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Forgetting your mother tongue...


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I was wondering if this has happened to anyone else... I was born in Sweden and lived there till I was 7 and I obviously was fluent, I knew how to read, etc. but then we moved to the U.S. and my parents stopped speaking Swedish because we didn't know any English.

Fast forward to the future and I'm totally fluent in English and Swedish remains this thing that I can understand randomly (but not in a fluency level), but really can't put together more than a few sentences.

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Have not experienced it but that is a really odd situation. The reason I say this is because when you are fluent in your first language, do you not think in that language? If you think it that language, then you are using it all the time still.

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This does seem odd. I wouldn't think that you could forget your mother tongue. As I am currently studying Spanish, I think about the words in English and keep making the link back. Also if I read a sentence in Spanish I convert it to English to read.

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I know some who migrated to US and when they were young and now they can't speak their native language. They started speaking english and use it everyday so they can learn faster. The problem is, they are now fluent in english but don't know how to speak their native language. They can understand, but they can't speak anymore.

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You eventually think in whatever language you use the most, like with most anything the brain needs to reinforce things to remember them, that's why we all forget our highschool math and so on :)

My brother and I are just a couple of years apart in age grew up speaking both English and Spanish. I moved away and now my English is fluent and my Spanish rusty, whereas he has a hilariously thick Spanish accent when he speaks English. Neither of us gave up the second language completely, and it has only been 20 years, but it is a significant change.

In my personal experience, you mainly lose vocabulary and pronunciation. Comprehension is still fine (though probably bolstered by consuming Spanish movies, books, and so on) but I have a harder time recalling the right words. However the underlying grammar seems to be fine as well, irregular verbs will trip me up but sentence structure or gendering, for example, remain normal.

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I haven't experienced this yet, especially since I haven't left my country ever. I will soon live in the US and I was thinking of introducing Tagalog to my children when I have them. Even if I fail at teaching my future kids Tagalog, I think I will never really forget it since I've lived in my country for around 27 years now.

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Am happy that such a thing has never happened to me before! Similar to your case, we have all our studies and conversations in English. So to keep up my mother tongue knowledge I try and read books in my mother tongue regularly!

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I haven't experienced this yet, especially since I haven't left my country ever. I will soon live in the US and I was thinking of introducing Tagalog to my children when I have them. Even if I fail at teaching my future kids Tagalog, I think I will never really forget it since I've lived in my country for around 27 years now.

Just make sure that you have people to practice with regularly, and it shouldn't be a problem. Depending on the area you're moving to, it should be pretty easy to do that, but I don't think age makes as much difference as time and lack of use does :)

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I was wondering if this has happened to anyone else... I was born in Sweden and lived there till I was 7 and I obviously was fluent, I knew how to read, etc. but then we moved to the U.S. and my parents stopped speaking Swedish because we didn't know any English.

Fast forward to the future and I'm totally fluent in English and Swedish remains this thing that I can understand randomly (but not in a fluency level), but really can't put together more than a few sentences.

My oldest child spoke only Hmong from birth to when she started kindergarten. She didn't speak a sentence of English. Many people told me that I had to speak English to her because she wouldn't do well in school. Not true. After about a month of school, she spoke English so well and refused to speak English. It has been a year and she has stopped speaking Hmong completely. She does understand me when I speak Hmong to her. And sometimes she even repeats what I say in English, so I know she is fully aware of the Hmong language. She just doesn't speak it. When I ask her, she says that she's not comfortable talking in Hmong.

I believe that if you do not use the language, you will lose it. And losing one's primary language is faster in children than adults. For me, although I am fluent in Hmong, if I don't speak it for a while (we live in a community where we do not run into Hmong individuals a lot) I get rusty. The more I speak, read, or write it, the better I am at it. Online is a great place to practice.

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Sometimes I might feel a bit confused when I have to write something in spanish, but that usually last a couple of seconds or maximum 1 or 2 minutes.  I'm currently living in my country tho, but if I move to the Netherlands and I stop speaking spanish at all, then I might have some troubles when I have to start using it again.  It can happen.  That's why I plan to keep on using spanish, I guess I'll try to be friends with other spanish speakers living in the Netherlands :)  I'm sure that will help me a lot!  If not... I guess calling my mom once a week will do.  Too bad she had no idea how to use Skype :(

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My oldest child spoke only Hmong from birth to when she started kindergarten. She didn't speak a sentence of English. Many people told me that I had to speak English to her because she wouldn't do well in school. Not true. After about a month of school, she spoke English so well and refused to speak English. It has been a year and she has stopped speaking Hmong completely. She does understand me when I speak Hmong to her. And sometimes she even repeats what I say in English, so I know she is fully aware of the Hmong language. She just doesn't speak it. When I ask her, she says that she's not comfortable talking in Hmong.

I believe that if you do not use the language, you will lose it. And losing one's primary language is faster in children than adults. For me, although I am fluent in Hmong, if I don't speak it for a while (we live in a community where we do not run into Hmong individuals a lot) I get rusty. The more I speak, read, or write it, the better I am at it. Online is a great place to practice.

Dear nkaujntses

First of all, welcome to linguaholic.com! I am very excited about having a native hmong speaker here in the forums! I know very little about the hmong language(s) and I would love to learn more about it. If you could start a thread and write about your own language (for instance you could talk about the history, number of native speakers, grammar, writing script, topology, and so on) that would be incredible. Later on, I can also create a new sub forum for hmong languages if there is some interest for it! I'm very eager to learn more about it! :grin:

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Dear nkaujntses

First of all, welcome to linguaholic.com! I am very excited about having a native hmong speaker here in the forums! I know very little about the hmong language(s) and I would love to learn more about it. If you could start a thread and write about your own language (for instance you could talk about the history, number of native speakers, grammar, writing script, topology, and so on) that would be incredible. Later on, I can also create a new sub forum for hmong languages if there is some interest for it! I'm very eager to learn more about it! :grin:

Thank you for the welcome. I'm no expert on the Hmong language, so I may disappoint you in my knowledge. But I will do so.

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:vampire:

This happened to me as a child. My grandmother would always speak to me in Spanish, but once I got to elementary school and was only speaking English with friends and my teacher then I had forgotten the language. Now I sometimes dream in Spanish and had to take classes to learn it again. It was pretty sad when I realized that I had forgotten a lot of words that I knew as a child. She would speak to me in Spanish when I was 12 and would get upset that I didn't understand her.

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That would be really strange to me...the first language you learn seems like it would be the easiest to keep with you...but I guess with your circumstances it makes sense. I'm still fluent in mine, but I never stopped speaking it.

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