Foreign languages for work
July 16, 2018 6:36 PM   Subscribe

I enjoy learning foreign languages as a hobby, and until today I thought I was doing pretty well. Someone at work asked for help translating a passage, and I realized that most of my vocabulary is relating to fun and hobbies, and I can't really discuss professional matters.

I am fluent enough in French that I can read the newspaper and translate poetry, and I can pick up a lot of dialog in movies without subtitles. I've also Duolingoed enough German that I'm conversational there, although very elementary. (I've done a few other languages too, but not enough to claim even the most basic knowledge.) I feel confident about my language skills.

But, this technical translation made me realize the gaps in my knowledge. I know a lot about sports, music, and food. I know a little about work and money, but almost nothing about my job and my industry (software). Part of this is because I learned French in high school before computers and the Internet were a huge thing. Meanwhile, Duolingo has only a short module on tech stuff.

I obviously need to learn more vocabulary. I'd like to dive deep on software, tech, etc., but I'd also like to learn more general business vocabulary, and some specialized stuff in my company's industry (philanthropy). I'd also like to go a little deeper in terms of grammar, especially in German, with its compound nouns and whatnot.

I would prefer web-based resources, and free is best, if possible. I like Duolingo well enough, but I don't find it particularly challenging, so something harder is fine. This is for personal enrichment only, so there's no real deadline. What can you suggest?
posted by kevinbelt to Education (7 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
For French, I started doing courses from FUN for exactly this purpose (learning software vocab) - I took courses that were stupidly easy in terms of programming, but which challenged my language skills and introduced all the vocab like "ok now download this and open that file". There's a pretty large range of courses so I expect you could find something philanthropy related, and definitely "business".
posted by the agents of KAOS at 6:40 PM on July 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

Not web-based, but can be found free/cheaply because it's been around a long time: German Quickly by April Wilson. Excellent way to fill in the gaps left by Duolingo, particularly for grammar.
posted by halation at 7:01 PM on July 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

This is where the brilliance of comes in. It helps you translate all kinds of phrases used in official and corporate writing by looking up and comparing other examples of usage.
posted by zadcat at 3:47 AM on July 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

The US Foreign Service Institute trains diplomats in foreign languages primarily for use in professional settings. Some of the materials are a little dated, but its still very comprehensive. It's particularly useful if you want to learn fun phrases like, "nuclear disarmament policy" or "Your passport will be ready for pickup in 7 to 10 business days."
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 4:19 AM on July 17, 2018 [4 favorites]

LEO will translate lots of technical words from German to a few different languages.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 4:58 AM on July 17, 2018

I'm a technical (FR>EN) translator. Echoing the agents of KAOS's suggestion as an effective and quick way of building up technical vocabulary if you're already fluent enough in the language. Technical documentation is also great for this, as a lot of it has been localized into multiple languages. Well-translated references that you're already familiar with in English are a good go-to.

For French, Courrier International publishes translated excerpts from international papers and is produced by the Le Monde group, so the French is good. You can look up the original articles and compare the translations. French-language IT magazines will also be helpful for the jargon.

Linguee is available in multiple language combinations and offers plenty of contextualized suggestions but is best used when your language level is already fairly advanced and you can separate the wheat from the chaff. Avoid using bilingual dictionaries as your main resource, especially for specialized vocabulary; instead get good monolingual ones in your areas and languages of interest, so that you'll be able to see if terms are perfect or partial equivalents. In many cases they're only partially equivalent.

There are going to be international organizations in your field that have multilingual websites or country sites. You can pick up a lot of vocab by studying their different versions.
posted by pendrift at 6:43 AM on July 17, 2018

No specific resources learning more vocabulary, but it might be useful to look at the proficiency guidelines that the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages use. They outline the kind of language a person needs to produce to be at each level which can help you focus your studies on how to bridge both the vocabulary gap and make the leap from concrete speech to abstract speech in advanced and superior level speech. Their Can-Do statements can also help guide that. And they have the guidelines in French along with samples of each level of speech in French.
posted by carrioncomfort at 7:06 AM on July 17, 2018

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