Content in your original language

Hello! I was wondering if there is an efficient way to try learning words in our target language using content from our native or original language? For instance, if we speak English already, could we be able to learn suggested words in say Swedish or whatever language we are learning?

I’m not sure how this would work in order to imagine it being feasible.

On the surface I feel like it might just complicate things. Using Swedish as an example, the word order would be quite different and might lead us into fossilizing mistake of that nature?

Can you give a more specific example of how you imagine this might work?

Something that is adjacent to this that might be nice for me would be a resource that compares source material. For example: I enter that I really like a given book. The resource would return a recommendation for a similar book in style or content at a similar level in my target language. That would take a lot of curation though and I’m not sure anyone would be able to get critical mass to make it useful over the long-term as a result. Enthusiasm wanes, unfortunately, for many who take on such projects.

What I hoped for was something LingQ does already: highlight words and the system returns suggested translations. We then add it to our existing word banks. But this time, we highlight words from materials in say English and we get suggested translations in the language we are learning at the moment.

The main issue is not only grammar differences but also words don’t have a 1:1 correspondence. What I do is go to a news site that talks about the same topic. Instead of going word to word you would look at the whole text. So, topics like sports, music, entertainment (movies, tv shows, news broadcasts (fires, weather, big city events, etc…)) would give the least confusing words that are manageable at a lower level. Politics, science, business, etc… would involve more complicated vocabulary but might be good for those intermediate level readers.

That’s true of LingQ’s current model as well (target language to language being spoken), so what would be difference?

There is a Chrome extension for that: Kypsis language immersion, it translates part of the webpages automatically to the chosen language.

The extension translates a percentage of the text on web pages to the language you want to learn. It doesn’t translate the whole page as to not overwhelm you.

LingQ’s current model has tremendous potential. It is lacking in structure and guidance. A teacher could replace both, and I would be the first to want teachers to use a site like this to help teach students. However, if LingQ wants to provide a more independent style learning environment they need to find a way to give new learners a curriculum to follow as well as relevant content.

Newspapers give you up to date relevant information, and you don’t have to understand everything in a newspaper. One of the most supportive things my Japanese teacher did in first year Japanese was to show us a newspaper, as is, just as the native speaker would read it.

Of course it is going to be overwhelming. The point though is not to digest the content like an adult, but rather like a baby. These small portions in context give you structure at least and to some extent guidance.

The textbooks we use in language learning online or offline tend to be more like math problems. They provide contrived examples to illustrate important learning blocks in a language.

While helpful, they might become tedious and repetitious over time. How many chapters do you take before you feel comfortable hopping on a plane and visiting a country associated with your target language?

Your question initially focuses on the opposite, expressing your life through the words of your target language. This would be like trying to communicate from the north to someone living in the south about the cold weather you are experiencing using the language of the person in the south.

You might be accurate, and if someone visited your hometown they might relate. However, the context is difficult to connect with, like inside jokes.

One example of this is with phrasal verbs. They sell books with nothing but phrasal verbs and explain the meanings as well as providing translations in the learner’s native language as well as examples in the target language.

But how does the learner know when and how often to use these phrasal verbs? “Yesterday, I woke up, and I killed two birds with one stone. I ate cereal and I drank coffee. I used the same spoon.”

Now imagine how much weirder it would sound if you used a phrasal verb you know but is not in your target language? Even something as simple as the word “pen” or “bag” takes on different meanings based on the culture behind the language you are learning. There are various words for just one word. This is a bi-directional product of the dissonance between two languages. Even in English this can come up.

Here is an example.

“Americans are voting early at a record pace this year, with 42 million having already cast ballots both by post and in person.” - US Election 2020: Trump and Obama mock each other in rival rallies - BBC News

“States are making it easier for citizens to vote absentee by mail this year due to the coronavirus.” - Absentee voting or voting by mail | USAGov

If you put “by post” or “by mail” through a translator like British to American translator | GoTranscript you will see they don’t distinguish usage.

If they don’t do that in the same language, what can you expect a translator to do between two completely different languages?

I talked with a lady from the Philippines who studied English way beyond the requirements from school. It felt like I was talking to someone with amnesia, because she was so articulate and could bring up facts about a town in an American city, but she didn’t know who Elvis Presley was. She would read town gazettes.

To bring this to an end, you got to decide why you are learning what you want to learn. Learning a language is not like learning a bicycle. It’s learning what to do with the bicycle. I use newspapers as an example because it is a quick and easy reference tool we all have access to, and it constantly gets updated, which means new words and usages of words are going to regularly come up.

A textbook from the 80’s might be great and well written, but if they contain “VCR”, “cassette tape”, and “telephone” we might not want to use those words as our main words to learn that week. Likewise, the translation to the target language might not be telling us the correct words.

My recommendation is to use a native speaker, language partner, or teacher who is experienced as your translator because they will give you contextual feedback more useful than in a book. A mechanical translation can’t guide you. This is the Achille’s heel of a site like this.