Forget languages?

Herman   Wednesday, October 13, 2004, 05:54 GMT
Hi, is it possible to forget a language? I'm pretty sure that you could forget a second or third language but what about your native language? If you think it is possible how long do you think it would take considering you don't hear one word in that language ever. And also one would probably pick it up again quite easily even if they did forget it, wouldn't they.
abc   Wednesday, October 13, 2004, 06:47 GMT
I knew a German exchange student who was having trouble understanding her parents across the phone, ie needing them to repeat a lot. Thats not exactly forgetting but hey its a start!
Damian   Wednesday, October 13, 2004, 07:37 GMT
I don't believe it's possible to forget your own native tongue, even after being stranded on a remote Pacific islet for years and years and years and years waiting for rescue. Well, not completely may stumble over a few off phrases when you return to civilisation and vow never, ever to listen to Desert Island Discs again.
Damian   Wednesday, October 13, 2004, 07:38 GMT
few off phrases = few odd phrases
nic   Wednesday, October 13, 2004, 07:50 GMT

It is, i am french and i met a french woman who was established in England since 40 years, no french family relations, no trip to France...
You can believe me, when i spoke to her, she responded to me in a anglo-french language, she made mystakes a french never use to do.
nic   Wednesday, October 13, 2004, 08:04 GMT
I think if you left your own native country you can encounter a few problems, especially if you use another language. I ahve been one year in an american uniiversity. When i came back to France i had sometimes a few problems.

agerman friend told me in german you can combinate some words in 1 word, she's in France since 10 years. She told me, every time she is in Germany, she combinates sometimes german and french words together.
So she did not forget her native language but she has sometimes difficulties.

I think if you speak to languages, a native one and a second one for a long time, your brain has some difficulties sometimes to make a difference.

My son (my wife is scottish) and i am french is less than 3 years old, he makes a real difference between the 2 languages. Sometomes he mixes french and english. Example, he wanted to say to his mother "Mum, it's behind you" but he said "Mum, it's derriere you".

Language is a gymnastic, if you don't practice, you loose it.
Adam   Wednesday, October 13, 2004, 13:01 GMT
I'm fluent in French, having got an "A" for it when I studied it, but after a while, if I don't keep reading or speaking French, I start to forget bits of it.
vn23   Wednesday, October 13, 2004, 13:24 GMT
German was my mother's native language, but having not spoken it since she was 10, she can't remember it at all.

I've heard similar stories from friends who grew up in places like Hong Kong who could speak cantonese fluently as a child, but now don't remember it.
Mxsmanic   Wednesday, October 13, 2004, 14:37 GMT
You can forget whatever you can learn. I think the longer you study and practice something, the more you learn, and the more slowly you forget thereafter, but nothing is ever cast in concrete.
Tremmert   Wednesday, October 13, 2004, 15:03 GMT
Although I'd imagine that such people would be able to re-learn those languages much faster than somebody learning them from scratch?
abc   Thursday, October 14, 2004, 05:25 GMT
oh definately, it would be like opening an old photo album and all the memories would come flooding back to you are suffocate you.
Easterner   Thursday, October 14, 2004, 08:36 GMT
I would probably never forget my first language, even if I had to live in a foreign environment for decades - I guess I have used it too much for this to happen. But I have experienced "momentary lapses of memory" when I was at university and I used English intensively for my term papers, as well as reading in it and listening to it most of the day five times a week - it was almost like a native environment. I was simply more used to English diction, and I kept remembering English words all the time, even while speaking Hungarian.

However, with a foreign language, it can easily happen after a period of not using it that you have to re-learn some vocabulary, while I think you can never forget grammatical structures: once learnt, this becomes a skill like swimming or typing: you can get out of practice during the time of disuse, but then it come back as soon as you start using it. However, with vocabulary, "use it or lose" it is a rule, and pretty much with usage as well. This has been my experience with French.
Easterner   Thursday, October 14, 2004, 08:37 GMT
come => comes
nic   Thursday, October 14, 2004, 09:04 GMT
I think when you forget the use of a language, it comes back quickly if you need to reuse it.
Sanja   Thursday, October 14, 2004, 18:54 GMT
I think if you move to another country as a child and stop using your native language, you can forget it. But if you are older or you still use it with your parents etc. then you can't. Well you will probably lose some things with the time, but you won't forget it completely.