Magazine topic: 
Life around the world

Learning a foreign language... in another foreign language

by : 
IainG

My latest challenge is to learn German, and, being in Colombia, I am going to have to learn German (one foreign language) in Spanish (another foreign language). What can go wrong?

I have no idea why but for the last decade I have wanted to learn German. I learned a little at university but was not very successful (probably because I put in no effort whatsoever).

I got over my failure, though, and really forgot all about German until I spent a semester in Spain. I had a lot of German friends there and this renewed my desire to learn German. I never did anything about it, however, until I was living in France some years later. I found a German course but again I failed to learn. I was motivated but I couldn't finish the course because of my job. Here I am, then, in Colombia, and starting another German course.

Learning any language is difficult. It is time-consuming and a lot of patience is needed. You need dedication and to be committed. Studying another language requires a slow, steady effort. You can study very hard the night before a big biology exam but that strategy does not really work for learning languages. Learning and practising a little every day is a more effective technique. Or, at least, that is what works for me.

Now back in the classroom, learning German is a challenge. Many people say that German is very difficult to learn - especially compared to French or Spanish. The grammar is supposedly very strict and there are many rules (but, isn't that true of every language?) Being in a beginners' class, it is common for the teacher to explain difficult grammar points in Spanish. This is obviously very helpful for my classmates – all native Spanish speakers – but, for me, this is almost even more difficult. In my head I constantly have to switch between two foreign languages. This is really hard work and, half of the time I do not even realise that the teacher has changed language.

This German course is a challenge. It was always going to be difficult to learn German, but learning it in Spanish is even harder.

It'll be worth it, though. Finally I might be able to speak German with my German friends, all of whom are fluent in English.

Discussion

Have you ever learned a foreign language in another foreign language? What language would you must like to be able to speak?