Language learning

Are you learning a second language or a foreign language?

In the past I’ve referred to both ‘second language’ and ‘foreign language’. Both refer to the language you are learning, but are technically different things. I thought I’d quickly map out the distinctions for you just so we’re all clear, although I do tend to use them interchangeably on the blog.

Image courtesy of CollegeDegrees360 on Flickr

Image courtesy of CollegeDegrees360 on Flickr

A second language is when you’re learning a language that is spoken in the community you are in. So moving to Denmark and learning Danish there would classify Danish as a second language.

A foreign language is when you’re learning a language that is not spoken in the community where you are. So if you moved to Denmark and decided to learn Hindi there, you would be learning a foreign language.

The term ‘target language‘ can refer to either second or foreign language – it simply means the language you are learning at any one time.

It’s not a particularly important distinction if you don’t hang out in linguistic circles, but I do think it’s something useful to be aware of.

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