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This may only be me, but after reading a lot of answers and questions here, I still find it interrupting when reading the abbreviation L1, L2. For example, take a paragraph of the answer of What is the impact of studying a third language in a second language?:

However, if you would like to challenge yourself, there are benefits to learning L3 using L2, such as the simple fact that you'll strengthen both languages whereas if you learn using L1 your L1 proficiency probably won't be improved much. However, this multi-tasking will slow your progress in L3 compared to learning with L1.

I can always interpret BTW as by the way, IMO as in my opinion, OMG as oh my god naturally and without disruption. However, my mind always speak "ell one" instead of native language, "ell two" instead of second language, etc. I have to stop reading and interpret manually during the reading flow in order to actually know what it is.

Is this only me or a common phenomenon? If it's a common phenomenon, what action should we take?

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    btw, what is the correct term for L1, L2? Language order? – Ooker Apr 21 '16 at 11:48
  • I read it as "first language", "second language", Ooker. – ANeves wants peace for Monica Apr 21 '16 at 17:20
  • I just expand the "L" in my mind to "language", so in my thinking "language 1" (native language), "language 2" (another learned language)", and so on. – user3169 Apr 21 '16 at 20:57
  • Relevant XKCD: Up goer five – Andrew Grimm Apr 21 '16 at 22:40
  • @ Pls summarize why it is relevant. Same as answers, no link only comments. – user3169 Apr 22 '16 at 0:31
  • @user3169 was that directed at me? – Andrew Grimm Apr 25 '16 at 10:06
  • @AndrewGrimm Sorry, my bad editing I guess. Anyway, yes you say relevant but a short description in the comment might be helpful, rather than just pointing to a link. XKCD???(maybe its just me). – user3169 Apr 25 '16 at 16:09
  • @user3169 xkcd is just a name of the comic strip that Andrew is linking. Usually, on other sites, especially technical or science sites, a comment linking a comic site is tend to be fun. But Andrew, I don't get what's relevant here :( – Ooker Apr 26 '16 at 2:38
  • This is like saying that "BTW" and "IMO" break the flow of reading. If the text is hard to understand, it's hardly because of the abbreviations or symbols used in it. – M.A.R. May 1 '16 at 18:21
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It may interrupt the "flow" of reading, but it adds specificity that otherwise wouldn't exist.

However, if you would like to challenge yourself, there are benefits to learning a third language using a second language, such as the simple fact that you'll strengthen both languages whereas if you learn using your first language, your first language proficiency probably won't be improved much. However, this multi-tasking will slow your progress in your third language compared to learning with your first language.

This version may sound more "poetic," but it's harder to parse, logically. You have to read, and re-read each "your Xth language" instance, to be sure you know what's being discussed.

L1, L2, L3 doesn't have this problem. It's unambiguous, and it's shorter. I prefer it.

  • Can you interpret "L1" as first language and so on without interruption? – Ooker Apr 22 '16 at 5:29
  • @Ooker: I can. It's common terminology for linguists. Perhaps if it's new to you, it's a term to learn, but I don't see that as a bad thing. – Flimzy Apr 22 '16 at 15:40
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    @Ooker I just read "L1." It doesn't even expand to "first language" in my head. You'll get used to it quickly. – Azor Ahai Apr 25 '16 at 6:37
  • +1. Abbreviations are normal. Every area of human activity develops a specialized terminology/vocabulary (domain-specific language) to convey exact meaning quicker and less ambiguously than expressing the same concept in terms used to describe it by general population. See medical terminology, "appendectomy" is "removing that small unused portion of your guts by making hole in your stomach" or something like it :-) – Peter M. - stands for Monica Jan 4 '18 at 20:15
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In XKCD Up Goer Five, the author describes the Saturn V rocket using only the thousand most common words in the English language. It's possible to do so, but not practical, convenient, terribly accurate.

Likewise, you can talk about language learning without using the terms "L1" and "L2", but it's more verbose. In addition, when you use "L1" and "L2" in the context of language learning, it's standardised vocabulary, as opposed to "First language" and "Second language".

  • @ANeves how is it now? – Andrew Grimm Jun 15 '16 at 9:07
  • Better, thanks! I thought "it's" was a typo for "its", and could not understand it. :) «In addition, the use of "L1" and "L2" in the context of language learning is standardised vocabulary, as opposed to "First language" and "Second language".» – ANeves wants peace for Monica Jun 15 '16 at 9:25

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