Out of sheer curiosity:

What is the longest you have ever spent away from a language?

My longest break always tends to hit Russian, sometimes it is years. But whenever I come back to it, the progress is astonishing and the language seems to be getting easier.

8 years (Italian.)

I’m spending 1 year studying english alone without a teacher just using the lingQ method and definitely I’m fluent now.
Of course, english have a lot of words similar with portuguese and I think english more easy that german.

Now I’m motivated to learn german but is more difficult that english and I know that I’ll spend some years to learn german.

Hmmm … that’s good to hear SanneT. I was chatting with someone else recently, and he said the same thing, that it comes back easily. I’ve been reluctant to start a new language because I’m scared that I will forget all my Spanish, and I’m not at the level I want to be for Spanish yet.

I do not remember the exact source where I have read this exactly but if you have already reached high intermediate level in a language it does not matter how long a study gap you have in a language you are not going to forget it. You can always get back to it with some intense period of study even after a long haul. My dad studied Hindhi during his secondary school days before partition 1947 but after immigrating to Pakistan in 1950 he had lost the contact with Hindhi. However, whenever hindhi script or words appear on TV screen he can still guess their meaning correctly. That really amazes me.

So, yeah, never underestimate your brain’s capability.

Angela, my experience is the same as Sanne’s. If you start a new language you will improve in all your languages. When I leave a language for a while, it seems almost easier when I return to it.

Go for it!

Thanks everyone, I will go for it. :slight_smile:

Why is it, then, that I’ve heard of people losing a language? Do they just not spend the time on getting back up to speed? I’m not talking about a child moving away at a young age, I am talking about adults who study a language, then lose it.

@ aybee77 I believe that In order to lose a language you have to turn away from it: lose all interest, refuse to entertain it in your mind, be unwilling to speak it.

I like asad’s reference, very encouraging.

By the way, I had to smile: “I am not at the level I want to be…” If you continue with your Spanish at the rate you have up to now, you’ll be native in next to no time.

Rank’s 8 years is so far the highest ranking language pause. Even I can’t beat it. Did you have to dig very deep in order to get back into it?

aybee77 wrote:
“Why is it, then, that I’ve heard of people losing a language? Do they just not spend the time on getting back up to speed? I’m not talking about a child moving away at a young age, I am talking about adults who study a language, then lose it.”

I haven’t paid much attention to the classical Greek I studied for two semesters in 93/94 (nor do I have the intention to, at least in the near future). I don’t have a solid base in the language (based on the short and non-intensive study period) so for me, it’s only natural that I don’t remember that much of it nowadays. I can still read the Greek alphabet, though.

So, I was talking with someone Monday - Friday in Spanish for about 2 weeks, and my Spanish was feeling better, I felt more confident. I stopped talking with him for 2 weeks, and I am back to feeling like I am stumbling again. This doesn’t make me want to stop studying completely for awhile (although I will do it to start another language).

I think that it’s a matter of interest and time. One may be all interested in a language at one point, then it could drop away later on. One may get too busy to continue spending time with a language…or have too many languages to keep it up.

It’s something I can’t imagine happening to me, but I’m a rare freak of nature when it comes to languages. :slight_smile:

I learn English from 3 months now, I impressed to lingQ metod I like learn english and italian, is easy and simple to learn I am very happy to me learned

@Angela - If you can honestly sit there and watch Spanish news on TV, or listen to radio, and you can follow it, then you won’t lose it. If you’re not that comfortable with your ‘speaking level’, I don’t think it (your ability to speak) will magically improve during your break, but it won’t take long before it’s at the same level (and even better) than it was prior to the break.

I personally would not want speaking to be my first ‘study’ activity after a long break (unless I’m really fluent) because I might get discouraged. Start with listening and reading and re-entering that ‘world’. It might not all come back overnight, but the good thing is you’ll be back there within weeks, not months.

In terms of having breaks, I took a year off Spanish (before restarting again), and I’m now refreshing my French after about 8 months away from it. I’m sure there would have been times during my childhood/adolescence when I spoke very little Finnish for long periods of time, but it never disappeared.

I suspect those who ‘knew’ a language but ‘forgot’ it (as mentioned earlier) probably knew the grammar, but didn’t have very high levels in (listening) comprehension.

There have been cases of people loosing their first languages to a large extent after moving to a new culture for decades and immersing fully in it.

(How loose was it after all those decades? :P)

Completely ignoring a language for decades on end has that effect (I believe). A little bit of maintenance here and there will go a long way, though, and a briefish refresher period every so often should be enough to maintain an already decent level. I think Steve’s a good example of that. He learnt French and Chinese like 40 years ago, and hasn’t lived in French or Chinese speaking regions since (correct me if I’m wrong, Steve), but he has put in enough effort to maintain his abilities in those languages.

of course we are better at speaking when we speak a lot and we are a little rusty when we speak after a period of not speaking. However, as soon As we have a chanc eto speak a lot again , the language comes back, often stronger than before.

Peter, you are right, Imaintain the languages with books, audio books, LingQ and occasional speaking.

I also agree that it depends on our attitude.

@SanneT: “…Rank’s 8 years is so far the highest ranking language pause. Even I can’t beat it. Did you have to dig very deep in order to get back into it?”

It’s a very good question. Actually I’m not really sure whether I ever have managed to get right back into Italian - at least not back to the peak level I reached.

Even just one year or so after first losing contact to Italian, I noticed that I could no longer actively produce it in fluent speech or writing, but that I could still passively understand it at about the level I had - which was about B2 on the EU scale.

Therefore this active ability is where 95% of the ‘loss’ of my Italian has taken place. I used to be able to sit in a cafe or bar and have conversations in Italian - I can’t do that anymore. But I can still watch films and understand much of the soundtrack.

I sense (i.e. I can’t know for certain) that speaking would come back to me pretty quickly if I were completely immersed in the language.

If, for example, I awoke after a mental blackout and found myself locked inside Berlusconi’s villa with a bunga-bunga party in full swing, I reckon that I would, so to speak, enter into the spirit of things quite quickly! (Ma dai, Ruby, fammi un [-censored-]!! etc. :-0)

My take on the question of “how can one lose a language”:

  1. Like Peter said, perhaps the person did not learn the language properly. He just memorized some vocabulary and a few sentences. After a while, he forgets them and ‘loses’ the language. If we have spent time properly ‘exposed’ to the language, I don’t think we will loose it.

  2. Like Steve said, there will be an initial ‘rusted’ phase when you start picking up the language again. May be at this point you might find yourself ‘losing’ the language. But it will only take you a short time to pick it up again.

In fact, from my own experience and those of many other learners, very often when you get back to the language, you find yourself somewhat better than before.

@Rank: You better hurry up with your Berlusconi plans - who knows how long he’ll carry on partying.

I do find if I am not interested in a language, I block it out. As the others said where there is a solid base and interest, success will follow even after a long, long break.