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Learning another language IN another language.

I've been learning Spanish for a year already, and I'm at the point where I'm somewhat good and content with myself. I've been learning French for about a month but I had the idea to use Duolingo in Spanish to further help my Spanish learning abilities as it's now my second language. I don't know if this will be detrimental down the line when trying to comprehend French in my normal English thinking. I did a little in Spanish and I could already see some benefits. Should I learn in English, or Spanish?

August 24, 2019



It's called laddering. Lots of people do it. It is helpful, and you will find a slightly different emphasis on grammar, different vocabulary so you'll learn new synonyms, and it helps point out the difference between similar languages (Spanish and French or Italian or Portuguese, say.) Plus it helps you get over the need to translate to your mother tongue, although if you're in school and required to translate that might not be too helpful.


If you have the time, both! I know that it might be a little boring doing the same lessons in both Spanish and English, but it will reinforce both the French vocabulary and your comprehension skills in your primary languages.


Yeah I was actually thinking both, I already do Spanish, German, and French daily. I suppose it wouldn't be too much to add. Thanks a lot for the reinforcement :)


I’ve found that taking Spanish for English, English for Spanish Italian for Spanish, Italian for English English for Italian and Spanish for Italian helps me in both Spanish and Italian as an English speaker. How? Well, I hope to set an example.

The first language I started to seriously study with an end goal in mind was Spanish, because I fell in love with Latino culture. Spanish for me opened the door to learn other languages, one of the first two being Italian. I love Italy in general, and I think Italian is a beautiful language. Spanish and Italian are two languages I’d love to be proficient in. After I started to get confident in basic Spanish, I started to learn Italian for these reasons.

Now, Spanish and Italian are similar languages. Along with French and many other languages, they are part of the Romance language family. You’d probably think studying the two at exactly the same time by using your stronger language language would overwhelm you. I feared the same before I tried it, and.... it was very helpful for me, actually! I could start to distinguish differences between each language easier via comparison and experience gained, I could learn translations of Italian words to English via looking up a Spanish word I didn’t know and filling everything else in by context, and I started to think more independently in both Spanish and Italian the more immersion I had with both (which you will get by learning a third language via a second language).

My answer is, learn in both if you want to get a great experience. Some people even refuse to learn a third language without using a second language (I forget his name right now, but there’s a polyglot who learned Hindi and other languages through German and other languages despite being an English speaker because it was a way to immerse himself in his second languages). Try it out, see how well it works for you, I have nothing but a positive experience with that strategy (the biggest downside is that it’s more work on your brain the less you know in your second language, but that can be outweighed rather quickly if you stick to your guns, so to speak).


There are plenty of folks here whose 2nd language is English, so naturally learning a 3rd one, they use English as a start. It's quite fun doing reverse trees;) also help sections differ a lot from English vs. whatever native language


Yeah. Those of us whose native language isn't used as a "base" language (or even taught at all yet) on Duo have no choice but to learn a foreign language from a foreign language.

Not that I personally have any problem with it as I use English far more than my native language, anyway.


True, for me it's really fun to do a tree in other language. After I learned English elsewhere I started leaning French from English and then I did the reverse three, then German from French, and now I'm doing the reverse three plus I wanted to start Portuguese from German but sadly it isn't available yet so German from Portuguese it is. c:

Also don't forget there are other perks that come with a new language, you'll have more resources outside Duolingo -that aren't as hard to understand- to learn your other lang, like youtube vids, courses, academies and sites focused on your language.


I'm Brazilian and I'm kind of doing the same thing! Since I'm at the point where I'm feeling comfortable with english, I now learn French from English.

It feels good because you're both learning and praticing two languages. I do recommend!


Good look with your langs, I hope we'll see you taking Spanish for Russian speakers later on. c;


You have to evaluate the pros and cons! I think it might be good because you'll be able to practice both languages simultaneously, and since French and Spanish share some similarities you'll be able to pay more attention to these details.

The benefit of doing the French from English tree is that it offers stories and, if I'm not mistaken, it also has more lessons than the French from Spanish tree.


It's not going to be detrimental as long as your Spanish is solid. It's actually VERY common for people to do this. It's called "laddering."


If you're comfortable enough with Spanish, go for it! Both being Romance languages really helps; in my case, I find that learning Korean through Japanese makes translating things in my brain much faster due to how grammatically and culturally similar they are as opposed to learning from English or Portuguese (my native language). You might experience the same thing by learning French through Spanish!


People who have done this- would you recommend being at a certain level in a language before doing this? I would like to try it.


I'd recommend at minimum the third or fourth checkpoint the first time through for laddering, especially if it's your first experience learning a language. Probably better to be level one on everything. The reverse tree, however( English through whatever) is easier and could be started earlier in the process.


There's no universal answer for this, my rule of thumb is: when I feel comfortable reading a handful of common sentences and have enough vocabulary in the other language to avoid frustrations.


Thank you, Klgregonis and SmashCookie.

Update: I have started it. I can already see benefits to it. Learning German using Italian, which I am quite comfortable in more than my Duo level, is already interesting. I am encountering slightly different phrases, and it's making me think more in both languages.

When I get to a more complex level, it's going to mean that I need to build my Italian, though by using it, I am doing just that.

On the other hand, I've also started learning Russian via Spanish- both languages which I am less familiar with- so the Duo level will be fairly accurate- and I can see that I need to be at a higher level in at least one of them for this to work well, or at least for it to be more easy.


English is my 2nd language, and i can tell that learning another language is english improved it. i think it is worth it to at least give it a try. if it's not working yet, you can stop at any time.


I would love to see this feature. Unfortunately, there is no Norwegian for Chinese speakers...


You should give it a try. It is a lot of fun of learn a language in a different language.


Learn in Spanish if you're good enough. It will be a more efficient use of your time, because you will get practice with Spanish while learning the French. If you learn both from English it will take away time from each. If it get's too hard for you, switch back to English though.


I feel that if you have only been doing Spanish for a year and you are quite new to French that laddering i.e. learning French from Spanish is quite difficult and would be the least useful to you at this stage.

I'd recommend that you continue the Spanish tree and you should also do the reverse tree i.e. Spanish to English as that really reinforces your learning. I feel that you'd be better learning French through English though at least until you have a more solid foundation.


Yeah, i think it's a great idea! I've attempted to do the same with French > Spanish.
This may not be the case for you, but I found myself confusing French and Spanish while trying to learn both at the same time, but if you're confident in your Spanish knowledge then you'll probably be fine.


I'm French, and learning Russian in English because it is not possible to learn it via French on Duolingo yet. And I don't seem to have any problem for now, so I guess you should ! It might just be a little harder to learn French, which is in itself a difficult language, through a language you do not fully master. However, French and Spanish are very much alike. It could help you comprehend both languages better.

Good luck !


I wouldn't recommed to go with both. It could struggle you to think in Spanish as well as reduce the effect on your Spanish progress. If you are at least around A2, learn through Spanish.


It sounds like a nice challenge, so why not give it a try? Sounds pretty interesting


I would definitely go for it! When trying to reach a high level in a language, conscious translation can hold you back. If you learn a third language in your second one it might cut out the slow mental translation process and have you speaking fluently faster


From laddering one benfits from the both sides - s/he learns a new language as well as makes an active use of the language s/he uses for translation of the words and structures (in my case English) s/he learns in the target language. That's why it is important to have a solid basic knowledge of the source language, otherwise sometimes some things can be mixed up. I have been already so accustomed to learn foreign languages in English that it seems even a bit strange when I try the course in my mother tongue.


I personally think its not your best learning a language in another language you are still learning. Just my thoughts, I mean, at its best I would expect it would help your Spanish but do very little for learning the french. I suspect once you reach an area unfamiliar to you - you would spend more time looking up phrases and words in Spanish than learning the French. Again this is just my take on the whole thing. I believe in taking the most direct route to learning, and apply your energy and time to learning your target language / topic.


seems like a good idea to me! good luck!

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