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Not speaking your mother tongue for long

 Language Learning Forum : General discussion Post Reply
42 messages over 6 pages: 13 4 5 6  Next >>
Trilingual Heptaglot
Senior Member
Joined 5681 days ago

199 posts - 218 votes 
Speaks: Croatian*, Serbian*, Russian*, English, Italian, Latin, Ancient Greek
Studies: Greek, French, Hungarian

 Message 9 of 42
21 October 2007 at 6:02am | IP Logged 
Oh yes. All the time indeed.

Recently I was in Croatia, and whilst I was talking to some friends on the very day of my arrival, I noticed one of them was staring at me weirdly. Upon my asking what was wrong, he shaked his head, and said, "Nothing. It's just that I became aware of how much living in Italy affected your native language. You've actually got an accent, which you probably don't hear, but I do."
I could not believe it, but the irony wanted that an anglophone friend joined our company, so we all switched to English, and when speaking English (which is not my native language) I also noticed that my pronunciation of English had changed over the course of time. I had slight Italian accent in it as well.

Nothing was changed in the structure of the language used. Except for a couple of misused prepositions, all the languages I spoke were practically intact from grammatical and lexical point of view, but my accent was different. A couple of days later, the same friend told me that my accent had "disappeared", and that I spoke normal Croatian as if I still lived there. And he was right - it was very hard for me to hear those differences, but they disappeared quickly.

I never experienced difficulties at using the language I haven't spoken for long with people who speak it. The only 'weird' experiences I had was, for example, talking on the phone in Italy in Russian, amongst Italians, where it just felt uncongenial and I actually had to think about what I say.
Still, for me it is mostly the question of the accent, not the language itself.
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Senior Member
United States
Joined 5047 days ago

166 posts - 189 votes 
Speaks: French, English*
Studies: Spanish, Arabic (classical), Persian

 Message 10 of 42
21 October 2007 at 12:28pm | IP Logged 
An affected accent makes sense; the mouth becomes accustomed to making certain sounds. Probably the same
reason people have trouble adapting a native accent during the first few weeks.

Sounds awful to lose one's language, though; almost defeats the purpose of learning a second one at all, unless the
first is obscure and less useful.
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Senior Member
Joined 5211 days ago

197 posts - 204 votes 
Speaks: Cantonese, English*, Japanese, Mandarin
Studies: Spanish

 Message 11 of 42
21 October 2007 at 4:50pm | IP Logged 
I know a Hong Kong girl who has lived in Taiwan for 7 years and when I met her , she spoke fluent Mandarin with a perfect Taiwanese accent where all locals would consider her Taiwanese.

When I talked to her in Cantonese, she had an accent that resembled a Taiwanese person and it did not sound like a native Hong Konger's Cantonese which was a surprise to me. She told me she moved to Taiwan when she was 19 years old so I guess as a result of not speaking Cantonese much for that period of time , she shifted native languages.

Edited by Aritaurus on 21 October 2007 at 7:28pm

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Senior Member
United States
Joined 4996 days ago

550 posts - 590 votes 
Speaks: English*

 Message 12 of 42
21 October 2007 at 5:29pm | IP Logged 
Here's an interesting article on the topic.
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Bilingual Diglot
United States
Joined 4969 days ago

31 posts - 32 votes
Speaks: English*, Persian*
Studies: French

 Message 13 of 42
21 October 2007 at 6:10pm | IP Logged 
Up until the age of 13 I didn't speak Farsi at an acceptable level. Knowing how hard this was on my parents, I chose to start relearning and am now at a native level. During the age of 8-13 I was still very much passive-fluent, but at a loss when it came to constructing my own sentences which is really all I had to work on. 6 months of intensive drilling and vocabulary acquisition was all it really took, along with learning the alphabet.

Edited by Arashjoon on 21 October 2007 at 6:10pm

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Senior Member
United States
Joined 5296 days ago

823 posts - 987 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish, French
Studies: Portuguese, Norwegian

 Message 14 of 42
22 October 2007 at 11:41am | IP Logged 
After I had been studying French for a while, I noticed that if I had been using French to the exclusion of English for a while I would start to inadvertently use French words in the middle of speaking or writing English. For example, I would say "bleu" instead of "blue."
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Senior Member
Joined 5009 days ago

528 posts - 772 votes 
Speaks: English*

 Message 15 of 42
23 October 2007 at 9:26am | IP Logged 
It's my strong opinion that you'd benefit from language immersion more if you made a small effort to use your native language once a day, say, read a book(outloud maybe), listen to some native language radio for 10 minutes, just a minimum. But i also believe it depends on the age of the person. Someone who is say 12 could totally forget their native language whereas a 44 year old person may not use it at all for years and still be just as good. I remember speaking to a German woman who spoke Lithuanian to her husband whose English was poor, but she was still able to converse with me in German and correct me on any mistakes I made with all the ease she had in english, which was 99% perfect.. as it should be being about 88 years old and having lived here longer than me:P she lived alone in that house, and I don't believe she had any other people to speak with, probably why she wanted me over so badly to talk and she'd give me a beer XDand we'd talk about whateva a 17 year old and a 88 year old can talk about hha
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Senior Member
Joined 5596 days ago

504 posts - 538 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: SpanishB2

 Message 16 of 42
24 October 2007 at 6:02pm | IP Logged 
I was very amused when this happened to me when I was living in spain. I tried to speak in Spanish most of the time and when I did speak in English I had to speak quite slowly using simple words and phrases so that my friends could understand me (they had very limited English). My mum was the first to notice it. My emails started to read as if they had been written by an 8 year old, full of terrible grammar and sentence structure. When I was speaking in English I found that I would suddenly forget a word and that I would stumble a lot, struggling to get a full sentence out. Instead of saying yes I would automatically say si. I found it hillarious but extremely frustrating! It only took a day in England to get back to normal so it's nothing to worry about...just a funny side effect of language learning!    

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