Language break

I took a 1 week break from German and I am wondering how detrimental this is to what I have already managed to learn and achieve. What is the limit before regression in the language?

I’m sure it depends on your level in the language, how much you were doing beforehand, etc. But I wouldn’t worry about one week. As long as you get back into it and the break doesn’t drag on and on, I don’t think you’ll see any noticeable regression.

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1 week? Sorry to tell you but I think you’ll have to learn everything from scratch again. You must never stop. Never, not even take an hour off.


Yeah, no way. I’ve taken months away from Spanish and it probably took me no more than a couple of days to get back into it. You might find you’ve improved (weird I know).


A lot of nothing has happened by way of regression. Please don’t worry about it. It’s good to take a short break sometimes. Like Hellion said, you might actually notice some improvement.


Well, I’ll say this. I’ve been learning Chinese almost 2 years and 8 months without a break. Everyday doing something in the language and I’m pretty sure it would be very difficult to forget the language at this point.

I sometimes meet people and they say they used to know such and such language but they forgot it. I find that hard to believe. Once you spend so much time with a language I’m not sure how you could forget it completely. Yeah, maybe you will forget a word or two but the whole language? How is that possible? In order to learn a language one had to drill it in their minds so hard that it can not simply be forgotten. It’s like if I were to move to China and forget English. Impossible I say.

Anyways, my guess is if you put in atleast a year of real effort, you will never forget the basics. Yea maybe you will be rusty but you gotta get hit in the head pretty hard to forget it completely.


I agree.

As an unrelated aside, I think “Wing Fat” is a great Chinese name.

“In the 4th Century, Emperor Wing Fat So conquered the hinterlands and invented fireworks…”

I so wanted to write something along these lines, but I’m so glad someone did 7 hours ago. lol!


I really just jacked the name off a building in Chinatown that says “wing fat mansion” on it. The characters are 永發 yǒng fā pronounced wing fat in Cantonese. It’s apparently a pretty common name, and I have seen it on multiple stores etc.

I think it’s some kind of meaning of “forever rich” being that fat is a part of the word 發財 which means “get rich” haha

After every break you have to repeat something very simple, and you’ll be able very soon to return to your former level and go ahead again.

As others have said, I think ‘language decay’ depends on how long you studied the language, how deeply immersed you were in it, and what level you reached.

I can’t imagine that a break of just one week would ever be a problem. Perhaps there could be an extreme scenario where it would be? If you have been studying German for literally only two days, having started from absolute zero, and then take a week off; well, under those circumstances a break for a week might possibly put you back slightly? But even then, if you were heavily immersed (perhaps Michel Thomas style) for those two days, then I doubt whether a week off would make much difference.

Assuming one has engaged with a language in a serious way for a significant period of time, language decay is something that happens over years - or at least over many months. Moreover it isn’t the case that passive understanding (i.e. reading and listening) decays at anything like the same rate as ones active ability (i.e. speaking and writing.)

Based on my experience with Italian I would say it is fluency in speaking which decays at the fastest rate - followed a little less quickly by the ability to write.

Reading and listening do decay - but at a vastly slower rate. I was listening to some Italian a while ago - practically the first time in about a decade that I had done so in any serious way - and I was amazed at how little my listening comprehension had declined. There were a few words which I recognised yet no longer knew. But I would fancy my chances of re-learning those very quickly if I got back into Italian in a sustained way. Re-learning a word is, in fact, very much easier than first-learning.

My advice: go take that week long vacation and cheerfully forget that German even exists.

But be sure to get up good and early and leave your towel on the sunbed by the hotel’s pool! Carling Black Label sunbeds - YouTube :smiley:

(EDIT: Cuts both ways, this Carling Black Label malarkey: Carling Black Label - Dam busters - German soldier saves bouncing bombs - YouTube )

Definitely agree with this. I have also taken months off from French and after 2-3 days of reading and listening it all comes back and you feel like where you were when you left off. I think when you expose yourself to the language using more natural methods, you absorb the language and so it becomes a part of you.

I lived in Russia for six months and went from A0-B1 (attested). I then went to China to work for a year and barely did much of anything with Russian. I came back to Russia a month ago. I honestly felt right away that I was off to the races already. The lengthy break helped me to look at the language from a fresh perspective. It took me a couple days to relearn how to do basic things, then the gaps filled themselves in and now I can do more than ever in Russian.

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Sometimes it’s a positive thing to let things sink in for a moment. A week is not going to cause any terrible regression, you should be able to refresh your memory in a day or two.

I doubt a week will give you much regression. Possibly will make you fresh and ready to hit the language harder. Also the feeling that you’ve been lazy for the whole week can be motivation in itself.

Currently I’ve set myself one hour for both Chinese and French a day. Feel bad when I miss a day or two but I’ve found this is a regular occurrence. Has made me think of there is some learning bio-rhythm at play here. As such maybe we should embrace the down time more.

I think active fluency can be lost quicker. German was my stronger language up to the age of seven. Wouldn’t bother trying to speak it now, the words just don’t come to the tongue. I understand still but there’s a huge difference to what a seven year old can do in a language compared to an adult. I remember in primary school being given instructions by the teacher and not having a clue what she wanted us to do. Quite common I think.

My guess is that a lot of people who say they’ve forgot a language they spoke as a child actually just outgrow it with another language. They probably never acquired much of the language vocabulary needed as an adult.

If you worry that much than why even take a break?

Because sometimes there is just no time to sit and learn a language, or simply no will to do so and some recharging is necessary.

“forever prosperous”

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