14 August 2009

Learning a Third Language

My current ambition is to be able to communicate comfortably in English, French and Spanish. I began to study Spanish in 2008. I have been a student of French, on and off, for about 30 years and up to last year I could cope reasonably well in a supportive social environment.

But then I reached the point of diminishing returns: I realised that if I was to put an equivalent amount of energy into learning a third language, instead of just "treading water" in French, I might be able to communicate (at least in a basic way) with another 300 million or so people who speak Spanish. I found this idea exciting. . . Read more history

Rather than just follow the first course at beginner level that I could find, I wanted to save myself time and effort and I decided to make as much use as I could of the various tips and techniques, resources (real and virtual), short-cuts and time-saving cheats that I have been exposed to over my time as a (keen-ish but amateur) language student.

I decided to approach the challenge scientifically and in November 2008 I committed to study Spanish as a third language.

The whole point of writing and sharing this information is to let other people in a similar position know that "you are not alone" and because it’s not so long ago that I was looking for a resource like this myself and failed to find it, I suspect there is a need. If I am right please share your tips and ideas perhaps we can form a small community for a while and between us we can hack this business of growing from bilingual to trilingual quickly and effectively.

¡Vamos, vaya! ¡Ataquemos! Allons y!

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Author

Bill Ferguson
Bill Ferguson

Spanish Teaching Resources

Getting good quality teaching and resources

The information I am going to share is an honest account of what I have tried over the past year and my opinions are just that, opinions. I will share my likes and dislikes, what works for me and what doesn't. This is a personal experience, I am not an expert but if you share my ambition of learning to communicate in a third, foreign language, then maybe we can help each other along the way.

According to Friedrich Nietzsche: "One who speaks a foreign language just a little takes more pleasure in it than one who speaks it well. Enjoyment belongs to those who know things halfway."

I think he is right. Its hard to define halfway but I think the fun starts when you know enough of a language to be able to make yourself understood, given sufficient time to think. At this stage you are not merely tolerated but treated as an honoured guest in a foreign country. People see you bravely struggling to speak and understand, and give you credit for trying. They are nearly always kind and supportive.

Go beyond this to fluency and its like a toddler growing up, you are no longer cute and vulnerable. You are competing for resources, in the adolescence of language acquisition unless you have a definite role you are treated with suspicion. Maybe that is the stage to consider moving on to another new language ...

Getting good quality teaching and resources is vital to success: encouraged by an influential book by Harry Ferber I now view language acquisition as a military campaign, I need to use my resources efficiently to overcome all resistance, I need to capture vocabulary and not let it escape. I need to wear down the opposition by attacking daily and not allowing it time to regroup. I need to learn the predictable tricks that the new language will play on me and be ready for them (this means learning grammar). Like any military campaign good quality intelligence is vital.

Learning a Third Language

My current ambition is to be able to communicate comfortably in English, French and Spanish. I began to study Spanish in 2008. I have been a student of French, on and off, for about 30 years and up to last year ....read more

Strategic Planning

When I started to think about taking on a third language I realised I had two main worries: firstly I didn't want to lose my second language ...read more

Fear of Losing French

As I see it there is a simple choice ....read more