Using non-native materials to learn other languages

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estebenriq
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Using non-native materials to learn other languages

Postby estebenriq » Sat Apr 25, 2020 5:04 pm

Hi all,

I have been perusing this forum for a while, and I really like it so I decided to create an account. I will be short here.

I am an American with Spanish parents, and I know English fluently as a native speaker and Spanish almost at a native level but perhaps not quite in the areas of reading or writing, but very close. I am learning French using the Assimil course "French Without Toil." I love the course. I am around lesson 20 and am learning a ton, and I have to give credit to professor Arguelles and his YouTube videos for introducing me to a methodology for learning foreign languages. He has been instrumental.

Being a Spanish speaker and considering how close Spanish and French are, I am thinking of getting the Spanish version of French Without Toil in order to compare translations using Spanish. I think this may be more helpful, as it will help me not to rely on native tongue while also being able to draw similarities and differences between the two languages.

What is the view on doing this? Is it good to take an already well known language (Spanish) that is related to a language I want to learn (French) and use materials in that language to learn? Or might it be a hindrance?

Thanks!
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Re: Using non-native materials to learn other languages

Postby Earth » Sat Apr 25, 2020 11:27 pm

I don't believe it matters which language you choose for the instructions. As long as you understand and it has the same content, that will work, and that's pretty much all you can hope for.

There is some value in observing two languages side by side, but it offers little more if you know one of the languages extremely well or if you have a background in linguistics. You should be able to recognize and learn some basic sound shifts between Spanish and French just by knowing Spanish while learning French words. To go substantially deeper in learning their similarities and differences will require some studying of linguistics.
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Re: Using non-native materials to learn other languages

Postby tastyonions » Fri May 01, 2020 2:17 pm

I like learning a new language through a related language. I learned both Spanish and Portuguese through French (non-native) and it was quite useful to see the similarities and differences side by side right from the start.
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Re: Using non-native materials to learn other languages

Postby jeff_lindqvist » Fri May 01, 2020 4:42 pm

This question pops up every now and then.

These are some of the threads I could find:
Learning L3 through L2
Using L2 to learn L3 via Assimil
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Re: Using non-native materials to learn other languages

Postby Iversen » Fri May 01, 2020 9:51 pm

When your native language is rather 'small' one it is inevitable that you will be using foreign study materials - especially if you want to study anything that is just a bit out of the ordinary. That being said, there are good dictionaries to/from for instance Danish to more languages than you might think, but they tend to be expensive.

I would however not attempt to study a language on the basis of another unless I knew the latter quite well. You have to understand practically everything in your grammar or in the translations/explanations in your dictionary to get away with it.
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Re: Using non-native materials to learn other languages

Postby Gustav Aschenbach » Sat May 02, 2020 8:01 am

Iversen wrote:When your native language is rather 'small' one it is inevitable that you will be using foreign study materials - especially if you want to study anything that is just a bit out of the ordinary.


That's what Professor Arguëlles said, too. He recommends studying German for the sole purpose of studying other languages, which I find quite ambitious.
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Re: Using non-native materials to learn other languages

Postby estebenriq » Sun May 17, 2020 1:16 am

Thanks all,

I ended up purchasing the Spanish version of French Without Toil. However, I actually don't really feel like it is helping, and there are actually quite a few typos. Example:

Avez-vous couche a l'hotel?

ha usted comido en el hotel?

The Spanish is saying the French means "Did you eat at the hotel?" where I'm pretty sure couche can only mean 'lie down, sleep' and not 'eat'. So, I 'm returning it as it was kind of expensive ($27) and it has a bit of typos, and I see no benefit.

See, since Assimil is based more on exposure to the language as is rather than a presentation of grammar, I haven't found having Spanish for the translation helped me since I very quickly understand the French and just remember the French as French, and not referring to the translations.
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Re: Using non-native materials to learn other languages

Postby Iversen » Sun May 17, 2020 8:17 am

Estebenriq's example reminds me of the Monty Python sketch with the Hungarian dictionary.
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Re: Using non-native materials to learn other languages

Postby tarvos » Sun May 17, 2020 9:53 am

Iversen wrote:When your native language is rather 'small' one it is inevitable that you will be using foreign study materials - especially if you want to study anything that is just a bit out of the ordinary. That being said, there are good dictionaries to/from for instance Danish to more languages than you might think, but they tend to be expensive.

I would however not attempt to study a language on the basis of another unless I knew the latter quite well. You have to understand practically everything in your grammar or in the translations/explanations in your dictionary to get away with it.


This, and I had the immense good fortune of learning English at such a young age that this has become my go-to language for everything. I have also used French a lot in the past, and can get away with using Russian or Spanish, no problem.

I've even used Czech and Romanian :D
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Re: Using non-native materials to learn other languages

Postby Cavesa » Sun May 17, 2020 12:43 pm

It's normal. For us with poor native languages, it is basically the only option to either learn a language we are not supposed to be interested in, or to use high quality resources that simply don't get a localised version for my second rate country.

It is not such a big deal. I'd even say your level of the language you use as the new base doesn't necessarily have to be so high, it really depends on the type of resource. And you're likely to get to the monolingual resources somewhere around the intermediate level anyways.

The additional advantages can be comparing the languages (that is especially true about resources like Nathan and Robert grammars and vocab books, which compare stuff and point out the traps people fall into), avoiding some unnecessary waste of time (a French based coursebook is not likely to waste time explaining what a grammar gender is), but all these are much less important than the n.1 reason.

You simply get a much bigger pool to choose what you want from. That's what knowing a language is meant to give you. You may not notice that, as you've got the privilege of being an English native, the whole planet caters to you. But for some of us, using resources based in our native languages simply means settling for much less and getting much worse education as a result.

So, if you want to use something based in a non native language, go for it. If not and you've got great English based resources, it is great too. The quality of the resources is much more important than the language.
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