The "Laddering technique"

Happy Thursday everyone! For this week I thought I'd speak about a method that not only helps you improve one language; but two of them at the same time, this is known as laddering.

You might have heard on this in the past and thought this is some advanced grammar-fu technique, when in reality, it comes down to learning a foreign language, from a second language you've already learnt.

But why? You might ask; well, there are many ways in which laddering has proved to enhance your learning experience, which I will show you now:

1. More Resources!: If you're a native English speaker, I hope you realise you are fortunate since you have most of the resources out there for you to learn a foreign language; textbooks, websites, courses; it's all over the place! But if you are not, learning other languages from English as a non-native English speaker is great since you will have many more options to explore the language, I personally learned German and Italian from English mostly, and I could find anything I needed online some way or another.

2. Simultaneous improvement of both languages: But Juan! I'm not as good in (second language) to be able to learn a completely different language using it as a starting point! Well, fear not, in the process of laddering you will practice both of them, refreshing vocabulary and grammar points; while introducing new concepts. It can be overwhelming at first, but in small dosages, it can be a really effective method, I recommend employing this method starting B1-B2 level in the CEFR scale.

3. Pique your curiosity: If you're a nerd like me, after being immersed in the two languages you've chosen you'll start to notice their quirks and particularities, what makes them their very own special language, and you'll inevitably start dissecting all of that in your head. Personally, I always imagine sentences to be Lego blocks we move around, and when we switch languages, I just rearrange them in my head, in that way I don't get completely thrown off by a new structure.

4. Gemütlichkeit:  Wait what? Yes! Gemütlichkeit (German pronunciation: [ɡəˈmyːtlɪçkaɪt] is a German-language word used to convey the idea of a state or feeling of warmth, friendliness,[1] and good cheer. Other qualities encompassed by the term include cosiness, peace of mind, and a sense of belonging and well-being springing from social acceptance.

That's quite a mouthful isn' it? Sometimes there are abstract concepts for which a language has only one word, while another may just not have a completely lexical grasp of it, That's where laddering helps, as a third language might work as to bridge the gap between your mother tongue and the foreign concept; and solidify the concept in your head.

5. More Tandem Partners: Maybe you can help someone learn one of the languages you have learned already, even if you are a non-native speaker. If you feel confident enough, you will find people that will be willing to practice with you your target language. Bonus? You'll be getting used to code-switching (I will talk about this in a future entry) and practising both languages simultaneously, win-win!

I'm sold, Juan! How do I do it, where do I sign up?

It's not hard to ladder, you can start checking out the bilingual books from our evergrowing collection over at Glassbow for instance. 

The Memrise courses are something I recommend for learning in general, and you can easily change the mother tongue to your desired "base language". 

If you have a streaming platform like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and the like, you can also find films and series where you can, for instance, set the audio in the language you are trying to learn, and subtitles in a language you are laddering from. As with other techniques, this is specially useful with media you are already familiar with, and you'll have fun noticing the jokes that went lost in translation, and the ones that appeared from it.

Thanks for reading, and I wish you a lovely multilingual weekend.

Juan V.