The loss of a language can be a very disheartening experience. All that time and energy that goes into learning a language only to have it slip away. There are some things like a few trained words or phrases you might remember if you really practiced them but most of it seems to slip away. The best way to prevent this is to use your language everyday even if it means having to talk to yourself in the morning or writing out words on a piece of paper. If being able to communicate in another language is important to you then you need to set the time to practice it just like exercise training or running a successful business there is always upkeep with any system.
I remember I took a year of ASL (American Sign Language) a language for the deaf during my first years in college so that I could communicate with one of my relatives. I was a mediocre student, but I did well for what little experience I had. I remember very well that the teacher did not know much about grammatical cases or more complex pedagogical models, but he did make us practice a great deal and since ASL requires a great deal of muscle training with all of the signs we needed to learn I still do remember a good deal of signs and how to produce them. That is the thing about learning a language you may know a great deal of words or ideas but if you can’t formulate those smaller bits into larger components like sentences and further onto paragraphs or even full papers you won’t get far in the long run. I really wish I had thought out why I wanted to learn ASL in the first place. The problem is that I studied a great deal, but most of the people who are deaf don’t live in my part of the state and so finding an actual person to communicate with besides my fellow peers was a real challenge since my relative lives in another state.
Other than ASL my work with Japanese has also been slow for similar reasons. It is hard to learn a language when there are no people around. It is even more difficult to work in a language when it uses a different script than your native language. It is no surprise that analysts put Japanese as one of the harder languages for English speakers to learn. I do keep up with my listening exercises by listening to Japanese media and I do remember how to write and read the kanji that I really practiced but a great deal of the words that I know are sort of in a limbo. I don’t know how to take those smaller pieces and turn them into complex thoughts.
I really think that the turning point for a language user is when they go from recipient to producer, passive to active. If we divide communication into four major parts: listening, speaking, reading and writing then listening and reading are the passive elements while speaking and writing are the active elements. When we focus on the active parts of language learning they tend to last longer since the brain has to spend more energy etching it into muscle patterns. I tend to do more listening and reading as it is part of my major and that is great and all and you can still do a lot of great things with just those skills, but it gets frustrating because you become dependent on others in order to do things rather than doing things for yourself which is probably one of the reasons why we learn another language in the first place.
Remembering another language can be difficult because it requires a lot of hypotheticals. In a world where we are constantly working in absolutes that we act upon things rather than discussing or formulating on them the transition from one form to another can be hard. One option is just to focus on two pairs of either active or passive something that I have covered in the past. When it comes to the internet reading and writing are going to be your biggest challenges because that is the mode in which we function. Sure if you want to visit YouTube or meet with friends on skype you are going to need to speak but you can get by pretty decently without being able to speak or listen to a single word. I am still divided between whether to learn to listen or speak last. I feel as though listening is probably the better choice because it means that you will be able to understand other people and respond appropriately even if you don’t know how to respond back you still recognize and are able to act without saying a word. In the end it is going to depend on what you need the language for. The biggest thing before going into learn a language as I have said before if you can’t find a reason to learn then you are going to quit when they hard times come because it won’t seem worth the effort. The rewards for success however are tremendous and that is why I try to develop a site like this to help provide support.
If you have any comments or suggestions for what you would like to see on this blog leave me a comment and I will get back to you as soon as possible. Thanks for reading!