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"Losing" a Language.


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I've found that my spoken french has deteriorated quite a bit over the last few years. I don't speak as much french as I once did, and I find myself struggling to find the right words at times. Has anybody else experienced this? What's the best way (aside from practice) to prevent this?

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I had the same problem with Spanish before. Even now, I sometimes need to dictionary to find the right words or phrases to use. Sometimes, I'll get stuck in the middle of a conversation. I'm not sure if there's really another way beside from practicing. But maybe you can get into fun activities like reading the newspaper or watching a movie in French. Or even listening to music. This might help :)

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I think that language learning is the same as any skill that you gain, if you don't use it you lose it! Skills take practice, and in order to be a fluent speaker you have to never stop learning. That's why I find that the best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in an environment where you're always hearing the language that you're learning. That way it's like you're always practising, as you're always hearing, reading and speaking in the language.

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This happens to me too. Due to my habit of mixing English phrases with my own mother tongue, I sometimes struggle to speak entirely in Malay in situations where I needed to.

A bit ashamed of myself really  :shy:

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I was born and raised in the States, but then around 5 years ago, I moved to the Philippines.

I was put in a high school where everyone practically spoke Filipino and they were culture shocked when I would speak to them in English. I understood Filipino fairly well, so I allowed them to talk to me in Filipino, but I had to respond in English.

However, the fact that most of my day was filled with the Filipino language made me kind of "lose" my English skills as well.

Fortunately, now I'm in a college where everyone pretty much communicates in English, so I pretty much got my English skills back.

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I've experienced a slight loss of language because at one time in my life I had to practically use the same 1,000 or so words repetitively albeit in their different forms. Before I realized it, common words which I didn't use frequently started to escape me.

The only solution to losing a language is constant usage.

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It's like riding a bicycle, if you don't use it for too long, you can still get on the bike and go in a wobbly straight line, but have no idea how to turn/brake/balance well. Likewise, you'll lose your language skills, but retain some words and basic sentence structure, and you just have to practice or use it more often to get back the skills.

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Definitely, and it's a real shame. I've never been fluent in any language other than English, but I've studied Japanese/Indonesian on and off for years and in my off periods I will definitely forget a lot of the words I know. I can barely write the Japanese alphabet at the moment, so I really want to refresh that.

One idea would be to try and bring some of it into your daily life. A lot of people label things when they're first learning a language (like items around the house, label them with the foreign language) and this could be something to do, just to keep your mind half thinking in French. 

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I have the same issue with my German. I used to be quite good at German, but because now I speak mostly in English I forgot a lot in terms of German....I think like most people said here-you need to use this language in order to be good at it and being able to practice this language...

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Languages are like everything else, use it or lose it! In languages this is particularly true because there are so many aspects in a language that it's very easy to forget it if we are not practicing it.

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My mother says (oh boy, I sound like Forrest Gump - Mama saaaaayzzz  :grin: )that unused organ disappears. Same with muscles, same with brain. When you learn something, brain creates a connection that allows you to memorize and recall it. If you don't use it, it disappears and get replaced by another connection. And it's good for people - imagine remembering every single detail of your life...

It's normal that we forget things. The only solucion is to practise, practise and practise even more. If you don't have enough time to go over the grammar, read a book, watch a film, listen to music. I can reassure you, it helps a lot.

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"If you don't use it, you lose it." So frustrating! I find this is starting to happen with me, and I hate it!

Recently I have been trying to find more opportunities to listen to and speak Spanish, even if they are fewer than in the past. I listen to the Spanish station DJ, I have been getting back into reading books (to myself and out loud to practice pronunciation), and even translating Spanish words in my head during the day. I was thinking about going back to my Spanish professors at my University and asking them nicely if I could just sit in the back of the classroom every few often.

Just finding little ways in your everyday life to emerge yourself back into the language will help your brain retain what you once knew so you don't lose it entirely.

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I've experienced the exact same thing with French. And there is no other way to prevent it from fading from your memory aside from practice. Try listening to french music or watch french movies from time to time. It really helps keeping the words handy for when you actually need to use them.

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I suggest you try to somehow find people near you to speak your native language with. I'm sure there are some clubs where you can do so. Alternatively, you shouldn't have any trouble finding someone to talk to right here, on this forum.

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I've found that my spoken french has deteriorated quite a bit over the last few years. I don't speak as much french as I once did, and I find myself struggling to find the right words at times. Has anybody else experienced this? What's the best way (aside from practice) to prevent this?

Yea...that's a common experience among us language students. It's the fact that we stay away from everyday interaction in the foreign language. My advice is that you pick up back on your reading. Read interesting things that keep your mind going. You can also watch a lot of TV, especially comedies that keep you hooked. Just revise continuously, that's all.
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I have to admit that after nearly 15 years of speaking English, I have trouble with my native language. I have a translator application on my iphone for all occasions. I often find myself looking up German words that I seem to have somehow "displaced". For me the way to get back on track is to read, watch movies or listen to music to refresh my fluency.

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In all honesty, I really think that the only way to avoid having that happen is to use the language regularly.

There is a saying of use it or lose it and I really do think that is something that is especially important when it comes to language retention.

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At secondary school back in my homeland of the UK, between the ages of 12 and 16, I attended German classes. When it came to sitting my final exams before leaving school and going to college, I passed my German course with reasonably high marks. In fact, all the languages I studied at school level (French, German, Spanish, Latin and Ancient Greek) resulted in me passing the final examinations easily.

Unfortunately, as the other posters on this thread can attest, if you do not keep using a language, you start to lose it fairly rapidly. With the exception of French which I began learning at a sufficiently young age to retain, I soon started losing my grammar, vocabulary etc in these languages after leaving secondary school.

The final nail in the coffin of my German-speaking ability came years later when I moved to the Netherlands for a couple of years in my late 20's. Despite the reluctance of the majority of Dutch people to teach me their language, I was able to attain a reasonable amount of spoken and written fluency in Dutch. However, since then, whenever I try to speak a bit of basic German, it comes out as Dutch! Many fundamental words are very similar to German and much of Dutch grammar is exactly the same as German. An example of this is the way verbs are conjugated with all three plural forms being the infinitive of the verb.

I offer my apologies to any native Dutch speaker out there who may take this offensively. I know the history between the two nations may have left many older Netherlanders feeling somewhat hostile toward their neighbours to the East and to them all I can say is "Geef ons onze fietsen terug!".

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I think it's a common thing to lose grasp of something when we start to neglect it. Like any skill, a language needs to be used often and practised all the time to be good at. I too have the same issue when I don't speak English as often and forget about words sometimes.

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I personally feel like I've lost the fluency of the Arabic language.  I noticed that a lot of other Arab kids who were living in a non-Arabic speaking country also suffered from the same thing.  I think it's just lack of practice.

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Yes, this has happened to me. I rarely speak my other languages because I live in a place where my native language and English is enough for me to get by with my daily life. How I usually combat losing my other languages is I try to think of the phrases that are the most practical to use often just so I don't end up forgetting them one day.

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Losing a language is something really sad because it means we are losing something that cost us really hard to achieve. So if we do treasure a language we should find ways to keep it alive, we must practice it or we will forget it.

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