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How do You Remember or Sustain What You've Learned?


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I started learning German and Dutch two years ago, and if you're thinking I've mastered both languages, it is with sadness as I inform you that my German and Dutch have become much worse. Needless to say, it seems I am having problems retaining my progress from two years ago and remembering everything I've learned. I can't even recite numbers 1 through 10 in German anymore without peeking at my notebook! So, how about you-- how do you retain everything you've learned in the past from your language of choice?

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You need to ''live'' the language more. Watch & read the news in Dutch/German. Watch YouTube videos, movies with subtitles, get a Dutch/German online friend/penpal. 

Doing all these things on a regular basis will mean that you're constantly repeating basic grammar and vocabulary. This way you'll get to know the language a lot better, and make it easier to improve your vocabulary and such.

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I'm with Julian on this one. You really need to immerse yourself into the language. It might be even better for you to find native speakers and converse with them regularly. That's what I've found to help me the most. I also try to listen to songs, movies, generally anything I can get a hold of in that language while I'm doing my chores. A lot of the stuff you retain without even trying if you expose yourself enough. 

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You need to speak it comsistantly. If you don't speak it for a while you will probably forget about some of the stuff you used to know. A family member of mine is a native German speaker but she moved to the states and didn't speak German for years and she now has a hard time understanding the German language.

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Using the language at every possible opportunity is how I retain what I learn.  Every time I learn new words I incorporate them into my speech when I talk and say things I would normally say in English in my second language.  This includes talking to my dog in Yiddish to practice and talking to my dad in Yiddish because he can speak the language semi fluently.  If I had no opportunity to speak it, I would probably forget it and I am also training myself to think in my second language to help with memorization and sentence construction.  For me it's definitely a matter of replacing constant speaking in English with speaking Yiddish to get more accustomed to it.  The other people in this thread were right when they said you have to use the language constantly to retain it. 

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The only way to remember what you have learned is by memorizing what you have learned. Read and reread. Write down what you have learned.Speak what you have learned. Practice what you have learned. Talk to the mirror or yourself and repeat what you have learned. Learn memorizing techniques.

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1 hour ago, VinayaSpeaks said:

The only way to remember what you have learned is by memorizing what you have learned. Read and reread. Write down what you have learned.Speak what you have learned. Practice what you have learned. Talk to the mirror or yourself and repeat what you have learned. Learn memorizing techniques.

For me the only way to sustain a language is to constantly speak it in my everyday environment.  I can't just study something then remember it without using it even if I study everyday.  I think the best way to become better and more fluent is to practice speaking and listening to a foreign language daily.  Reading books or articles in the foreign language also helps.  

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Yes if you don't use a language you lose it pretty quickly. But the good news is that it also comes back pretty quickly! So the answer is to practise as often as you can (30 minutes a day would be better than an all-day blitz every second week) and be exposed to as much real-life German and Dutch material as you can, as others have said. An online language exchange partner would be great.

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I think the best way to retain it is to just use it everyday so maybe living somewhere where you need to use it daily helps a lot. If not then what I find helps me a lot is finding associations where certain words or phrases will be easier for me to remember such as when a certain foreign phrase sounds to me like a local word or if it sounds like a phrase in a song that I know. This method has allowed me to retain a lot of memories stemming back from way back from my childhood. 

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17 hours ago, KimmyMarkks said:

For me the only way to sustain a language is to constantly speak it in my everyday environment.  I can't just study something then remember it without using it even if I study everyday.  I think the best way to become better and more fluent is to practice speaking and listening to a foreign language daily.  Reading books or articles in the foreign language also helps.  

As the old saying goes practice makes a man perfect. However, in order to practice language, you need a person with whom you can have a two way communication. If you talk to yourself, how can you be sure that you are using correct language. Listening helps, however, you must speak out what you listened so that you can memorize it.

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21 hours ago, clair02 said:

I'm with Julian on this one. You really need to immerse yourself into the language. It might be even better for you to find native speakers and converse with them regularly. That's what I've found to help me the most. I also try to listen to songs, movies, generally anything I can get a hold of in that language while I'm doing my chores. A lot of the stuff you retain without even trying if you expose yourself enough. 

This would seem to be the easiest approach, and probably the most enjoyable.  Of course it really depends on the language for the availability of people and whether or not you can find someone, but it is a pretty intermingled world out there so the good news is that it is probably easier than ever to do so.  Keeping that conversation going is a great way to constantly be having to think about it, and doing that means you are doing all those subconscious things that matter a whole lot when trying to learn a new language.

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As many have mentioned before, in order to really maintain your language level you would have to consistently be exposed to it. At the moment I'm always seeking out newspaper articles or stories to read so that I can keep my vocabulary up. I also listen to podcasts and songs in order to keep my brain subconsciously aware of the language so that it doesn't forget about it. Hope this helps! 

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This is why I really love the spaced repetition system Duolingo has it. If you keep repeating the things you learned at a certain time, eventually they will stick and will seem natural.

 

Another way to avoid what you tend to forget is to get a language learning pal, preferably a native speaker of the language you are trying to learn.

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The only way for you to sustain what you have learned is to use it on a daily basis and to continue to enrich your knowledge of the language. Basically, you have to live the language and you have to deliberately seek ways to use it. If you can't find a learning buddy or a native speaker to converse with, you can use the internet to join forums in your chosen language. You can also read short stories and books or listen to speeches in that language.

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Flashcard programs without a shadow of a doubt. Ones that use spacial repetition. As well as writing down in a way you understand and constantly practicing. Practice when you're doing chores, or showering, or eating (although it may be hard to speak at the same time), practice with other people. Take a day where you actually ban yourself from speaking a language other than the one you're learning.

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3 minutes ago, Staralfur1999 said:

Flashcard programs without a shadow of a doubt. Ones that use spacial repetition. As well as writing down in a way you understand and constantly practicing. Practice when you're doing chores, or showering, or eating (although it may be hard to speak at the same time), practice with other people. Take a day where you actually ban yourself from speaking a language other than the one you're learning.

 

I do this as a way to practice.  I actually have days where I speak very little English and speak in Yiddish as a I go about my routine.  This includes talking to my dog in Yiddish and teaching him Yiddish commands while I'm home alone doing things and commenting on them to him while speaking it and also talking to my dad in Yiddish who knows the language.  I'm at the point where I can have conversations in the language and even had the opportunity to do it today at a grocery store when I spoke to a Yiddish speaking man there.   

I can proudly say "Ikh ken tsvay sphrakhn un es iz do yiddish in meyn shtub itst".  - "I know two languages and there is yiddish in my home now". 

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I always need to repeat, I need to do exercises, I need to talk to other people. I also need to put in practice what I learn that day. And for example if it's something that's difficult for me I take extra lessons or try to learn it on my own or by doing everything the teacher recommends me.

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I believe any knowledge, including that of a language, is somewhat like a knife. If we don't use it for a long time, it will become rusty. We must use it all the time to keep it sharp. Same with a language. We cannot just learn it and put it somewhere at the back of our memory banks, hoping that it will still be there when we need it at some distant point in the future. That wouldn't work. We have to keep on using it. I remember one classroom who went to the US just for six months on a student exchange program. When he came back and saw his mother, he was tongue-tied for a few minutes trying to recall what to say to his mother in his mother tongue.

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I think you have to be in touch with the language everyday or, at least, very frequently. This can be done by using so many different methods, if you think about it. Nowadays we have podcasts, youtube videos, books, the internet, duolingo... It's probably a good idea to spend some time choosing your favourite methods and maybe classify them according to the amount of time you have, what do you want to learn, what do you feel like to learn... Think in some sort of schedule where you can also fill in those "dead" moments with input of the language you want to keep up with (listening to a podcast whilst on the bus, etc).

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