Studying Multiple Languages Simultaneously

I’ve been working on my French & German Comparative Tutorial this week, and also searching the internet to find other sites that help people learn more than one language at a time. I am so disappointed.

I’ve found a few vocabulary lists, but they’re mostly just showing the similarities among Romance languages. I can’t find any sites that include lessons for learning two languages, closely related or not. I’ve never been able to find books like this either, which is somewhat surprising considering that almost all graduate students must learn two foreign languages and I know I am not the only person in the world who studies French, German and Italian at the same time. Where’s the multilingual love?

Instead, all I’m finding is some misguided “advice” that learning two languages at once is a bad idea. Says who? Every single person learns in a different way. Maybe it’s a good idea and maybe it’s not, but you should at least try. Maybe you can learn as a beginner in two languages without confusing them, or maybe you need to be advanced in one but beginning in the other. It all depends on your learning style.

I took Intermediate French, Beginning German and Beginning Spanish when I was an undergrad and I never had a problem keeping the languages straight in my head. Apparently this is discouraged (!) at some American universities, like Georgetown: “Freshmen interested in pre-registering for multiple language courses must receive permission from the dean’s office. One of the deans will discuss your specific situation with you and help you determine whether or not studying a second foreign language is feasible.” You have to get permission to study languages?? How can studying a second foreign language ever be NOT feasible?? I. just. don’t. get. it. Quite a difference from French high schools, where students must learn two languages!

Of course, if you’re advanced enough in one language, you can always use it to learn another, i.e. learn German in French or learn Italian in Spanish. That’s precisely what I do when I buy language books here in France. I feel like I get two languages for the price of one. Even the cheap cahiers (usually no more than 5 € each) designed for collège-level students are useful for getting the grammar basics of German, Italian, Spanish and sometimes even Latin. LaRousse, Hachette, Magnard, and Hatier Chouette are all good ones.

Anyway, since I want to spread the multiple language love, here are some new resources that I’ve come across this week:

  • Pukka German is a podcast of informal German (slang, idioms, colloquialisms) from an adorable South African-German couple who live in Freiburg. It’s extremely useful since it’s the German that is not included in textbooks, i.e. the way people actually speak!
  • Deutschlern.net is a free Deutsch als Fremdsprache site with online interactive exercises. It’s all in German, which can be a bit intimidating if you’re a beginner.
  • Since there’s no amazon.it, I searched around for online Italian bookstores where I can buy Italian as a Second Language books. I managed to find two, Internet Bookstore Italia and Libreria Universitaria, but shipping outside of Italy is not cheap.

Pour les francophones qui veulent apprendre l’allemand :

Pour les francophones qui veulent apprendre l’italien :

There are other facile.com sites for learning Spanish, Dutch, Japanese, Latin and even Provençal! (The English version of the site only includes lessons for French, Spanish and German.)

So if anyone else can find free online tutorials in learning two languages together (not necessarily just French & German or French & Italian), please let me know!

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Why is Jennie no longer in France?

I created this blog in September 2006 when I moved to France from Michigan to teach English. Many of the earlier posts are about my personal life in France, dealing with culture shock, traveling in Europe and becoming fluent in French. In January 2010, I started focusing more on teaching and learning languages in general. In July 2011, I relocated to Australia to start my PhD in Applied Linguistics. Although I am no longer living in France, my research is on foreign language pedagogy and I teach French at the university so these themes appear most often on the blog. I also continue to post about traveling (though now my trips are usually in Australia) and being an American abroad.

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