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How do you avoid forgetting a language you've learned?


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So you've spent two years learning a new language and you get started on a new one. It's possible that if you don't use the language you'd learned frequently, you'll, before you know it, start forgetting some words and eventually you won't be able to speak it as fluently as you could originally.

How do you avoid this? 

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This is one of my main worries with investing the time and energy to learn a new language. I worry that if I can't use it  will begin to forget it and then that will just be a waste of time.

Maybe every so often we could try reading a book in our second language?

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Just keep speaking it. This way, you'll never forget it. Make sure you speak the language with someone else at least an hour a day. This way, you'll keep repeating and you'll never forget it!

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Definitely constant practice! You could find a language buddy who wants to learn your language and take turns practising with them - or for something easier, you could just watch news or TV or read foreign media. Constant exposure is really important in my opinion.

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I must say I really love this forum. I fear the exact same thing! This has actually happened to me, embarrassingly enough with my national language (Hindi). I could speak it very fluently when I was a child, but with age I have lost touch and now people laugh if I try to speak in Hindi. Any tips to "regain" skill would help as well, not just "avoid forgetting" the language.

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So you've spent two years learning a new language and you get started on a new one. It's possible that if you don't use the language you'd learned frequently, you'll, before you know it, start forgetting some words and eventually you won't be able to speak it as fluently as you could originally.

How do you avoid this?

I do this by simply constantly using the language so that it is always fresh in my mind. There are many way in which you can use the language so you don not forget it. You could find native to meet in person like in a social network or you use certain sites to find people to to by Skype, be friendlier to tourists, join clubs and actively monitor your social circle and environment for opportunities to use the language.

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I think using it constantly is the best way. If you aren't continuing to learn it, try watching the news in that language or reading a newspaper from that language.

Also it may help if you find some people to talk to that speak that language too.

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It's important to always keep practicing! My mom lived abroad in Peru and Congo for a while, and she used to speak both Spanish and French fluently. But when she came back to Brazil she lost all contact with those languages and forgot them after a while. She says her biggest regret was not signing up for a class just to keep the usage of the language constant.

I think a good tip is that if you're going abroad, keep in touch with your international friends. That way you'll always have someone to practice with!

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I think the main way is to regularly use it and talk to people in the same language, but if it's unavailable for one reason or another, maybe just by reading books in that language might also suffice to keep your knowledge at bay. Also, it might help to really ingrain it into your memory at first so even when you don't use it for a while, you'd still have a good enough idea of it in the future and would just need to brush up on it to re-learn all of it again almost instantly.

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I agree with what others are saying here.  You can definitely forget a language you have learned if you don't keep using it actively. 

It's very similar to physical fitness.  Truly a case of use it or lose it.  If you don't stay immersed in the language to some degree you will lose vocabulary and other elements, including the fine points of grammar and conjugating verbs.

It is a major investment in time and energy to learn a language, and well worth it to maintain it once you've learned it.  The Internet makes it much easier these days.  There are many ways to connect with others who speak the language or, if not else, just to read in the language and/or listen to it, via the Internet.

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  • 2 months later...

frequent practise, on a variety of topics. Of course there are some things that you will almost never forget, because they are the things you have practised the most. The more you practise, the less you have to worry about maintaining a language. If you have spoken a language fluently for 15 years, then even after 5 years of not using it you will find it very easy to pick back up.

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Lots and lots of practice! I'm always worried that I'll forget, so I read & write in foreign languages, and remember to talk to my foreign language friends often for practice as well.

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You have to keep speaking the language. Otherwise there is a risk of forgetting words. This is my main worry too. There are not enough opportunity to communicate in a foreign language for me. I only get to speak English when I am playing online games only.

Another thing you can do is try to read books in that language. It always helps in refreshing your memory.

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