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Polyglots: how do you maintain/use all those languages?

The ones that you have already learned. i would be interested in the answer.

September 30, 2017



The key to maintaining languages is to use them regularly or at least to expose yourself to them on a regular basis. I'd recommend reading. Pick something that's at your level and read a bit every day. This way you'll keep learning new vocabulary apart from practicing the language. Music is also something I use to practice understanding speech in the language. Check out the site site if you don't already know it. It's a good place to practice your oral comprehension skills while enjoying some nice songs. Also, speak the language whenever you can. Finding a language partner or just a friend who speaks the language and could practice with you would be ideal. Whatever you do, DON'T neglect a language you know. I did that with German while I was focusing on Portuguese and I really regret it. A year or so ago my level was around B1 (according to some online test) and now it's practically zero. Thankfully, I'm still able to somewhat understand German.


I read in Spanish, Arabic, and Portuguese. I watch movies. I write. I do flash cards for arabic. I use duolingo.

That is how I maintain the languages I have knowledge of.


I read (a good chunk of my library is books in other languages), listen to music and watch a lot of movies and shows. In fact I have a theory regarding that and my levels of proficiency in certain languages, in which you have to go step by step.

The first and most basic is listening to songs in the target language. Once you can understand the songs as well as you could in your native language, you move to the next step: Movies and tv series with subtitles, first in your language, after that in the target language (the subs I mean) , and next Movies and tv series without subtitles, and after that which is probably the most hardcore level, tv programmes in your target language (so far I’ve only managed that in English, German and Italian.)

And also, obviously, Internet, but going beyond sites like duolingo. For example, I love reading Wikipedia articles in my target languages)


What is interesting about what you say and that I have heard from a lot of language learners is that listening to song in other languages has been very helpful for them learning it. I think their is a combination of things, and I know more exposure is good, but I have never felt like the music has been really helpful.

I have typically preferred reading books phonetically out loud; I find that has a pretty high exposure/time ratio to a language, though I know the value of other resources paired with this. Just an observation that I haven't always found music a great tool for listening at the start of learning a new language; but interestingly, I started to really enjoy Spanish music after gaining a pretty high level in the language, and as I am learning and have a functional level of portuguese, Brazilian music is something that interests me.

Some thoughts.


And some interesting thoughts indeed!

Obviously what works for one person might not work for another. I forgot to add that as of general I only start with this method when I have at least a minimum basis for a language to work for me. Until then, what works actual wonders (for me again) is writing everything down by hand. It helps me remember the basic concepts and makes me feel more ready to tackle the method that I mentioned before.

Because if I don't have a basis then it is all gibberish. But well, of the first five languages of my list which are the ones that I am actually maintaining (the rest I'm learning from the very beginning), I do have it.


Yep. And whatever that basis is you say is, well, something. And yeah, I just haven't found music to be a key resource fully acknowledging I think exposure is good. Good to hear it works for you; its just interesting to hear it over and over again, and I think: yeah that doesn't really work for me.

Writing it down makes sense. I have heard and believe to an extent—at least for myself—handwritten notes are more helpful; like actually tangibly writing stuff down is a useful skill for remembering and putting out information. For example, restarted hebrew after like 10 years of not studying it on here. I can still read the script ok, amazingly. And when I switch to the keyboard to input answers I can put them in because I remember what letters are associated with what sounds. My plan going forward is to start writing some of the words, and more so the letters so I can improve my capacity and tangible retention in that regard. I had a friend in an arabic class too who was a heritage speaker and could text his parents in arabic because he could see all the script, but he was dreadfully slow writing. And I agree, and I think that writing and associating a different kind of physical action than typing is another good way to associate words and characters with the language. And like you said in the second sentence, it all depends.

What is your native language out of curiosity? Spanish, or english? Or both...or...


Good luck with your work remembering Hebrew! I myself I'm working on the path of remembering what I was taught of French in school (Duolingo is proving to be of great help in that matter) and it surprised me too how much I remembered.

My native language is Spanish (Castilian Spanish to be more precise). I've been learning English since I was six, so it's pretty much like a second native language to me (even though the extent of me staying in English speaking countries doesn't even sum up a week). I'm pretty proficient in German, Italian, French (better now that I remember most of the stuff) and Danish too but nowhere near the level of English.

And now, after this, I have to ask because you got me curious, what is yours?


Ah gracias. Yo sé castellano también :-). Thanks—its going to be tough. I find french difficult, though I may want to learn it in the future if I can have tangible places to utilize it (and also, not confusing with the other languages I am learning; portuguese at the moment).

Your english seems very, very good. I asked because it is your top language learned, and your profile also says you have completed courses from Spanish and English, which was different. Bien hecho con el progresso que has logrado con tus otras idiomas.

English. A year ago I spent 2 months in Austurias learning Spanish. I would say I am fluent now, but I have a lot of room for improvement. I know basic arabic—I spent a little of a year year learning it in my university, and was considering taking the 3rd year class. I know portuguese functionally, and I can read pretty well, I just need to work on talking and having actual reciprocal conversation. Me on duolingo, I have done most of the courses from Spanish because I just find that easier and more of a challenge. I have even started the french course from portuguese, which I think is kind of fun.

Estoy asumiendo que eres de España, cierto?


Ok claro, y gracias!


Well, Um, I got an email saying you responded, but now its not here? No sé qué pasó ?


What happened is that I wanted to edit and I accidentally ended up deleting the reply, so excuse me while I facepalm at myself.

Anyhow, as I said, tu español es muy bueno, al menos el escrito. You definitely put those two months to good use!


Most of mine are in a kind of hibernation. I rotate them out periodically between actively and passively studying them. I study French and Xhosa actively permanently (partly because they're a part of my university course, partly because they interest me most). To me, it is all about rotation, dedication, and balance.


Very cool you know Xhosa. I had a professor who used to know some a while ago when she lived in south africa. I think the clicks are very interesting. In one of my university classes where we learned about South Africa, there were some Xhosa words brought up in the class and it was very fun to say them. QwaQwa is one words that comes to mind, then some names of made up people from South Africa. Very cool you know some of the language.


I graduated from high school with almost a minor in French (I only had cultural classes left) I have not used it in 10 years and let me tell you I would be able to understand what I read ok but I could not form a sentence spoken to save my life.

Spanish on the other hand I learned solely from talking to people and I use it a couple times a week and do flash cards

Czech is something I use every day and probably the language I can do best in it is the language I am most immersed in media wise I read news watch tv and listen to music. I do flash cards as well and have conversational lessons once a week

German I do not use often and unfortunately have lost all skills but that which is needed to ask for directions and to read a menu in a restaurant. I don't use it so have lost much of it.

I have a few other languages I have dabbled in but am finding the more I focus on Czech the worse those languages are.


those are the things that will help most :)

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