So, I have two related questions for you. I think no previous knowledge of linguistics is necessary for the discussion.

1. Does the knowledge of regular sound changes help with learning a foreign language related to a language you already know?
For instance, let's say you know English very well. Does it help you with learning German to know the following and similar rules (they apply to the Germanic words and very early Latin borrowings):
English "t" corresponds to German "z", which is read "ts", in the beginning of a word (two-zwei, ten-zehn, tooth-Zahn, tongue-Zunge, twig-Zweig…) and after "r" (heart-Herz…), but corresponds to "s" otherwise (water-Wasser, it-es, that-das, what-was…) except after "s", when it corresponds to "t" (star-Stern, stone-Stein…)
English "th" corresponds to German "d" (three-drei, that-das, thick-dick, mouth-Mund, death-Tod…)
English "v" corresponds to German "b" (seven-sieben, give-geben, live-leben, have-haben…)
English "d" corresponds to German "t" (desk-Tisch, word-Wort, god-Gott, ride-reiten…), but English "nd" corresponds to German "nd" (wind-Wind, hundred-hundert…)
English "oo" corresponds to German "u" (book-Buch, foot-Fuss, too-zu…)
English "ou" corresponds to German "au" (house-Haus, out-aus, show-schauen…)
English "ea" usually corresponds to German "o" (ear-ohr, east-Osten, easter-Obster, bread-Brot, bean-Bohne, death-Tod…)
I believe this was enough for anyone to get the basic idea.

2. Does knowing an archaic language from some family help with learning modern languages from that family?
For example, I've heard that, if you know Old Church Slavonic, you can basically understand all Slavic languages. Is that true?

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Offline Dither

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I can speak two languages, English and bad English.

But I do remember hearing that understanding Gramatical Gender can shortcut the learning process.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grammatical_gender

If you have a mind for becoming a polyglot, and are cool with endless reps and carrying around flash cards, then there's never been a better time to jump on the language bandwagon, what with all the new and cheap learning methods and apps coming out (like memrise for example)

A lie will make it around the world before the truth has time to put on its shoes.

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Offline Pete Svarrior

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2. Does knowing an archaic language from some family help with learning modern languages from that family?
For example, I've heard that, if you know Old Church Slavonic, you can basically understand all Slavic languages. Is that true?
It's kinda true, but knowing a modern Slavic language would yield much better results.
Read the FAQ before asking your question - chances are we've already addressed it.
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Being an Indian, I can speak about 4 Languages - English, Hindi, Marathi & Marwadi

I am trying to learn German as of now.

In my experience, knowledge of linguistics surely helps in understanding the difference but it is only useful if one is conscious of it in daily practice.
I joined a coaching institute which actually helps me improve my pronunciation and not only do they teach the linguistic differences but also make me conscious of it.

For example - If you've studied syntax, you may find it easier to understand how sentences in a foreign languages are being formed. :)

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Offline devils advocate

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I learnt French at school and was pretty fluent when I went to Paris a few years ago (many many years after school) I was amazed that I remembered it but was chatting to the locals like a native! I then worked in Germany for 3 years and became pretty fluent at German to the same extent. Problem was that I lost all my French, seriously, gone! I guess my brain can only hold one additional language so for me the only way to learn a language is to concentrate on that one.
if 3DGeek doesn't know the answer then it shouldn't 'awt to be known