Learning a language in yet another language

Language learning can be challenging at the best of times, but what about learning a third language in your second language?

I have quite a few friends and acquaintances who are doing this very thing, and they have my utmost respect.  Living in China, they are learning Chinese in English, even though their native languages are French, German, Spanish, and others.  Some Chinese language teachers speak Japanese, French, and a few other languages, but they the minority (and their English is usually better than the third and fourth languages).

This works out fine if both parties have a good grasp of English, but when they don’t, it can be confusing.  Also, not all concepts exist in all cultures, so sometimes it can be difficult to understand explanations, or express what it is you need to know.

How can this process be made easier?  Well, for beginners, it’s not such a big deal, as a lot of the language is easy to directly translate.  It may take a little longer for the learner to translate through a third party language, and a couple of dictionaries may be necessary, but it is manageable.  For learners at more advanced levels, I would recommend ditching the third language as much as possible.  Try to carry out all explanations in the target language, even if you have to use very simple words and structures.  It will give you more practice as well!

As an added bonus, though, a friend has reported that while she has been learning Chinese in English, her English skills have also improved because of it!

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