I have a question for those who have learnt a few languages to any degree of proficiency really. For the past few months i have focused on learning french using lingq for reading and listening and italki for conversations. I have noticed an improvement in my use of the language in basically every way, albeit my reading is still better than the others. Now I would like to focus on Japanese and improve on it as I live in Japan till September and it would be a true waste to not be able to interact with a certain level of ease. I am perfectly aware that the level of my ability to speak in French will deteriorate with time. Now the question i pose is, from your experience (to anyone who is willing to answer), has your ability to understand a language which you have set aside for a time reduced as well. If yes, to what extent? (I’m assuming it’s measurable, you may use the CEFR scale to rate comprehension)

Certainly, I’d even say it’s a normal and healthy process to forget a little of the language you haven’t studied for a while. However, I’ve also found that if I have reached a sufficient level of a language (like you presumably have in French), it’s not that difficult to come back to.

Go have fun with Japanese, but accept that your French will get a little rusty. When you come back to French, I think you’ll find that spending some time listening (a couple of hours on LingQ, say) is all it takes to “refresh” what you’ve still got in your brain somewhere.

We get rusty at anything we haven’t done in a while, the trick is to come back to the things we love. You never forget something you’ve once loved… :slight_smile:


You can forget a lot of a language that you only speak at a low level. If your level’s good enough it doesn’t decay all that much, although it may take you some “warming up” to get back to speed in a language that you haven’t practiced for some time.
Another issue altogether is that there’s a “layer” of vocabulary that you must refresh once and again, in order to keep it active but that happens even with your native tongue.
My advice for you would be to focus on Japanese but keep watching fun videos, reading short things, etc. in French.

There’s another side to this: depending on your level of French you might find you can still spend quite a lot of time on your French. I am finding this as I move from learning Spanish to learning French. French is so difficult for me right now that I can’t concentrate for very long. My learning is intensive, but not extensive. So even though French is the focus of my learning, I am probably actually spending more time on my Spanish just because it is easier to read a book, or listen to a podcast, in that language. So maybe just keep something light and enjoyable in French, like a good novel, or a TV series, on the go, and that will help you maintain the language.


That’s exactly how it’s in my case. Focusing on Spanish/Italian means I have to intensify my focus and it’s literally ‘learning’ but I have never really studied English and I don’t study now. I just spend a few hours a day watching stuff or listening to some material or even writing on lingq forums - all in English. For me it isn’t learning, it’s just enjoying my time and keeping my English sharp at the same time.


Exactly! I think getting your L2 (3,4,5…) to a level where you really don’t need to try anymore is so important. I’m sure that, rather than forgetting your English, it will get better and better over the next few years as you use it casually. Hopefully the same for my Spanish and @mo5ji’s French.