficient use of my time in trying to increase my proficiency in either Spanish or Korean. About half of my time was spent typing words in English. (kind of a waste, though I suppose I could consider it an exercise in improving typing skills.)

However, if you have the opportunity (courses are not always available) to "ladder" between two languages you are trying to learn, I would expect that to be very beneficial, though probably frustrating and difficult depending on your level of proficiency in each language.

I would think twice about taking on 20 trees simultaneously, though.


I had the opposite experience. I laddered Catalan and Esperanto from Spanish, and it worked wonders for me to improve my Spanish, and practice it better. I also did a bit of Jopara, but it hasn't quite stuck as well, (then again, neither did Catalan!)


The Duolingo Tree Enhancer script 'Reverse Tree' setting does quite a bit to cut down on the English content.


Reverse Tree setting?


Doesn't laddering require at least three languages (taking Language A for Language B speakers after taking Language B for Language C speakers and so on), instead of being between two languages?


Thanks for the discussion everyone.
Now I understand laddering better.
It makes sense - it will not take any more time to do laddering.

(But doing a reverse tree in the native language will double the time)


Learning languages through English has taught me a couple of phrases I did not know yet, but overall it has not been too beneficial for my English skills. Laddering through a weaker skill would doubtless give more benefit, but my two target languages are both too weak now and one is a dead end, while the other only allows English as an option. So laddering effectively seems quite difficult, unless you are learning a major European language.

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