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July 31, 2014

Learning And Forgetting A Language

I know many people who have left their native country and language behind and established themselves...

...in another language and culture.

How much of their native language do you think they retain?

Not as much as they think they do.

It turns out that language, even the language we learned at home, is a lot like anything else; we forget it if we don't use it.

Learning a new language, at least to some degree, 'pushes out' the first language.

At one level this makes sense. We don't retain everything after all. But wouldn't you think that language, more than anything else, would stay?

Here's an article that explores one person's experience gaining - and then losing - her native language - http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/07/learning-forgetting-and-remembering-your-first-language/374906/.

What I thought was odd was that she seemed convinced, at least at first, that her language skills in her original language were as good as ever.

I know people who speak more than one language, but they make a point of using each of their languages on a regular basis so they don't forget.

Anyone have an experience like this?


Also, Morf just might be available to visit your school or agency this coming September. You can contact him at mmorf@mail.com. He's always interested in talking about words, films, music and American culture in general.

Posted by mmorf at July 31, 2014 12:58 AM


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