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Decline in Native Language?

  Tags: Native Language
 Language Learning Forum : General discussion Post Reply
23 messages over 3 pages: 1 2 3  Next >>
United States
Joined 2682 days ago

18 posts - 21 votes
Speaks: English*, German, Japanese
Studies: Spanish, Dutch

 Message 1 of 23
15 June 2015 at 1:50am | IP Logged 
I am curious to know if others have experienced this phenomenon. I am currently
working in Japan as a teacher of English and as such I am constantly surrounded by the
Japanese language. The only times I actually speak English are in class or when I meet with my friends,
who are also in the same boat as me. I have lived here for only 10 months so far, but I sometimes feel as
though my English abilities have declined, even if it is my native language. It's not a significant
decline, but I sometimes feel that what I say or write isn't necessarily correct English or I begin to
second guess myself. This happens sometimes too when a student asks me if a sentence looks correct and I
say, "yes," but then upon looking at it again, I find that I too have made an error.

Has anyone else experienced this? What moments can you recall in which it has happened to you?

Edited by LFD1988 on 15 June 2015 at 1:51am

1 person has voted this message useful

Senior Member
Joined 2079 days ago

157 posts - 269 votes 
Studies: Serbian

 Message 2 of 23
15 June 2015 at 1:56am | IP Logged 
As the saying goes, use it or lose it. My parents barely speak any Serbian outside of
conversation with themselves and they have forgotten a lot of words because they simply
don't use them. They however have been here for over 30 years. I notice that whenever I
study a language intensely the same sorta thing happens with me where I start feeling
weird speaking English. I wouldn't be too concerned about it though if you're only
staying in the country for the short term (a couple years). Otherwise I'm sure others
here might be able to give some good advice who are more experienced with this phenomena.
3 persons have voted this message useful

Senior Member
Joined 2323 days ago

106 posts - 205 votes 
Speaks: Serbian*, English
Studies: Italian, Mandarin, Romanian, Persian

 Message 3 of 23
15 June 2015 at 2:52am | IP Logged 
I'm not living abroad but I'll comment anyway. I haven't noticed any decline in my Serbian as far as forgetting words is concerned, but I sometimes catch myself using directly translated English words or phrases, which make no sense whatsoever in Serbian.

Another thing that happens to me, and I guess other speakers whose language has cases(can you confirm?), is that I sometimes don't know the correct case ending for a word that I haven't used that often, so I just construct the sentence in a different way and use the case that I know is correct.

A couple of days ago, a buddy and I were talking about some girl, and at one point I said: "Nije ona materijal za devojku" (She's not girlfriend material). My buddy gave me a blank stare and then I had to clarify what I meant to say.

My mother is Romanian, but she has been living in Serbia for over 25 years now, and she says the she often forgets some "higher register" words, even though she speaks with her Romanian friends here on a daily basis. I guess that's because she doesn't really get to use those words in her conversations, and she rarely watches Romanian TV and doesn't read the newspapers.

Edited by nikolic993 on 15 June 2015 at 2:57am

5 persons have voted this message useful

Via Diva
Senior Member
Russian Federation users can see my Skype Name
Joined 2777 days ago

1109 posts - 1427 votes 
Speaks: Russian*, English
Studies: German, Italian, French, Swedish, Esperanto, Czech, Greek

 Message 4 of 23
15 June 2015 at 4:08am | IP Logged 
Grammar and vocabulary often mix up, sometimes even pronunciation starts to sound weird. I haven't even been abroad, but having quite a strong ability to talk to myself (if only these conversations were entertaining!) I ended up noticing that I want to form
gerund in Russian (for example, svaling - a derivative of svalivat' (slang for "to leave"), adding -ing, and this is something typical to Russians who have studied English).
But part of this decline has nothing to do with other languages. I have noticeable gaps in my knowledge of Russian and precisely because I don't do anything with them, they get bigger. It's like I start to doubt spelling of words I used to know how to spell
correctly etc.
2 persons have voted this message useful

Super Polyglot
Winner TAC 2012
Senior Member
Joined 3250 days ago

5310 posts - 9398 votes 
Speaks: Dutch*, English, Swedish, French, Russian, German, Italian, Norwegian, Mandarin, Romanian, Afrikaans
Studies: Greek, Modern Hebrew, Spanish, Portuguese, Czech, Korean, Esperanto, Finnish

 Message 5 of 23
15 June 2015 at 5:13am | IP Logged 
I still have to use Dutch every day, even though I've already spent over 4 years of my
life abroad (about 1/5th of my life). So my Dutch isn't suffering, and neither is my
English. I've been very used to switching around languages even when I was young so it
doesn't seem to be a huge issue for me.

If I still live abroad in 10 years, though, ask me again. I don't use Dutch that often
now. I speak it with my family and during class (and I occasionally read some media), but
other than that my life is a mix of languages.
1 person has voted this message useful

Senior Member
United Kingdom
Joined 2833 days ago

1013 posts - 1587 votes 
Speaks: English*, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Norwegian, Dutch, Swedish, Italian
Studies: German, Danish, Russian, Catalan

 Message 6 of 23
15 June 2015 at 6:01am | IP Logged 
I do not use English very much, actually the only place that I write extensively in
English nowadays seems to be here. I write mostly in Spanish followed by Dutch, but
not as practise, but rather as a means of accomplishing other tasks and communicating
with others, although it implictly is some form of practise.

The only other ways in which I use my native English is with my family, when I go to
the store, doctor, chemist, etc., but these are usually conversations that last no
more than a few minutes at most. I do find that I take a bit longer to think about how
to say things and stutter slightly more in English than for example, 10 years ago. If
I had to give a presentation or a public speech in English right now, I feel very
unconfident and would probably stutter a lot more than usual, in addition to saying
some unidiomatic things.

To me I really do not care because someday hopefully very soon, I live in a non-
Anglophone country, so my English level is irrelevant there. I do notice that I make
both spelling and grammar mistakes in my own language nowadays, perhaps even worse
than when I was 12 or 13. But I had a very strict regiment of grammar in my own
language during primary school, so even if I make mistakes now, my grammar "training"
from the past helps me afloat from keeping it to a minimium and not making (usually)
serious grammatical blunders.

I also notice that I commit more typos, which is due to the usual fingers making
mistakes, but also I forget the patterns on how to type some words because I do not
type in English as often as I used to. My chats and messages are usually not in
English nowdadays. It is also kept to a repsectable minimum also though, because I use
the US Intl keyboard, which is very close to both the UK and USA English keyboards. My
friend who studies Russian and uses the Russian keyboard frequently messes up his
English chat with me because he has to switch his brain between where the Cyrillic
letters are and where the Latin letters are on the US Intl keyboard.

I remember hearing about some weird bullshit that came from the 1970s that said about
learning foreign languages, that learning foreign languages causes one's native
language level to suffer, thus one should not learn foreign languages or something
like that. The thing is, it was from the Americans, so they were basically saying that
native Anglophones should remain monolingual Anglophones for the rest of their lives
so that they should not risk having a declining English level. Strangely, I never saw
any objection to applying this principle to non-Anglophones learning English. I do not
believe that, but even if it were true, if I kept a C1 level in my native language,
that would be fine with me..

Something funny that recently happens is that even when I do not pretend to have a
foreign accent when I speak English in an Anglophone country to pretend to be from
another country, if I just speak as I usually do, some people think that I have a
slight foreign accent. In both the UK and USA, I have been mistaken for a Mexican,
Argentinian, Spanish, and Chilean, as well as "some sort of Spanish-speaking immigrant
with a high level of English", and that is without trying to sound like that!

Edited by 1e4e6 on 15 June 2015 at 6:13am

4 persons have voted this message useful

Senior Member
United States
Joined 5411 days ago

946 posts - 1110 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish, German
Studies: Sign Language

 Message 7 of 23
15 June 2015 at 7:03am | IP Logged 
Yes, it happens to me when I live abroad. The first time I noticed was when I was an exchange student in Mexico and I couldn't think of the English word for "jug" - a container to put milk into.

Since I know that my languages come back to me quickly when I am exposed to them, I find this actually a pleasant and interesting experience, not a frightening one or negative one.
1 person has voted this message useful

Senior Member
Joined 3416 days ago

629 posts - 813 votes 
Speaks: Norwegian*, EnglishC2, German
Studies: Japanese, Spanish

 Message 8 of 23
15 June 2015 at 9:19am | IP Logged 
Yes. I've studied abroad for three years and my formal Norwegian (bokmål) has suffered
immensely. I often use way too long even writing a short comment on Norwegian forums.
My spoken Norwegian (fosentrøndersk) hasn't suffered nearly as much, since I've
actually been using it regularly when I was abroad.

My English is hardly perfect (in fact, it's far from it), but to me it's much more
embarrassing to make mistakes while writing in Norwegian.

Edited by stifa on 15 June 2015 at 9:20am

1 person has voted this message useful

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