How much time is needed just to maintain your language?

It’s clear that in order to learn a language or make any significant progress, you need to spend a considerable amount of time weekly. Our brains must get convinced that this activity is important to us , so that we will eventually improve. But I wonder how much time per week is needed just to maintain a language you already know quite well? Is one hour a week enough? It’s especially tricky, because having a decent level, it’s so difficult to see any progress or regress. In my own case, after around ten years of just maintaining my Russian and believing it was enough, it dawned on me recently that my skills have deteriorated.

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I believe that’s the strict minimum if you just want to maintain a high level in a language that you already know is to listen to 30 minutes of content every day and to speak 2-3 hours per week.

I don’t read that much but I heard people saying that reading 1 book a month helps you maintain this language if you’re not that much into listening podcasts or watching TV.

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If you know it really well you can get by spending a lot of time without any contact at all with the language and you won’t forget. Of course, it’s better if you do revisit it more often because otherwise you’ll need more time to go back to your former level.
For me, the best strategy is to periodically find material of interest in the language (books, films, videos, podcasts, blogs) and of course, interact with native speakers, if possible. That way, you’ll easily find out what your current level is.
Notice that this goes beyond “simple maintenance”. In my experience, you can do that rather rarely and still keep your level. Even having no exposure for months at a time doesn’t need to result in a lower level.

Your question, Mariot, is very important.
We really need some time to maintain our languages.
I can confirm it from my own experience: in my childhood I was able to speak German with my grandmother and Polish with my grandfather though my parents imposed me to speak Russian.
My grandfather died when I was 7 years old and then I’ve never spoken Polish that’s why I lost this language. I can understand 70% Polish films but I can’t speak.
My grandmother died when I was 11 years old, from 11 to 23 I didn’t speak German, but then I started to read again in German and could restore my German.
And now: How much time do we need to mainain our languages? It depends on your free time. If you don’t have much time, so you have to speak or at least ro read 2 times a week.
But if you would like to go ahead then this time is not enough. In this case you need at least 4 times a week, or 4-6 hours, to improve your skills.

As with anything in language learning it depends on many factors. The most important one is probably how well you know the language. An hour per week is probably fine for a C1/C2 level language, provided you cycle through all the skills you want to maintain. For example, one week you could watch a 30min sitcom then read for 30 min. The next week you could talk to a native for 45 min, then write a log entry for 15 min. Etc.

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Great question, I currently maintain 4 languages by speaking each 1 hour per week and reading or listening 15-30 minutes daily in each language. I combine language maintenance with other activities to maximize my time. For example, I workout for an hour daily, I can get 2 languages in that hour:). I believe that the brain requires daily contact with the language to keep it relevant.

I’d love to see some validated research on this.

But my guess, based on conjecture, is to try for an hour or more a week. I also believe that 60 minutes would be best distributed into 10-20 minute sessions throughout the week. A conversation, some reading, TV or movie watching, or podcast listening would all be fine.

I have adult clients who take English classes from me at the rate of about 1 hour per week. Our class is 40% conversation practice, and 50% interactive reading/listening with discussion on topics they prefer, and 10% on grammar or pronunciation.

All of my adult clients have kept their level or have improved slightly over 6 to 12 months. I have no idea how much extra practice they truly get outside of my classes, but most say not much. For some reason, none of my clients like Netflix!

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Depends on your level in the language. My better languages (C1), I don’t really need to do anything to maintain, but my languages that are B1 or lower, I have to spend active time, at least 15 minutes a day to maintain. Needless to say, I let a lot of my languages degrade because it only takes a week to bring them back into line/at the level they were.


“60 minutes [of language work] would be best distributed into 10-20 minute sessions throughout the week.”

Spot on. I’ve noticed that cramming doesn’t cause acquisition of a foreign language by the brain. I’m pretty sure it also wouldn’t work on maintaining what was earlier acquired.

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So it seems it’s not that easy to maintain our languages. Something to be considered before taking yet another one:)


Yes. The answers somewhat varied and I think it’s mostly caused by

  1. everyone being different and
  2. people having different criteria of what “maintaining” means

I think an hour a day would be sufficient, as long as it’s a continuous practice. Yet, some languange learners that belong to at least intermediate level would often get to this situation called “Learning Plateau.” Basically, it’s when we don’t feel much improvement in our skill anymore after learning it for a while, compared to the beginning of our language journey. Based on what I read, it is suggested to change the way of learning. Plus, writing can also be a good tool to brush up on the target language.

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