I used 'mother tongue' to describe in conversation my first language.

Are there any terms that are used formally or informally to specifically refer to someone's second language?

  • 1
    "L2" is another common one.
    – AML
    Jan 25 at 18:36

Second language is a good term.

I have often seen target language too to speak about the language you are currently learning, but only when you're speaking about learning the language.


For English speakers:

  • LOTE : Language other than English
  • Second language. note: as stevec has listed also here
  • Additional language
  • Foreign language
  • Language being learned
  • Target language

While often referred to as the " mother tongue / language you know / first language / known language " these terms may be called "source language" in this case.

  • L2

in this case L2 is standing for "Language 2" or "additional language". Where this terminology is used " mother tongue / language you know / first language / known language " is usually referenced by L1.
This terminology is also useful if you are wishing to refer to further languages being learned/known/referred to. ie. "They are learning L2 through their knowledge of L3." Where L3 is another language to L1 (first language) that they have already learned.

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