Is it possible to "deep freeze" a language?

What I mean by this: is it possible to reach level B2 (or higher) in a particular language, but then put it completely to one side for a fairly long time to concentrate on another language, yet without losing significant ground in the first language?

The reason I ask: I’m beginning to suspect that German is holding me back from getting stuck right into a new language. If I go into a bookstore and see a German thriller, you can bet I’ll buy it; and having bought it, I’ll darn well read it – 9 times out of 10 at least. It’s beginning to seem like an itch that I just have to scratch!

But maybe all of this German reading is impeding my focus on anything else, especially on other Germanic languages?

So maybe what I need to do is put German on ice for a year or so, to allow me to get some serious quality time with a new language?

(On the other hand, I guess it’d suck if I found myself slipping a level in German after a year or two…)

My feeling is that yes, you could comfortably leave it aside for a year or two, and then after a relatively brief return to it (e.g. a couple of weeks listening and reading etc.), it’ll be there again.

A good example of this would be Steve with French, or even with Chinese. After having reached a certain level, he probably didn’t use them a lot for nine years (while in Japan). My guess is that, at that level, you just have to have faith that it will come back quickly, and not worry about how it initially sounds / feels after the break.

Mind you, you will probably still have the odd conversation / chat / exchange in German, so it’s not like you won’t have any exposure. You could also decide to dedicate one month out of every 12 to German, just an idea.

By the way, I’ve got a feeling that your German is better than you give yourself credit for. You seem to be able to keep up in German forum exchanges, while regularly getting praised for your level. You don’t see much of that in English unless it’s someone with a C2 level (i.e. is able to / has passed the C2 level exam).

ad JayB (…) What I mean by this: is it possible to reach level B2 (or higher) in a particular language, but then put it completely to one side for a fairly long time to concentrate on another language, yet without losing significant ground in the first language? (…)

I’m pretty sure it is possible. This does not mean that you won’t find yourself struggling a bit after not having spoken or used the language in any other way over an extended period of time but you will be back to your “pre-frozen” level in no time.

Especially with your level of German there is nothing to fear for you. As I said, you might find that you have lost some of your linguistic abilities (such as parts of your active vocabulary, the speed at which you can comfortably speak the language etc.) but you will have no trouble getting back where you left off and most likely you will then progress even further or find it easier to keep your level since you have trained your brain with the new language you studied.

So, go for it. And even if the worst comes to the worst and you actually were to slip a level in German as you wrote, you would still be damned good at it :wink:

I often leave Japan for a month or two at a time, and I always notice (and others notice) a decrease in my ability when I haven’t used Japanese for a month or two. But it comes back quickly. If you are at a high-intermediate level in a language, I doubt that a year away would do much harm.

Besides, it’s unlikely you’d have no contact with the language. Whatever you’ve achieved, maintenance training for a year would not be too difficult. I remember seeing some study saying that one good, solid conversation a week was enough to maintain your conversational ability for quite some time. So do that, and read a bit from time to time, and you’ll probably be fine.

You could always use the approach of making German your base language for studying another language.