Language enthusiasts, if you have ever wondered if a multilingual language learning board game exists, the answer is yes! Polyglot board game was created by Polyglot Inc. of Miami, Florida, in 1987. I don’t know if the company is still active or if they have created other language learning resources, but let’s take a look at this amazing game.
Polyglot Board Game
My game is obviously a bit faded… but at only $14.95, it was a great deal!
From the back of the box:A mind expanding educational game designed to enrich the understanding and knowledge of foreign languages. Play this fast paced exciting game of words and phrases in one or up to six languages. You’ll not only race for the win, but learn new words, phrases and better pronunciation for languages you want to improve or master. Elevate your command of ENGLISH, SPANISH, GERMAN, FRENCH, ITALIAN, and YIDDISH.
How to play Polyglot
Instructions are included in all of the languages, except Yiddish (though it could just be missing from my game). Read the instructions in English below. Click on the images to make them larger.
Polyglot Vocabulary Cards
The two decks of cards include 1,800 words in each of the six languages plus 150 commonly used phrases. Phonetic pronunciation is included for each word and phrase. Even if you don’t have any polyglot friends nearby to play the game with, you can just use the cards to study vocabulary.
White cards are for individual words:
I’m not sure why the Romance languages are split up among German and Yiddish, as I think it’s easier to learn them side-by-side. [Take a look at my Romance languages comparative vocabulary lists if you want to learn several languages together and be able to choose which languages are next to each other.]
Did you know that California State University at Long Beach offers French for Spanish speakers courses? They also offer similar courses in Italian for Spanish speakers that emphasize the similarities between these Romance languages. I haven’t heard of other universities (yet) that offer courses like this, though the University of Texas at Austin’s Portuguese courses usually include many students who already learned Spanish and their Tá Falado podcast is designed with Spanish speakers in mind.
Fundamentals of French for Spanish Speakers course description at Cal State Long Beach
The professors at Cal State Long Beach have also been working with local high school and community colleges to help them develop their own courses. The concept of intercomprehension and taking advantage of the similarities between languages to learn them faster and easier is nothing new in Europe, but I’m always surprised about the few resources available for learning multiple related languages together in the US or for English speakers. I hope more universities, especially Hispanic-serving institutions, follow Cal State’s lead.
Please let us know in the comments if you’ve heard of other schools or universities that offer courses like this!
As of December 10, 2015, my degree was conferred by the university council and I have the right to call myself a doctor. My PhD took more than four years, even though nine months at the end was mostly doing paperwork and waiting. The actual research and thesis writing portion was around 3.5 years, which is normal for a PhD in the Commonwealth where there is no coursework. I wrote almost 80,000 words on language and culture in French textbooks. I like to joke that my thesis is a 300 page complaint of the way textbooks teach French – but honestly, I’m only half-joking.
So what led me to do an entire PhD on French textbooks? Anger, mostly. And the frustration at learning things in class that I never heard or used in real life and being utterly confused at the French I heard and read everywhere in France. I learned French in the days before Youtube, or FluentU, or Yabla, and I couldn’t afford expensive cassettes or CDs to listen to French – but that is exactly what I needed. I’m still surprised at how many of my students today think that reading a textbook means they will be able to understand spoken language and have conversations with their peers. Sorry, but it’s not going to happen. Technology is your friend.
I have returned to the US since my Australian visa was expiring but I am looking for jobs in North America, Europe, or Australia/New Zealand. Please let me know if you hear of opportunities in Applied Linguistics, French, or English as a Second Language. If it involves languages, then I’m interested.
If you want to learn the Romance languages together, you need to use resources that compare the languages.
Romance language books written in English
One of the oldest books intended to help you learn the Romance languages together is Comparative Grammar of French, Italian, Spanish & Portuguese Languages by Edwin A. Notley. This book was published in 1868 so it’s in the public domain and you can download a PDF that I created. Since it is so old, however, there are few spellings and words that are no longer used in the contemporary languages, so you will need to augment your study with more recent materials. Some copies show up on amazon.com every once in a while, but at a ridiculous price ($1,500!)
The Loom of Language: An Approach to the Mastery of Many Languages by Frederick Bodmer actually compares four Romance languages (French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese)as well as four Germanic languages (German, Dutch, Swedish and Danish), and offers advice on how to study multiple languages at the same time. Though a bit outdated, it is still my favorite book. You can get a copy at amazon.com for a relatively cheap price. I previously posted a review of this book if you’d like to know more.
The Seven Sieves: How to read all the Romance languages right away by EuroCom is a new initiative to promote intercomprehension of Romance languages. You can buy the book in PDF or paperback through Shaker Verlag (site in German) and the paperback through amazon.com.
Another great book is Comparative Practical Grammar of French, Spanish and Italian by O.H. Heatwole. The main drawback is that there are only three languages, and since it’s out of print, it can be a bit difficult to find online. Third-party sellers do sell it on Amazon but it’s usually rather expensive.
Romance language books not written in English
EuRom5(2011) is the most recent multilingual book I’ve seen yet. It focuses on learning to read and comprehend five Romance languages. The book is written in French, Italian, Spanish, Catalan and Portuguese (so it is designed for native/advanced users of any of those languages) with texts and audio files available on the website. You can buy it from dicoland.com or hoepli.it for under 30€. Amazon.fr also sells it for 30-40€ and a few copies are available on amazon.com. This book is not quite as “comparative” as the other books in the list since it offers 20 articles in one language with some words glossed in the other 4 languages (i.e. the entire articles are not translated in the other languages). You can also read my summary/review.
Comprendre les langues romanes: Du français à l’espagnol, au portugais, à l’italien & au roumain. Méthode d’intercompréhension by Paul Teyssier (2004) is obviously written in French for French-speakers to learn to comprehend Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Romanian. A new edition came out in 2012, but I don’t know if/how it is different from the 2004 edition, which is what I bought. Both editions are available via amazon.com or amazon.fr or you can order it from Librairie Portugaise & Brésilienne in Paris for 29€, and they do ship worldwide. I believe translations of this book in the other languages exist, but I’m not sure where to buy them.
Romance language resources at ielanguages.com
If you want to study vocabulary lists to learn the Romance languages, I have many lists available at Romance Languages Vocabulary Lists as well as some verb conjugations. The tables are set up so that English is first, followed by French, Italian, Spanish and then Portuguese. I chose this order due to how similar the languages are to each other. However, this may not be the order that you want to study the Romance languages in. Luckily, you can drag the columns in any order that you like! Simply click on the name of the language in the first column and drag it left or right. You can also hide/show languages that you are not studying or when you want to quickly test your memory. A few topics also have fill-in-the-blank exercises, such as days of the week:
Lastly, I’ve been creating videos that teach French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese together. (I have also created a few videos to teach French and Spanish together.) Subscribe to the Youtube channel to be notified when any new videos are available.
I am really interested in finding other books, websites, or videos that help you learn the Romance languages together. Has anyone found other useful resources?
For those who have a higher level in French, the MOOCs offered by FUN are also a great way to improve or maintain your level as well as learn about new subjects from programming and public health to eco-tourism and history. There are even some courses offered in both French and English so you can compare the content if your level is too low to understand everything in French.
Review of EuRom5: Read and Understand Five Romance Languages
EuRom5 is a multilingual book and accompanying website for learning to read and understand five Romance languages (Portuguese, Spanish, Catalan, Italian and French). It is written for a native or advanced speaker of one of these languages, so there are no English translations. The book is divided into three main sections: the introduction that explains the theoretical background and research on comprehension of multiple languages, 20 short articles for each of the five languages with some words and phrases glossed in the other languages, and a grammar section with tables to show the main differences in structures among the languages. The texts are not translated into the other languages so there are 100 articles total from various European newspapers and news websites.
The major selling point for this book is the website which offers recordings of all of the articles that you can listen to online or download. You will need to register for an account by answering a question about the book (something like, what is the third word in the fourth Italian text?). Even though you can choose any one of the five languages for the website interface, some parts are still left in Italian. Once you’ve created an account and logged in, click on Matériel didactique or go directly to the Textes page from here. (Signing in through the Description and Textes links seems to put you in a loop that keeps telling you to log in when you are already logged in.)
You can also turn on or off various notes and translations so that when you mouse over a word, you can see translations in the other languages. If you listen to the recording online, each phrase will be highlighted in yellow so you can follow along while reading.
For some grammatical structures (in pink), you can also click on the word(s) to open a PDF of the grammar tables from the back of the book.
Since this is a European project, the articles and accents are obviously European as well. You can buy the book on amazon.fr, dicoland.com, or through the publisher hoepli.it for 25€ to 40€ (plus shipping).
Although not courses specifically designed to teach the language, several courses in French and Spanish are available via the platforms FUN and Miríada X (as well as Coursera and EdX.) For German-language courses, try iversity and imoox.at