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Not speaking your mother tongue for long

 Language Learning Forum : General discussion Post Reply
42 messages over 6 pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6  Next >>
Senior Member
United Kingdom
Joined 5347 days ago

417 posts - 427 votes 
Studies: Spanish, Japanese, Thai

 Message 1 of 42
20 October 2007 at 4:07pm | IP Logged 
When one hasn't spoken one's mother tongue in a prolonged amount of time, what effects have you guys experienced? Has anyone ever experienced regression and damage of the mother tongue? As for myself, I remember during my Spanish immersion course in Valencia which lasted for 3 months in total, I never ever used English. Even why some tried to speak to me in English what was rare, I refused to switch language and just continued in the target language as I wanted to take full advantage of the environment. I absolutely purged English from my life for the duration of 3 months. Then, when my parents came to Valencia during the final week of my stay not only for a vacation but also to see me, I had to speak English with them and they couldn't believe the regression that had experienced my native tongue. They commented that I was speaking like some immigrant with a completely changed accent whilst I recall that I had an extremely difficult time finding the right words when constructing sentences. However, after one week or so in my original country, I quickly regained the part which had been decayed previously.

has anyone ever experienced such temporary regression of their mother tongue but during a longer period of absence?

Edited by Maximus on 20 October 2007 at 5:08pm

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Senior Member
United States
Joined 5248 days ago

600 posts - 667 votes 
Speaks: English*, Arabic (Written), French, Arabic (Iraqi), Portuguese, German, Italian, Spanish
Studies: Pashto

 Message 2 of 42
20 October 2007 at 4:37pm | IP Logged 
Never had the pleasure (?) of having that happen to that great of a degree, but I have had moments here and there where I pronounce an English word with a Spanish inflection. It's scary, because it's involuntary, but it's also encouraging, because it means the Spanish is becoming internalized.
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Senior Member
Joined 5287 days ago

321 posts - 327 votes 
3 sounds
Speaks: French*, EnglishC2
Studies: German, Italian

 Message 3 of 42
20 October 2007 at 8:36pm | IP Logged 
Yep. All the way. But the thing is I didn't progress as fast in English as I regressed in French. I'm back in a somewhat Frencher environment but still it seems like I lost the 'formal' way of speaking. I'm doomed!I can definitely use broken French fluently though it isn't hard at all. Since I'd only talked to one person in French for a year well that's the level of formality that stuck in my head...

I always feel like talking 85% in English but the 'peer pressure' dictates that I try to use more French. So things are getting better but I'm sure if it would all come back quickly if I ever wanted it.

I had moments where I thought I could never be ...lingual ever again. I was kind of in a somewhere in between. Not so good in 2 languages. Frightening yep! Now both are close to fine!
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Senior Member
United States
Joined 4887 days ago

408 posts - 423 votes 
Speaks: Portuguese, English*
Studies: Japanese

 Message 4 of 42
21 October 2007 at 12:02am | IP Logged 
I had a friend who immigrated to the United States of America from the Somali Republic. His native language was Somali but also had learned significant Arabic. However, after spending several years in the United States, he had forgotten almost all of both languages.
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Senior Member
United States
Joined 5466 days ago

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

 Message 5 of 42
21 October 2007 at 1:06am | IP Logged 
I lived a year in Mexico and in Germany, both times as an exchange student. Upon arrival to the States from Mexico, I noticed that either my spelling had deteriorated, or that it was never as good as I had thought, and I had simply been unaware of it.

My grammar of English while I was in Mexico went down slightly, for example while talking to my Dad on the phone, I meant to say "What's Mom doing?" but it came out as "What are Mom doing?" Just little things like that.

Once a friend told me I had a Mexican accent when I asked a question, and still to this day I make a slip up, so subtle that I think only I can notice it, but I sometimes say "this" and it comes out sounding like a Spanish speaker "theese". Very rare, but it's happened.

In Germany some Americans, who were unaware that I was an American, told me I had a slight German accent in my English.

Some of my writing is influenced by these languages as well. Especially comma usage in putting a comma before the conjunction "that" (He knows, that he can't sing well--- for example).
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Senior Member
New Zealand
Joined 4914 days ago

851 posts - 1074 votes 
2 sounds
Speaks: English*, German, French

 Message 6 of 42
21 October 2007 at 2:49am | IP Logged 
That must be a very weird feeling. Because you'd be stuck between two languages; one probably wouldn't have the native instinct of their target language, but feel more comfortable in it. At the same time, the mother-tongue would have decayed a little. So which language would you then begin to think and reason in?

I hope to experience this when I get to Germany sometime in the next year or two. For now, all that's happened is what was mentioned above me - putting commas before relative clauses like in German.

Edited by Fränzi on 21 October 2007 at 2:55am

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United States
Joined 5042 days ago

79 posts - 94 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish, Portuguese
Studies: French

 Message 7 of 42
21 October 2007 at 4:11am | IP Logged 
I am currently studying abroad in Buenos Aires, I have been here for 3 months and have two months to go. The first two months that I was here I decided on using as little English as possible. The only time I would speak English was on the phone with my family. However last month I noticed that it would take longer to communicate with family members because I was trying to think of the English version, hence during conversation I would ask them, (como se llama la cosa) whats that thing called. I noticed this and I decided to live a bilingual life where I am able to converse fluently in the two languages. So I currently speak both languages everyday and am at ease with them both. I am also practicing French and Portuguese by watching television on the internet.
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United Kingdom
Joined 4892 days ago

48 posts - 49 votes
Speaks: English*, Spanish
Studies: Portuguese, Swedish

 Message 8 of 42
21 October 2007 at 5:09am | IP Logged 
I've never had prolonged periods where I've spoken only Spanish, as even when living abroad I had English speaking family and friends with me. But after, for example, a night out with Spanish friends or spending a whole day speaking only Spanish, when I get home and start speaking English again I will lapse into Spanish without even noticing it until my other half shouts "SPEAK ENGLISH, WOMAN" :) It can take me an hour or two before I stop lapsing back into Spanish. So I can imagine that after a much longer time speaking only your second language, you might find it difficult or awkward to speak in your mother tongue again.

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