IWTYAL 106: How useful is laddering?

Fernando asks: “How useful is laddering?”

In this episode:

  • Laddering = Using one foreign language to learn another
  • Two possible reasons for doing this: 1) The languages are very similar, 2) Just as a challenge!
  • Learning a language quickly requires focus and efficiency
  • I would personally find laddering for the sake of it rather inefficient and confusing
  • There are better ways of using your time in order to get your practice in

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  • Stan

    as for me (learning finnish as a russian native speaker) having one side in english and another in finnish saves tons of time as there are more language learning resources in english rather than in russian + google translate is way more developed for english language. also, my informal tutor explains me stuff in estonian while i write every note down in english without even need in converting in russian. so far there is no trace of slowing me down even during our speaking sessions. no problems with that. at uni when i was learning spanish the only translation possible was in english as it was in uk and yes indeed it was a bit of struggle but all about the words you not really likely to use at that stage anyway 🙂

    • Israel Lai

      Yes, I came to say just that 🙂

    • Very interesting perspective, Stan, thanks for sharing!

  • Alice

    Bonjour! I’m the one who learning French and Japanese by using the second language English! Yeah I have to admit it I did that just because it makes me looks cooler LOL Though, that’s really meant to me! That’s makes me more passionate on learning a new language and actually I’m intent to makes English become as fluent as my mother language Cantonese! So even it might slow down my process but I’m having fun with those languages!! Why not?😎🇬🇧🇫🇷🇯🇵🇭🇰

  • Bucozar

    Hey Olly, few comments from my personal perspective. I always prefer to use authentic material solely in the target language, but especially with mobile applications (I use Duolingo and Mosalingua) I think laddering is an effective method to use two languages at the same time. But that also requires that the ‘from’ language is at a high enough level so that too much information is not lost.

    Since I’m learning both Spanish and French I found it really useful to do also both ‘Spanish to French speakers’ and ‘French to Spanish speakers’ Duolingo trees (and also use these languages as a ‘from’ language when learning other languages) and use the Mosalingua app in French to learn Spanish (and vice-versa) so that all the guidance and content I get is in one of my target languages. Also I believe this method has really helped me to notice the differences and separate the languages in my head and it is quite easy for me now to switch languages on the fly.

    A lot of us non-native English speakers have gotten used to using English as the source language for most things (especially online) out of necessity as content in our native language might be very limited or of worse quality. I feel like whenever I’m reading something in English (or let alone my native Finnish) I’m wasting an opportunity to use my target language(s). Of course it’s not always that black and white, but I believe my insistence on trying to use my target languages as much as possible has helped me a lot on my language learning journey.

    • Great insights. I also think that the higher your languages get, the more it makes sense. I can also see how that would help you keep two similar languages separate.

  • Alan Fisk

    One benefit of laddering is that it gives you access to more learning materials. For example: at this moment I am working towards my C1 level in German, and am using Assimil’s “Perfectionnement Allemand” course. They don’t offer it in English, so being able to use the French version allows me to use that course. I know of no other comparable English-language course except for the Linguaphone Second Stage course, which is very outdated.