Learning my 3rd language in my 2nd


Been studying Mandarin since 2014 now learning French and want to find some methods to learn French using Mandarin as the base language.

Two questions:

1.) Is it possible to change my Lingq base language from English to another (Mandarin)? I am learning French but want to start using my 2nd language as my base/translated language.

2.) Anyone have experience language learning this way? I have been doing this on Duolingo and it’s a fun added challenge and a great way to mix up the initial grind of language learning.

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It’s sometimes called “laddering” and I find it useful

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“Is it possible to change my Lingq base language from English to another (Mandarin)?”

Yes. I forget how but it’s not difficult at all to do. You likely won’t have anywhere near as many user hints in Mandarin for French.

“Anyone have experience language learning this way?”

I did it a bit, but I didn’t think it was worth the extra effort. I do have some books about Russian in German, such as Assimil, and that’s alright, but for LingQ I just have the hints in English because it’s easier.

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I did that with Romance and Germanic languages using both Assimil and Duolingo and found it a great experience.

Learning German from French using Assimil is a great source for getting to grips with the grammar with French’s two genders and endless verb forms. Nevertheless German is even harder with its three genders and 4 cases.

The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) scale for learning languages from the perspective of a mother-tongue English speaker reveals that romance languages (Spanish Portuguese, French etc) and Germanic languages (Dutch, Danish, Norwegian etc) are the easiest to learn with German in the next category of difficulty – category II - reflecting the fact that it’s harder for English speakers to learn German than say, Swedish.

Mandarin is in the most difficult category – category 5 – and requires far more learning hours to acquire.

As you’re already familiar with Mandarin, you’d know what potential benefits there are to learn French from Mandarin.

I’ve just tried switching my LingQ to Swedish - I didn’t dare switch it to Mandarin as I was afraid I wouldn’t know how to get it back - and I can see it’s not consistently showing the language, with English words popping up here, there and everywhere - in places where Swedish could easily be displayed. So for me personally, it wouldn’t make sense.


As it happens, whilst it may be a fun challenge to learn French from say Mandarin – the very fact that 60% of the words are shared in English and French might mean it’s more effective for you to learn French from English, possibly leading to faster learning.

You can focus on how words such as “occasion”, “restaurant”, “sensible”, “attention”, “spectacles”, “libraries”, “pain”, “main” are pronounced different in French even though they sometimes mean exactly the same thing such as “occasion” and “restaurant” - or many not! whilst “restaurant” very definitely means the same in both languages, “occasion” means both “occasion” as in an occasion, but also means “second-hand”.

Another layer relating to the similarities and differences of English and French words is that you’ll note that the same spelling of a word in both languages leads not only to a very different pronunciation but also perhaps also entirely different meanings:

“Main” in English relates to size or importance where it means “hand” in French. Another thing to note here is that “main” is usually an adjective whereas it’s a noun in French. “Pain” in English relates to a highly unpleasant physical sensation but means “bread” in French.

You’ll also experience false friends that can easily trip people up at times, such as “sensible” which is not only pronounced differently in French but has an entirely different meaning that may not be initially so obvious. A “sensible person” in English is someone who is able to make good decisions and judgements based on reason. A sensible person in French is a “sensitive” person in English. The problem with false friends is that you are likely to gloss over them thinking you know the meaning when you don’t at all.

Another type of false friend would be for example “assisting" at a meeting. The French infinitive verb is “assister” and in the present tense a person could “assiste” at a meeting. In English this would be taken as helping out in some way, but in French it just means attending the meeting. “Elle assiste à la reunion” simply means “she attends the meeting” or “she is present at the meeting”.

Je vais assister au match de foot = I going to attend the football game - it doesn’t mean anything related to helping out.

This is just a side note - no need to pay any attention to this at all!

BTW attention is another one, which if someone shouts this out to you as you’re walking on the pavement means “Be careful!”

Wow! I could go on forever, I’d better stop now.


Haha such a lovely comment!

The fact that 60% of words are shared does make a huge difference, it took me over the year before I could read something like the “Black Cat” by Poe in Mandarin, but I was able to get through with relatively little pain in French after a couple months.

There is something interesting about Duolingo exercises with a foreign language base and your target language, but definitely would not be my main method of study. I’m going to keep experimenting :slight_smile:

Also, thanks for the wonderful insights on French, really appreciate it :slight_smile:

Where in the settings did were you able to switch your language from English to Swedish?

makes sense