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Changing mindset in a language

Disclaimer: This refers to my German, but it can apply to any language you're learning.

So school's started. My focus on German has been slim to none.

I was in Spanish and I got this weird urge . . . I've forgotten a lot of German in the past two days.

Seems weird, but it almost feels like the words have left my mind. But whenever I need them on Duolingo or some other website, they're right there.

Does this mean I'm fluent in what I already know or is it just another phase of the journey to fluency?

September 9, 2017



Many bilingual speakers do this thing called "code switching". My parents can't speak Spanish, some of my other family can. If I'm listening to a Spanish song in the car and then my mom asks me something, sometimes I will pause my music and respond back in Spanish even though she doesn't understand it. This can keep happening even 10 minutes after I stopped listening to the song. My brain is adjusting back to English. I would say this happens to you in Spanish class because your brain is focused in on Spanish, so German is less of a priority. If you know the words on Duolingo, it's likely you just need to be in the situation where your brain is forced to recall them.


But it happens a lot more. And it's harder to think in German than it was . . . say a week ago.


Hmmm that's interesting. I don't know how you study your languages at home, but maybe you could put some more time into using German. It might just be stress related from starting school back again, or it could be that you're spending more time on certain languages than you are in German. It's good to have a mix I think. If you don't have a lot of time in each day, you could try something like working on different languages on different days instead of trying to study all of them each day (but it wouldn't hurt if you spent five or ten minutes on your other languages on a Spanish day if you had the time). I wish I could help but I'm not sure if I have the answers for you. Hope someone does, though. :)


I'll try it. Just I don't have really any time during the week between soccer and homework. Three honors classes really is hard :/


Definitely hard in my experience as well (I also played soccer!). My last year of high school was very busy and I didn't have much time to study languages because I was actually graduating school a year early. I had to take college classes at a local campus as well as normal classes at my high school. It was worth it for me because I was able to go straight into my college degree's core because I had already completed all of my general education requirements (except for natural science, so I'm taking an intro to astronomy class).


This sort of used to happen to me when I took high school French classes; sometimes, there would be basic rules and words that I would forget whenever I did a warm-up in class. However, it was different when I did Memrise or Duolingo. The words came easily to me... I didn't have to think about them. It seemed natural. I'm a bit more forgetful now because I have been a bit sleep deprived lately... I blame college for that. So, that usually doesn't happen to me anymore and the level of French I know outside of Duolingo is basically balanced with how much I know within Duolingo, or another language learning website.

I assume it's just a fluency phase and you should be excited about that. Of course, I don't know what it means for sure, but I think you should view this as a form of advancement!


Try much more English->German typing/recalling, at least single words.

Memrises blue watering buttons are IMHO much better than DuoLingo's skill 1-3 strength view.
It is more transparent what they expect you to do daily and how many words.
And if you can't type the German words or you make errors, you will be forced to review this "missed" (weak, difficult, etc.) word in a short-term 4/12h interval again...good!

On DuoLingo you never know what words of 7 x 10 = ~70 words / skill will be brought up in 1-x strengthen excercises from that skill.

DuoLingo supports RECALLING only with the reverse courses - and Camilo's user script "DuoLingo tree enhancer" and by turning speaker OFF in your settings.
What you do with the forward course is testing on remembering (reading), not reacalling.
You are probably already aware of this fact, with your English/US level 14 language flag.
Do you review words/phrases by typing (recalling) in the L2 target language on Memrise (web) with Cooljingle's "all typing" user script?

If you are just into the mobile apps and lot's of tapping (with word bricks) I think it is quite normal that you forget a lot of stuff (you can't RECALL) but you remember those words which you want to click on as soon as you use those apps again.

Well, I had already read on other blogs that learners were only able to use the learned vocabulary within the apps like Memrise or DuoLingo....but that the vocabulary was not available "outside", when they wanted to use it actively in real life (e.g chatting, talking) :-)

For reviews I strongly suggest to use DuoLingo's web, instead of the mobile apps.

It sounds it may get (even more) worse that you can't reserve enough time for your German because of school.

I would try at least every 1-2 weeks to get down my Memrise review backlog(s).
Cooljingle has another user script, where it pushes the word further back in the next default spaced repeption (SR) interval, if you had known that word/phrase out of "standard" review interval.
This tremendously helps me to review finished courses which reviewing I had to pause for a while, e.g 1-2 weeks, 4+ weeks (it would be probably more easier to motivate with using only multiple-choice and speed reviews).

You can review about 100 single words in about 12-30min; offical Memrise 1-7 courses (with longer sentences) may take you up to ~45 min with full L2 German typing.

Sorry, can't specifically help further with the Spanish - German intermix.


To add to the other excellent comments here:

I find talking to myself, or my cats, or inanimate objects in the language in question helps a lot. Sounds daft, but we all talk to ourselves - inside our head mostly. Doing this tells your brain that the language is an every day thing not a classroom/computer thing.,

I practised commands by telling my cats in Welsh to do various things!

If you're on your own in the car, you can have full conversations.....LOL


Hi Bob, are you at a place where you can take the Spanish for German speakers, or the German for Spanish speaker's tree? It might help you practice both simultaneously.

Also, some memory fluctuation is normal from the many accounts I've read here in the forums, even for people who are studying a language every day. Some days, it just gets hard to recall. Some of them take breaks by just doing the minimum those days, and others push through. Different approaches have worked for different people.

Good luck with everything!

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