I was going to ask a question about the origin of the notation L1, L2, etc. for designating the order of learning languages. This seems to be a historical question.

Do we want this type of question? Why or why not?

  • 1
    Might be on topic on Linguistics, though I'm not sure
    – Downgoat
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 23:45
  • Because historical aspects of a language influence the structure and use of a language (ie. archaic phrases like "There goes..." or "Here comes...") as well as the spelling and noun categories (ie. colonel from French during the Normandy Occupation of England and differentiating between animals if prepared for food: "cow" vs "beef", "lamb" vs "mutton", "pig" vs "pork", "chicken" vs "poultry" all come from French), historical analysis to learn a language can help in retention. Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 14:53

3 Answers 3


Asking about the history of language learning seems fine to me, in general.

I considered asking about the history of SRS in language learning, but Wikipedia answered my question, so I didn't bother.

Asking about the history of the terminology L1 and L2 seems fine to me. It of course needs to be done in a way that otherwise fits within site guidelines, but that shouldn't be hard to do.

  • @fi12: I'm not sure which part of my answer you're responding to/disagreeing with.
    – Flimzy
    Commented May 5, 2016 at 11:31

While questions about the history of languages would be off-topic (we have Linguistics Stack Exchange for that; see history, comparative linguistics and historical linguistics), questions about the history of language teaching or language learning are on-topic.

Both language learning and language teaching methods have evolved throughout history, even though the scientific study of second language acquisition is quite recent (roughly since World War II).

In addition, there have been a few famous polyglots in history, e.g. Cardinal Mezzofanti and Richard Burton (the explorer, not the actor).

I consider questions about history on-topic because there may be things we can learn from history (if only to avoid mistakes made in the past).



This site is about language learning, not about linguistics. We shouldn't ask questions like "Have teaching methods for language learning changed over the last 50 years?" or "Which languages have had the most impact on English".

On the other hand, history should be acceptable if it is relevant to language learning. For example, how learning an ancestor language would make a descendent language easier to learn. It certainly belongs here if it can help people learn languages, instead of just being "trivia".

  • Sounds like a good migration path for when we graduate!
    – AAM111
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 1:43
  • 8
    Why shouldn't we ask "Have teaching methods changed?" That's about language learning.
    – Flimzy
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 6:31
  • Agree with @Flimzy. If we allow questions about teaching a language on this site, then questions about the history of teaching method do give us the insight of why the current ones is not efficient (or not). The questions about the history of a language itself, like "which languages have had the most impact on X language?" and similar, are definitely belongs to Linguistics
    – Ooker
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 6:42

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