How do you guys maintain your languages without as much work?

Right now, my german is at a pretty good level for me, but I don’t want to stop doing any german altogether for fear of losing any. Though it would give me more time to work on my russian and spanish which are my current focus languages. I try watching some content on youtube once in a while in german, but it doesn’t really do it for me. If the content isn’t super interesting, then I just get bored and stop focusing. I work at a grocery store and come into contact with germans like 2x a month, so I get some practice :slight_smile:

ps- I read like 2k words a day in german, which takes about 15-25 mins, which may not seem like a lot, but I’m really concentrating when I do lingq, and would rather spend that time on spanish/russian.

Edit: another thing that I try to do is every time that I encounter a certain phrase or word I try to tweak it a little. If I can effortlessly translate a suttle difference great, but if I don’t then it’s something I need to work on. For example there is this line in a song that I have been listening to recently.

A quien le importa lo que yo haga? (what does it matter what I do?)

So I ask for example myself how would I translate it to "what does it matter what we do?

The answer would be A quien le importa lo que nosotros hagamos?

Edit: 2

If something is boring I think a good strategy is to try to find a way of making it interesting. I am a very analytical person so if I watch for example F1 (which in recent years have been a one pony contest), I would try to find enjoyment by trying to learn how to make pit stop strategies based on the previous races and the info that the expert in the commentary team provides.

Original post

To be perfectly honest that is one thing that has kept me up at night. I think one of the best ways of maintaining a language without much work is watching TV series. How to maximize the profit and limit the work is something that I would like to do in the future on my blog (that I’m working on). However, this is my working hypothesis.

Enjoyment is one of the most important things in not only language learning but also life if you can find enjoyment in what you do then that’s should lead to a domino effect. The same can be said with stress in the negative sense. It might seem that I’m just coming up with something on the fly but this is something that I have taught about for quite some time. Right now I can’t express myself eloquently on this subject.

As some small guidelines I’d say that pay attention to adverbial and prepositional phrases. These are phrases like zu guter Letzt, längerfristig gesehen and für den Moment, für den Augenblick. I could go on and on ad infinitum as there are thousand of these in any given language. They are also the sort of expression that will give you away as a foreigner if you don’t know them.

Another quick type is to identify you weakness in terms of grammar and be on the look out when they pop up in a scene. I am going to you use Spanish as an example because I noticed this while watching a Spanish show.

The difference between I love you and they love you type of constructions are once that have given me lots of trouble during my Spanish studying. I am too tired to explain this part in detail but in a nutshell the wordorder is what makes it so hard. In Spanish the equivalents would be, (literal translation in brackets).

Te quiero (You I love)
Ellos te queiren (They you love)

These sort of constructions are quite common in Spanish so now that I have made an effort to focus on the word order when I encounter the verb querer in dialogue, I should learn the differences quite easily just my watching shows and being attentive.

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What’s the longest break that you’ve taken from german? I took a several month break from all languages, and I didn’t know what the result would be when I got back into the swing. Surpringly, it was only rough for about a few days and then I felt like I was back to where I left off. Then after a couple weeks I was even better than before. So don‘t be afraid of giving the language a little space. You can always spend some time during the day listening to the language while doing other activities to keep it alive instead of reading.


I have honestly never taken a break from german since I started it

I’d say reading 2k words a day is a really good way to maintain a language – actually 2k a day is a good way to keep LEARNING a language, not just maintain it.

Other than that, the best maintenance for me is audiobooks. I have a rotating list of French, German and Spanish books on my audible app and just listen in my car. Regular listening alone can more than maintain your skills. If you can combine 2k words read a day with 30 minutes of listening, you will keep improving indefinitely.

And of course there is TV shows and movies etc.


I’m just asking what your longest break was. 1 week? 1 day? 1 hr?

I just told you. I haven’t had a break. Not a single day. I’ve done at least some reading, listening, or speaking since I’ve started learning it.

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so less than 24hrs.

You can do little things to keep you in the language like changing language settings on your computer and phone. It’s not much, but it would take up none of your time each day to operate in German instead of English every time you turn on your phone.

2K words, that’s something like 20+ pages on an e-reader.

If you don’t get a chance to talk German with someone every day, but you’re familiar enough with proper pronunciation, then if you’re reading 20+ pages anyway, I think it’s a good idea to read out loud.

Even if you don’t understand every single word or expression that you’re reading, I think it’s a good idea to read through the same number of pages several times. (You can always highlight words or expressions as you go along and set aside a separate time for expanding your vocabulary.)

I’m sort of doing this with Dutch right now. I have an e-boek for which I also have the audiobook.

My base vocabulary is enough now that I don’t have to concentrate as much on learning new vocabulary and can just listen to the story.

  1. So first I listen to a chapter (12 minutes on average), no reading.

If a different word or pronunciation really pops out at me, I pause and jot it down or make a mental note.

  1. Then I listen and read along silently (22 pages on average) and highlight words.

Sometimes they are words I have read but not heard before and was unsure about how they were pronounced. Then again, completely new words I have never read or heard before really pop out at me. A few words that popped out today were wispelturig, bondig and stuurs.

I seem to get most tripped up on words that are identical in English, but pronounced completely differently in Dutch. Words like alibi and escapades and I can remember being really surprised the first time I ever heard the word enthousiast. I guess because these words are so hard-wired that it’s hard to get accustomed to the Dutch pronunciation, despite knowing enough about pronunciation rules to guess the correct pronunciation, but also because some words are borrowed, so they’re not always pronounced the way you might expect.

  1. Then I read out loud and practice my pronunciation.

Right now I’m concentrating on words that end in -en because I’m really bad about pronouncing the N, which native Dutch speakers rarely ever do. They drop the N. So I’m going through and highlighting all of these words (which is quite a few, but worth the extra effort for me) not because I don’t know them but because I want to pay particular attention to the pronunciation.

But also the opposite. The N is dropped everywhere, but there are instances where the Dutch add an extra N where no N exists. For example, “Waar heb je het over?” tends to be “Waar heb jen 't over?” So anywhere that that extra N comes in, my ears really perk up. So I highlight these sentences as well.

One listen and two read-throughs takes about 45 minutes.

  1. I set a completely different time aside to work on expanding my vocabulary.

It takes more effort to get words like wispelturig, bondig and stuurs into my working vocabulary. Or expressions like ‘Dat staat als een paal boven water’ (which my dictionary tells me is Dutch for “There’s no two ways about it.”)



I know you a re a humble person and would not like what I am going to say, but, honestly, you are the best learner I have ever read to other than Steve Kaufmann and Luca, and believe me I read a lot of your answers. Thank you.


Mostly you don’t. You can’t “maintain” without work. You may not lose everything but knowledge degrades over time if it isn’t used – or at least the access to that knowledge becomes more difficult.

You can however take steps to turn work into pleasue, and many of the other posts discuss this or you have figured it out with your daily reading etc.

  1. Read things you love. Things you would want to read in any language but using your target language(s).

  2. Converse regularly (perhaps at least weekly) with real people – either in your daily life or on langauge exchanges sites, or even with a tutor occasionally.

  3. Tutors can be found for as little as $5 despite the prevailing rate, being more like $15-$30 – I had a decent one at $5 (on Preply) and now have a very good one (for me) at $8/hour and I am taking 45 minute lessons (since the stress pretty much maxes me out then, even though I a strong willed person and public speaker.)

  4. Watch movies and TV on NetFlix or Amazon (Amazon french stinks, almost never do they have french dialog AND french subtitles.)

  5. YouTube of course – I almost can’t believe how easy it is to import almost anything from YouTube to LingQ (That’s worth the monthly price of Lingq right there.)
    Remember that practically everything in a (major?) foreign language on YouTube has English and perhaps other subtitles. which the importer grabs with easy.

  6. These last means you can watch, listen AND read almost anything that interests you from Ted Talks to Conspiracy Theories, politics, philosophy, mathematics etc.

  7. Wikipedia – really. Practically everthing on Wikipedia is mirrored or paralleled on the “other Wikipedias”. You can drop most any Wikepedia article into a PDF download (which will remove the page cruft) and then import it into LingQ or just read on your own.

Think about all the things you know in you native language or would like to read an intro discussing: Go read them on Wikipedia (using LingQ too) in your target langauge.

  1. Use [You target Language] Wiktionary to read definitions etc. in the langauge instead of in your native language.

  2. Play the “LingQ game” (use the site as a challenge.) The “Game Mechanics” of LingQ are very good to excellent even when the user interface stinks a bit. (This site is amazing, and I would rather have the good stuff currently available than the perfect interface we all hope for.)
    Game mechanics - Wikipedia
    Règle de jeu — Wikipédia
    Note that “game mechanics” applies to ‘non-games’ in the traditional sense: They are used to keep people “playing Facebook” and to encourage revisiting the site daily or more frequently. They are also use extensively in Las Vegas (etc.) to keep people gambling.

Summary: Find ways to turn WORK into PLAY and RECREATION or personal IMPROVEMENT and EDUCATION (in general.)

If it’s fun and personally useful it’s not work.


Who, me? Ah, thank you! That’s good to hear.


Apparently you can’t even maintain your own native language without use and exposure. This is a rather amazing/amusing example of a Russian-speaking woman who’s been in the US a little too long (you don’t need Russian to appreciate this): Runglish - The Russian + English Mix Language - YouTube

Then there’s Ivan, the Russian-speaking accountant in Utah. I assume he’s a native speaker given his ease in conversing with the host (an emigrant from Minsk) in Russian, but his accent is just awful. One of the comments says that he sounds like someone making fun of Americans speaking Russian: Налоги в Америке на примерах (1 часть) - YouTube

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That’s quite an interesting phenomenon, I know it’s not as extreme as your examples but I feel that I have experienced something similar. Since Swedish speaking Finns make a such a small minority, about the same as the population of Iceland. Our Swedish is heavily influenced by Finnish, it has quite a lot of Finnish slang words and code switching very common.

I have made conscious efforts in the past to speak pure Swedish and I remember being quite surprised just how hard it was to come up with Swedish words for certain things. Of course I know the words but when I haven’t used them as much it’s a bit of a choir. I live in the greater capital region so it’s no wonder that my Swedish is heavily influenced by Finnish. In other parts (Coastal regions and Åland Islands) the Swedish is more close to the one spoken in Sweden.

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The first example is just an extreme example of linguistic laziness, I believe.
The second is very bizarre, as he says perfectly добрый день, and from there it goes down the hill.
However, to me, it’s not the way people sound after living in a foreign country after several years.
My mother (native polish) lived in a french speaking environment for almost four decades, the difference in her way of speaking is only a syallable stress, she always pronounces all of the sounds correctly.


Pretty late to the party but I just wanted to share my own perspective on this.

The whole issue with regards to language maintenance is i think a bit misconstrued.

We learn a language not to take care of a child with mood swings. Language is a medium. Language maintenance should not be seen as or feel like “WORK” in any way. Do you feel like you’re doing work when you’re watching a movie in your native language?

Once you’ve reached a good level, all you have to do is enjoy the fruits of your labor; if you don’t feel like it or if you don’t want to… then why are you/did you learn the language in the first place?

That’s like traveling to Japan as an American and only eating at American fast food chains, only talking to fellow Americans, and staying in your hotel room most of the time (watching American TV shows).

Imagine the amount of movies, literature, ideas, music, food, culture and people you’ve just opened the doors to. What are your current interests? Film? What’s the film industry like in France? Food? How do Italians actually like to make their pizza? Business? What’s the dialogue like in Brazil, India, China?