What are your favourite language learning techniques when learning multiple languages?

My favourite language learning technique when studying multiple languages at the same time is “laddering”. It means that I use a stronger target language (where I’m at least intermediate) as a base for studying another weaker target language. This way I can kill two birds with a stone and improve both languages at the same time. Some examples:
I wrote Spanish posts about Arabic grammar: https://www.instagram.com/p/BvHtzedjXK0/
I did an Irish challenge, used partly French resources for studying Irish, wrote in French about Irish grammar and expressions and also compared concepts of the Irish language with other languages (in this example with Korean): https://www.instagram.com/p/CJG_BZYnnWN/
I’m currently studying Korean and using Japanese as a base language. Korean and Japanese are very similar and explanations of Korean grammar are just much easier to understand in Japanese than in English.
For indigenous languages it also makes more sense to use other languages than English. For instance, for indigenous languages in Latin America, there are plenty of resources in Spanish, for languages in Africa, resources in French are available etc. For learning Ainu or Nivkh it makes sense to use Japanese and Russian resources.

What about you? Do you also use the laddering technique or do you use other techniques to study multiple languages at the same time?


I really admire you, Miriam! It’s a nice challenge to read a chapter in a book in one language, and write or talk about it in another. I agree, it’s a great way to build up your ability in a language that’s newer to you in terms of study, using one in which you may be conversational or even close to fluency.
When studying multiple languages, it helps me to use different sources, vs. recording basically the same audio or writing the same text, basically a series of translations of the same thing.
In that light, here’s what I have so far in terms of audio:
Talking about
Spanish: something I found interesting during the previous day: a conversation, an article, a funny video, etc. More free form
French: A chapter from a French novel a general summary, my thoughts
Portuguese: An episode from a Netflix series (Brazilian or otherwise): the plot, character development, what I think will happen next.
Italian: The 30 Day Speaking Challenge suggested speaking topic, or a description of a photo
German, Swedish and Greek: my level is very low, so I write some very simple text, translate it and just read it out loud.
As far as writing: about
Italian: An article from the random article feature of Wikipedia Italia (via Language Diary Challenge)
Portuguese: A colloquial expression in English (via LangCorrect)
Welcoming others’ ideas on source material, and I appreciate the links you’ve already shared, Miriam!


What a great question!

I have to say that for me, I personally haven’t tried laddering yet.

I tend to just try to figure out what is the best way for me to learn in a a given language. Right now, I am studying Hindi (mostly) and dabbling in Spanish.

In Hindi, I can’t just read stories. I have to listen to audio in conjunction with it. In Spanish, I read random Wikipedia articles all day even at a much lower level than my Hindi.

I would love to be able to ladder some day, or even read an English grammar/English teaching book in Hindi!


@alamomme Those are all awesome ideas! I’ll try some of them out. I really like the idea of the random article feature in Wikipedia.

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@jacquemarie Hindi and Spanish is quite an unusual combination. What’s your level in Hindi? Do you find it harder than Spanish?

@miriam i’m somewhere between an A2 and B1. Sometimes I freak myself out though and am not confident and then make lots of little mistakes. I started to learn it because of my boyfriend (his family only speaks Hindi) but now I’ll continue to learn it even if we break up.

I’m not sure I find it necessarily harder than Spanish. For me, Spanish has been extremely easy since I previously learned Italian to a fairly high level (haven’t spoken it for 6-8 years now though). I never took an official test for Italian but tested about a B2 on unofficial tests. Recently I just took an unofficial test and tested about a B1… But both of those were mostly just recognizing words/sentences/verb conjugation and testing vocab.

I found Hindi extremely easy in the beginning. Now I still don’t find it hard, but some things are just culturally different (you don’t say thanks, you give it. You aren’t going to a place someone is at, you are coming) so that’s the hardest thing for me

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But how do you find reading Hindi? Wasn’t it challenging to learn the script?

@miriam Oh! Actually no, it’s pretty straightforward. I actually wasn’t planning on learning it at first. When I would copy down the notes from the book I would copy the devanagari version too (like I would write both Mai and मैं on top of each other). I just kind of learned it from that and was able to start guessing how words were spelled.

Wonderful! You kind of learnt it “naturally” then. Just somehow absorbed it. The script really looks beautiful.

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Hey, guys. Interesting topic!

The idea of reading the same thing or writing about the same topic in more than one language is something that I sometimes do and I kind of want to do more often.
Even here I started “translating” some of the texts that I wrote in German to French. My French is not so great (not that my German is great lol) and sometimes it takes me a lot of time to build the sentences, look up words and what not, but it’s a great way of learning new words and expressions and practicing the grammar.

The idea of learning a foreign language using a different foreign language is something that I have been doing for a while, since there were not many materials available in Portuguese (at least not in Brazil). English used to be the “tool” language for me until I lived in Japan. I couldn’t believe how many languages books there were… The first time I saw the series of books with CD I went crazy… Swedish, Thai, Finnish, Rumanian, Mongolian… And then Japanese became the main language of this “laddering” process (I didn’t know this word, btw).

And, Miriam, I haven’t done the same, but what I was trying to do is to force myself to produce one video per day in German. I was in Berlin for two weeks in 2019 and took classes of German (B2) and it was so nice to be able to listen and speak German every day, that I didn’t want to lose it. So I created this Instagram account just for making myself speak in German, because I didn’t have anyone else to practice with in the city in Brazil I was living in.
Btw, it’s https://www.instagram.com/vitoraufdeutsch/
(in case anyone is curious hehe)

What I did was talking about other languages or about language books in German. I mean, my initial intention was to talk about my day and I was doing that at the beginning. But since the pandemic started I’ve been home and… I didn’t know what to do, because the interesting thing to me was to show something of my day or show a piece of the city and talk about it. Then I started talking about my books and that’s why there are so many videos about language books haha

But then I kind of got tired and stopped making videos. I still want to do it, because it’s an additional exercise and forces me to speak and record my voice and what not… I just don’t want it to become a burden, I mean, I want to do it because it’s fun and helps me improve my German (hopefully lol). I should start making daily videos again. They are very spontaneous and that’s why there are many mistakes in them. I only stop and start recording again when I feel I made too many mistakes or when I feel I was speaking too slowly. But, yeah, the idea is to improvise. And in the future, in a few years, I want to be able to look at these videos and say to myself: Oh boy, how bad my German was at that time. I’m glad I speak better now (lol). It’s a kind of register of how my German skills (will) develop haha

Sorry for the long post!

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@vinaspa Never apologise for such interesting posts! Yeah, in Japan there are many language learning books and it’s great that you could use Japanese for studying other languages. I also sometimes publish videos of me on Instagram and Facebook and on Facebook they sometimes show me videos from two years ago and it’s funny to re-watch myself after such a long time. Sometimes it’s like: “Damn, I could talk like that?! I’ve forgotten everything!” :wink: I normally don’t translate texts I wrote in one language into another one but I did sometimes translate easy texts from a textbook of one language into another (I think I did that once from Russian to Greek). I know some people like to write the same text in several target languages but I get easily bored, so that’s why I still write different texts for the Langcorrect writing challenge. I participate with French and Spanish and for instance when the topic was food, I wrote in French about food that I like and in Spanish about food that I dislike. Actually, I don’t even like to follow writing prompts but come up with my own ideas, mostly something I read or saw, but this time I just try to follow along.
If you want feedback on your German videos, just ping me.

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I’m just crazy about language books haha
Even when I know that I won’t have time in the near future to read or study a certain book, if I like it, and it’s for learning a certain language, that is not so easy to find materials about, I just buy it. haha But I don’t regret it. I know that if not immediately, someday I’ll study it. But of course I would take a look at all pages first and focus on whatever interests me the most. I remember when I went to Shanghai for one week. I was living in Japan at that time and I was learning Russian. I always go to bookstores when I’m abroad. Bookstores and Supermarkets, because I love to see what they have that is different (for me). Then I just went insane when I saw the amount of books and series of books for learning Russian. I tried not to buy many, but at the end I bought something like 20 books (lol). I didn’t care for the fact that I don’t understand Chinese, because I thought I would look up the Russian words that I didn’t know anyway. And they were sooo much cheaper than language books in Japan! And the CDs were MP3 with 4, 5, 6 hours of dialogues recorded. I also bought two books once in Budapest for learning German and the cds have like 8 hours of recordings lol That should not “matter” so much right now, because there are sooo many channels on YouTube with dialogues, interviews and what not, but I guess I have this thing with language books with CD because I come from an era (lol) when the Internet was not so developed or accessible to all and it was not very easy to listen to foreign languages. Again, I come from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and that’s not a country where you can listen to many languages, depending on which city you live.

How long have you studied Greek? I love Greek and that’s one of the languages I want to master someday. One of my dreams is to live on a Greek island when I’m old so that I can enjoy crystal clear beaches and eat olives. lol But of course I want to visit the country many times before that and talk to them in Greek. It’s such a beautiful language… I love the way it sounds!

I don’t like to follow writing prompts either, but I’ve decided to join this challenge and I’m enjoying it, because it makes me write about things that maybe I wouldn’t or… maybe I have already written about them sometime in the past, but then I can write it differently or adding something new to it.

Thanks a lot about the feedback proposal! I’ll try to make a new video and I’ll let you know hehe

Ok, so you went to Fuzhou Road in Shanghai where you can find Book City and the Foreign Language Bookstore? It’s really a language book lover’s paradise. I lived in Shanghai for 6 years and also bought my fair share of language books. Whenever I visit a place and there are books about rare languages, I have to buy them, even if I don’t study those languages…
I only studied Modern Greek for a couple of months but Ancient Greek for three years at school. Funnily, I was into Greek when I went on holiday to Shanghai for a month and instead on working on my Chinese I was doing Greek whenever I could. If you want to study Greek, this is a good place to start: Greek — Language Transfer.

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Yes haha
I couldn’t remember the name of the bookstore, but according to the pictures I found in google and my memory, yes, that’s the place haha
I wish I could go there and see all the books they have for learning German. I would go crazy lol
Danke for the link! I’ll check it out someday, because right now I should resist all temptations to learn other languages. I need to eat, drink, breath and sleep in German, so I can pass the C2 exam as soon as possible…

Right now I’m laddering when I’m learning Korean. Even if English isn’t my native language, I speak it well enough to be able to learn about other languages throught it. It makes things easier because there’s a lot more language learning content in English than in Spanish (at least that’s my experience). I also have the idea of learning Japanese in the future, so then I’ll use Korean to search for resources because Korean and Japanese are more similar than English and Japanese.

If we’re talking about languages techniques, I don’t really do anything special. Now, because I’ve been learning English for so long, I don’t actively study it anymore. What I do is watch videos, listen to music and read posts in English everyday. So, if you have a higher level in one of the languages, it would be better to keep learning that one passively and focus actively in the language you know less about.

I hope this can be helpful to someone!

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Japanese and Korean are very similar when it comes to the grammar and they both have many loan words from Chinese, so using Korean for learning Japanese will definitely be helpful.