Maintain language A while learning language B by

So here’s a way to maintain one language when starting to learn another – use lessons for the new language created for speakers of the first language. I’ve recently started on German here. (This is the second time I’ve mentioned it, so now I must go through with it. :wink: In addition to the mini stories I’ve started watching German lessons given in Russian on YouTube, specifically Dmitri Petrov’s German series.

Russian speakers and learners might already have encountered Dmitri Petrov, a Russian “polyglot, simultaneous translator, lecturer, broadcaster, teacher” (Wikipedia) who has (or had?) a Russian TV show, “The Polyglot”. His standard format is to teach a language in sixteen 1-hour lessons to a small collection of students in the studio. Of course, no one learns a language in sixteen hours. He presents what he calls the “algorithms” of the language in order to give the students a sense of the structures of the language on which to hang acquired vocabulary. He gives the example of a child just learning to speak. The child has few words, but he can combine them in a multitude of ways using the structures of the language.

Petrov has some interesting things to say about languages and language learning in general in the first German lesson (- YouTube). At 9:12 (my loose translation):

“Study of a language is an endless process. As long as we live we continue to learn even our native language. So what does a language exist for? It’s not for taking exams and getting good grades. A language is a phenomenon which exists for people to communicate, for people to understand each other. Yes, at first there are mistakes, and at the beginning it occurs on a simple, even primitive level. But mistakes are our greatest friends. We’ll learn nothing in life if we fear mistakes. Therefore I categorically disagree with the position that it’s better not to speak at all than it is to speak with mistakes. Quite the opposite. Always speak, wherever there’s an opportunity, with any mistakes, because that’s the only way we can learn to do it.”

And at 11:07: “A language is of course not only the part which presents itself as written speech, as text. A language is perception, an entire dimension – how people talk, how people communicate, how they greet and say goodbye, how they relate to each other, how they look at the world around them. All of this is also a part of language. That is, a language is above all a multidimensional space of limitless possibilities which we can learn forever. But it’s most important to begin in the same manner that we began with our native language – not with conjugations and cases, but with perception. In the beginning with our native language we feel, we inhale, we eat, and only then we begin to build some kind of structure and make some sort of texts.”

He then launches into conjugation tables…


I think some people called this approach “laddering” and it has already been discussed on the Ling forum, if memory serves. It is indeed a great tool, which I also often use. For example, I tend to buy Assimil books in the original French (I’m through the Japanese course right now), I use English dictionaries here on Lingq, mostly because they seem to be more reliable and so on.
In fact, I used some material in German when I began learning Russian, just the opposite to what you are doing now :slight_smile: There is one book I particularly liked and that you may find interesting as well. Even if it is geared to German-speakers learning Russian I still think it could be useful in your case,. A big plus is that it explores differences between both cultures and I also find it quite funny

As for the “algorithmic” approach to language learning, it seems to be very popular in Russia. I have an old soviet book which follows a similar system, it is a present from a Russian lady.

[Edit] I’ve browsed the book a little bit and it is really not so useful for someone learning German because there is no full translation of the stories into German, only glossaries. For me it was really useful and pleasant as a way to brush up on my German while learning Russian

I found it interesting that in his prelude to teaching Petrov espoused what sounds similar to the “Lingq method”, but his teaching method is quite the opposite. After breezing through the first 20 German mini-stories (and appreciating German’s relation to English!), I did find it useful to watch a couple of Petrov’s German videos explaining some of the grammar and structure. I’ll probably continue to do that – watch but not study, to get a better feel for what I’m seeing on Lingq.
The common and well-founded advise is to find material that you’re interested in. For those of us interested in language, material about language fits that bill. I’ve just listened to/watched a radio interview with Petrov where he go a bit deeper into his philosophy and approach to language learning. - YouTube. Not only do I find what he says interesting, I enjoy the fact that I find him easy to listen to and to understand.

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If you’re learning German through Russian, this channel Evgeny Eroshev - YouTube in my opinion, is worth checking.