25 May 2011

Forgetting a language

I enjoyed reading this blog post from Benny who is an expert on language acquisition and an inspiration to anyone who follows the polyglot trail.

I found myself nodding in agreement at several points. The languages that stick are the ones where you have emotional investment, that is why I have "forgotten" Norwegian, Italian and Welsh but so far, clung onto French and Spanish: they are the (only) languages that some of my friends speak. It’s obvious really, but for me seeing it written down made me realise it for the first time. So the message is clear, having got to conversational level I need to speak, read and think in English, French and Spanish every day, and all will be well.

1 comment to Forgetting a language

  • Josemaria

    I do think it’s important to learn more about other languages. In our school, we had required units in Spanish. There was a documentary I once saw, on I think, the Discovery Channel, stating learning more than two languages is actually beneficial to the brain. But at the same time, it’s also quite easy to be attached to a language which like you’ve pointed out, connected to you emotionally.

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Bill Ferguson
Bill Ferguson

Spanish Teaching Resources

Getting good quality teaching and resources

The information I am going to share is an honest account of what I have tried over the past year and my opinions are just that, opinions. I will share my likes and dislikes, what works for me and what doesn't. This is a personal experience, I am not an expert but if you share my ambition of learning to communicate in a third, foreign language, then maybe we can help each other along the way.

According to Friedrich Nietzsche: "One who speaks a foreign language just a little takes more pleasure in it than one who speaks it well. Enjoyment belongs to those who know things halfway."

I think he is right. Its hard to define halfway but I think the fun starts when you know enough of a language to be able to make yourself understood, given sufficient time to think. At this stage you are not merely tolerated but treated as an honoured guest in a foreign country. People see you bravely struggling to speak and understand, and give you credit for trying. They are nearly always kind and supportive.

Go beyond this to fluency and its like a toddler growing up, you are no longer cute and vulnerable. You are competing for resources, in the adolescence of language acquisition unless you have a definite role you are treated with suspicion. Maybe that is the stage to consider moving on to another new language ...

Getting good quality teaching and resources is vital to success: encouraged by an influential book by Harry Ferber I now view language acquisition as a military campaign, I need to use my resources efficiently to overcome all resistance, I need to capture vocabulary and not let it escape. I need to wear down the opposition by attacking daily and not allowing it time to regroup. I need to learn the predictable tricks that the new language will play on me and be ready for them (this means learning grammar). Like any military campaign good quality intelligence is vital.

Learning a Third Language

My current ambition is to be able to communicate comfortably in English, French and Spanish. I began to study Spanish in 2008. I have been a student of French, on and off, for about 30 years and up to last year ....read more

Strategic Planning

When I started to think about taking on a third language I realised I had two main worries: firstly I didn't want to lose my second language ...read more

Fear of Losing French

As I see it there is a simple choice ....read more