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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 35 6  Next >>
SlickAs
Tetraglot
Senior Member
Canada
Joined 4514 days ago

185 posts - 287 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish, French, Swedish
Studies: Thai, Vietnamese

 
 Message 25 of 42
07 January 2009 at 7:46pm | IP Logged 
jstele wrote:
SlickAs wrote:

I have also lived in the Spanish world, complete with Spanish speaking job and Spanish-only girlfriend, and gone over a month without speaking English to anyone, even on the phone.


A month is not long enough. Try years.

I meant a month at a time (without even speaking to my family on the phone), not total. I lived immersed in Argentina (having arrived as a fluent Spanish speaker) for 8 months ... not enough, I agree ... but combined with the time away from Australia surely a much better sample than these people talking about their 2 week immersion programs in Mexico and their parents cant believe how much English they have forgotten!

(BTW, it is freaky to leave a country for 7 years and arrive back and people can not even tell you left. I would prefer it if I could have said that I picked up some accent. But I didn't).

I agree, in times gone by with enough years, one could forget their mother tongue. But it would have taken 20 years of no books, films, newspapers, conversations, etc. It is harder in the connected and internetted up world of 2009. Sure, children forget childhood languages for the community language. But I am talking someone with a stong mother-tongue who can write in it, speak in front of crowds in public speaking in it, was educated in it ... that is going to take some forgetting, like decades. Hell, I took 2 years of Indonesian in high-school 15 years ago, and although rusty as hell (I could not tell you the verb as simple as "to need" anymore for example) can still remember enough that I could ask for directions on the street ...

My point is that these posters above who claim to have forgotten English in 3 month immersion programmes of intermediate Spanish are confusing other phenomena for forgetting their mother tongue. Like time taken to switch codes, or the active ignoring of mother tongue at beginner levels that the article talks about. It is highly unlikely they forgot a beat of their mother tongue in 3 months.

Edited by SlickAs on 07 January 2009 at 7:54pm

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parasitius
Diglot
Senior Member
United States
Joined 4635 days ago

220 posts - 323 votes 
Speaks: English*, Mandarin
Studies: Cantonese, Polish, Spanish, French

 
 Message 26 of 42
07 January 2009 at 8:08pm | IP Logged 
It seems to me almost no one has a problem handling a multi-party conversation with MotherTongue + L2, but there seem to be a ton of people who get messed up with MotherTongue + L2 + L3 when they are going back and forth with a whole group. I don't know enough languages to go beyond that, but it always surprises me when someone that has never spoken a word of Swedish to me and that knows I don't know a word of Swedish tells me "you don't know how many times I almost spoke to you in Swedish" (in a 3 language situation as above). I have only messed up very minor in two ways:
(1) Since my Japanese is much weaker than my Mandarin, if I am trying REALLY HARD to improve speed with my tutor and forcing the words out as fast as they will come, occasionally a Mandarin sentence almost comes out (but doesn't). If I had time to think and no pressure it wouldn't happen at all. (Always a sentence I have no idea how to say correctly in Japanese, never an easy obvious one.)
(2) I've never spoken to someone in a language they don't understand at all, but have spoken to someone who knows 2 languages in the one of of the two that I didn't really intend to. So IMHO not a big slip up, again why I'm shocked that a lot of people I've met seem to have so many huge slipups.

Edited by parasitius on 07 January 2009 at 8:09pm

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SlickAs
Tetraglot
Senior Member
Canada
Joined 4514 days ago

185 posts - 287 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish, French, Swedish
Studies: Thai, Vietnamese

 
 Message 27 of 42
07 January 2009 at 8:28pm | IP Logged 
parasitius wrote:
It seems to me almost no one has a problem handling a multi-party conversation with MotherTongue + L2, but there seem to be a ton of people who get messed up with MotherTongue + L2 + L3 when they are going back and forth with a whole group.

I actually can have a problem with that (mother tongue + L2) depending on which language, and how rusty it is. But I recognise that I may have a slow motor on the code-switch.

At the moment I speak English + French all the time and code-switch away without pause, but I seldom get a chance to speak Spanish or Swedish, and once I get into it at something more than just pleasentries, I don't like people messing with my groove by forcing me back into English. It takes me 15 minutes to warm either of those languages up and get comfortable in them, thinking in them, the words coming thick and fast, joking in them, moving towards extroversion.

A couple of drinks helps me code-switch easier. And if with the right amount of alcohol in the right environment I can rock-and-roll away in all 4 languages at once in a multi-lingual room, code switching at will ... does that ever turn heads!

But yeah, it is not straight forward, code-switching, is it?
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RisaXKoizumiX
Diglot
Newbie
United States
last.fm/user/rei_hii
Joined 4602 days ago

35 posts - 34 votes
Studies: Italian, Spanish*, English
Studies: French, Japanese, Modern Hebrew

 
 Message 28 of 42
07 January 2009 at 9:05pm | IP Logged 
hmmm...well when I went to Central America to visit my family I picked up on the Spanish with the quickness (Spanish is my native language but learning English had consumed most of my knowledge of Spanish at that time of my life). its a bit better now...I doubt if I visited or moved to another country that I will forget any English...& i'll most defintely will make it a point to never forget my Spanish.
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ChiaBrain
Bilingual Diglot
Senior Member
United States
Joined 4445 days ago

402 posts - 512 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish*
Studies: Portuguese, Italian, French
Studies: German

 
 Message 29 of 42
12 January 2009 at 7:23am | IP Logged 
RisaXKoizumiX wrote:
hmmm...well when I went to Central America to visit my family I
picked up on the Spanish with the quickness (Spanish is my native language but
learning English had consumed most of my knowledge of Spanish at that time of my
life). its a bit better now...I doubt if I visited or moved to another country that I
will forget any English...& i'll most defintely will make it a point to never forget
my Spanish.


I'm in the same boat as you. I spoke Spanish before English but living in the USA
English became my first language. When I go back to speaking Spanish it seems to take
a while to switch gears. I find many phrases come to me in English and I am left
searching for an equivalent in Spanish. I do find the more immersed I am in Spanish
the more fluid I become in it. But because all my family speaks both languages it
makes it easy go back to English. We usually end up speaking Spanglish where we switch
back and forth between the languages even in mid sentence.


I am wondering how polyglots handle this. As I realize how rusty my Spanish is I feel
discouraged in learning Italian. It's even more discouraging in that I don't have all
the native speakers available that I have for Spanish.
Learning a new language has, however, made me more conscious of language in general
and even my English seems more proper.



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Alvinho
Triglot
Senior Member
Brazil
Joined 4871 days ago

828 posts - 832 votes 
Speaks: Portuguese*, English, Spanish

 
 Message 30 of 42
12 January 2009 at 8:01am | IP Logged 
I wonder if some of the guys on this thread who've been outside their countries just would have problems with their mother tongues, even if they watched cable TV every day....channels like CNN or those which broadcast movies or shows.

Even if I resided in another country, my Portuguese wouldn't get rusty over time....I mean because at least would listen to Brazilian radios, read the news on the web or also come across other Brazilians....

Edited by Alvinho on 12 January 2009 at 8:05am

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josht
Diglot
Senior Member
United States
Joined 5083 days ago

635 posts - 857 votes 
Speaks: English*, German
Studies: French, Spanish, Russian, Dutch

 
 Message 31 of 42
12 January 2009 at 8:31am | IP Logged 
I've never been out of the United States, but my study of German has led to some interesting issues with my native language spelling. One point in particular is that I regularly write "Englisch", making the same mistake with other English words which end in -ish. I've also slipped a few times and dropped "dass" into sentences, in place of "that."
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Satoshi
Diglot
Senior Member
Brazil
Joined 4460 days ago

215 posts - 223 votes 
Speaks: Portuguese*, English
Studies: German, Japanese

 
 Message 32 of 42
13 January 2009 at 9:35pm | IP Logged 
I guess it varies from person to person.

If I go without reading for too long a time (some months) I will find myself struggling to express myself in elaborate ways (like poetry or literature-like).

This happens both in English and Portuguese. I do, indeed, forget words very easily. Due to some events in my life, I went without reading for a whole year. I found myself completely unable to express myself the way I used to.

Also, there was a time when I bought an English book series, with like 5 or 6 books. I also found myself with difficulties pertaining expressing myself in portuguese.

There was also vacation period when I would just lie there watching American and British TV shows for the whole day, and the only Portuguese I listened to was my family's (but we don't really talk to each other besides "Mom, where's the bread" or "Do the laundry, you lazy one"). When I came back to everyday life, I actually couldn't express myself. English expressions would pop up in my mind, and sometimes I didn't know how to say something so I would just keep my mouth shut. It obviously didn't last long, but I understood that two months without almost no Portuguese made me forget some things, and the period to code-switch was very long (took me a week or so to completely erase that tiny English voice inside my head).

Nowadays, I plan on going to Japan for five years for study. If I do, I will use all my languages. Thankfuly, the internet makes this very easy. I participate in some Brazilian forums and social networking sites, and in English ones like this one. It helps me maintain all my languages sharp. When I'm fluent in Japanese, I will also get some blogs and podcasts and books so I don't let it go rusty.


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