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Never FORGET A Language You've learned (I've learned this the HARD way)

I'm trying to make this post easy to read (this long post) by avoiding extra long paragraphs

Today, I purposely managed to complete half of my German language tasks (among them are reading the news in German, writing essays) to reflect what I have done a huge mistake in my life.

Yes, I guess you have probably read the title, and this post is not a type of a streak-celebration post or even what I have achieved in German, but a very big regret of not 'taking care' of a language I have learnt in my lifeand also an advice.

First of all, I'm going to share a piece of journey of my life to you. When I was a baby or a kid, my parents taught me English as my first language. Second goes to Indonesian. Next is Chinese and the fourth is German. These 4 languages (especially Chinese and German) have been through an extremely rough journey. If you guys wonder, I am Indonesian with Chinese roots.

During 6 years of primary school, Chinese and English were intensively taught at my school, whereas German only lasts for less than 2 years. So, you can guess how smart I am in Chinese (note: I was lazy learning German back then when I was 6-9 years old and I was lazy and struggling to learn Chinese because it is hard). As a result, however, I somehow to be able to speak and understand Chinese texts.

Time flies, I am now in senior high school and going to be 17 this year.

In 2013, I've changed school. I really didn't consider to continue the progress to learn Chinese. Instead, I just gave myself up to my Chinese teacher in my new school (it is much easier and even the tests too). But that doesn't mean my Chinese skills are getting way better. Instead, My Chinese skills are sinking down in the first 3 years during junior high school. Again, I didn't care.

By the time you clicked this post, I have been studying German for approx. 594 days. I started learning it again at May 2016. Nearly 7 years of not learning German. But my Chinese skills are now like an 'endangered species'. I will probably be forgetting all the Wortschatz I've learned during my whole life even I can still speak some simple sentences. This is much worse than losing a streak for me. And the worst, I have realized that problem at this moment of time and my Chinese skills are 100%going to extinct from my brain if I don't take care of it.

So I decided to pause my German progress just for today to reconfigure my language-learning schedule. I will learn Chinese using Duolingo starting on Wednesday as soon as my English for German speakers’ tree are all gold.

I've tried searching through the storage in my house for old used Chinese textbooks during primary school. Unfortunately, all the Chinese textbooks were donated by my mom and they were nowhere to be seen again. What is left are a bunch of Chinese flashcards from primary school. At this moment, I am really speechless because I feel desperately and extremely sad simultaneously.

I am jealous of my friends who were at primary school because by now, they can be able to speak Chinese fluently (unlike me). A Freundin of mine in Goethe Institut, Indonesia, is a Chinese native speaker and I am jealous of her even though my German skills are way better than him (we’ve been seeing each other for a year now). I could have been fluent in Chinese as her if I took care of it well by learning it intensively every day. It looks like I was so stupid back then.

So, you read my regret, so please don't even dare to try the same thing as I did before. Otherwise, you'll end up like me.

You all really shouldn't be giving lingots to this post since this not even close to a celebration post and there is no way you can be happy because of losing a language. Besides, I have plenty of lingots already. I am truly feeling upset today. What you guys should is to UPVOTE this to let the whole Duolingo users recognize my message. I hope I'm not only the person who has done what I did.

guo li sheng dschäson jason

January 15, 2018



This is why I think I will have to limit myself to 2 foreign languages. I simply don't have time to maintain more than that. It would be easier, I think, for a person who lives where different languages are spoken regularly, or for someone in the tourism industry or other international business. But for me there is only English around me.

Maybe one day when I am retired and have a lot of free time I might manage as many as four foreign languages (I'd like to add Czech and Korean to my Spanish and French) but that would be a struggle, and I don't ever see myself taking on more than that.

The good news is that forgotten/neglected languages come back much more quickly than learning a new language with no prior knowledge. I did that with Spanish, and it came back very fast.


I agree to your last paragraph. I do believe that it is much easier. But still, it still takes a pretty huge effort to remember all of the lost again.


I definitely agree with you and Lrtward on this one.

I don't know if you're the same as me, but I think my perceptions of how much I've forgotten/how bad language X is now is somewhat influenced by how good it once was. For a long time I regretted how much French and Russian I'd lost, and frankly I have forgotten a lot... but I compare it to fluency for Russian and a reasonably high level for French. If I compare it to people who are just learning or someone who learned in school but not for as long, I realise that actually, I know quite a lot.

It's frustrating to realise how much you've lost, but (although it may not feel like it) you probably remember more than you realise.


Even with all these languages, I'm only fluent in a few. ;)


I totally agree with your first comment! I rather ambitiously want to reach a high level in 4 languages other than my 2 native ones, however I am surrounded by speakers of those languages (Spanish, Italian, French) because I live in a very very multicultural city and my mother speaks Russian. I even live with speakers of some of those languages (Spanish and Italian). If it weren't for that, I wouldn't realistically be able to achieve my goal or "maintain" what I learn.


They say if you don't use it, you lose it. And that's happened to my Spanish. But some of the problem may very well be that there's very little outlet to use a language. That's why my Spanish got rusty after high school, improved with consistent use of DuoLingo, but isn't doing so well right now as I don't have a lot of time to put into it. Fortunately, I regularly meet Spanish-speakers through my job. Strangely, I have a few customers who came here from Germany, and some Australians; but that's pretty much it. 99% of people I meet speak English.

Even so, I'd rather learn a language and lose it than to not have learned it in the first place. Just knowing a language - even for a little is an enriching experience.


Nothing to add other then Elim is one of my favorite Trek characters right up there with Quark, also sci-fyi kind of sucks lately. The Expanse is decent but that's about it.


This is why when I graduated from high school, I never stopped learning French (I had started learning the language there). I did not want to forget what I learned and from then on, I have continued my French studies. I don't think I plan on abandoning the language any time soon. ^ ^

But, at least you had the advantage of learning (or being exposed to) multiple languages at a young age, even though your Chinese skills diminished. Some people never even get the chance to hear languages other than their native. I wish I had learned French at a young age, but I'm learning it now, so I guess it hardly matter at this point.

Also, you should feel happy about inspiring others to keep at it with their language learning. And for that, I think this post deserves a lingot. Have to find the good in everything. Plus, you learned from that experience, which is the most important thing. ^ ^


I can relate to losing a language. I'm native spanish and native english, but living in the US, english is my dominant language. My spanish used to be flawless, but now I struggle to form sentences or think of vocabulary sometimes, and I feel like I'm picking up a small accent (that goes away if I speak a lot of spanish at a time, luckily). Unless I do something about it, it'll just keep getting worse. Now I try to have at least one spanish conversation a day (although I typically have more than one because my older family members only speak spanish) and I plan to start the spanish course on tinycards. One of my biggest fears is losing my native language. I find that to be one of the saddest things.


I relate to this a lot, especially Spanish. I've had struggles with it lately. However the problem is I really dislike Spanish. I don't know why, but I find it extremely boring and uninteresting. This is a problem since I cannot learn something I am uninterested in. In an ideal world where languages don't have power over another, I would gladly give up my proficiency in Spanish. Besides, I'd much rather learn my true heritage language, Quechua.


This is the main reason why I stopped learning French a few months ago--it was becoming too much of a burden, with learning Swedish and starting Esperanto. I'm studying Swedish and Esperanto simply because I love these languages--no one I know speaks them, and I don't exactly plan to travel to Sweden anytime soon. French is spoken by a few people where I live, and because I live fairly close to Canada, it would be useful to learn this language--but I don't really have a love for it. In fact, I minorly hate learning French because of its verb conjugations, different types and uses of tenses, etc.

At some point, when I'm proficient in Swedish and at a conversation level in Esperanto, I might start learning French and Spanish because of their usefulness. But besides those languages, I'm not sure if I can handle anything else. :)


You sound like my twin in mind. :D I'm also learning Swedish for no other reason than it being a beautiful language. I'm also more or less learning French, just because I feel like I have to. I live close to the French border, my dad is French, I have a French passport, but I don't like the language. I don't think it's as beautiful as a lot of people say it is, I hate the conjugation, even more so in writing, because spoken it's easier, since the endings sound alike and you could chase me with the subjunctive.


and you could chase me with the subjunctive.

Have a lingot for this! :D

I love the way Swedish sounds, and the Swedish course has really helped me! Out of curiosity, do you plan to learn other Scandinavian languages? Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish are fairly similar, but the Danish pronunciation is very tricky!


Lycka till med svenskan! Det är ett relativt enkelt språk, så det är ju alltid en välkommen fördel. :)


And when you've got Swedish nailed, you should be able to communicate with Norwegians and Danish as well :)


To speak Danish, don't forget to put a potato in your mouth. ;)


The three (Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish) are fairly similar, but I've tried Danish, and the pronunciation is very tricky!


Tack! Svenska är en honungssöt språk. :)


The "forgotten" language might still be there somewhere.

While I didn't grow up bilingually, I grew up with French around me, since I'm close to the border and my dad's from there. When I got older I went to a bilingual school and in time had half of my subjects in French. Sure, since the school was in Germany I sometimes got by answering the French questions in class in German, because like a lot of students, I sometimes chose the lazy way, but I still learned a lot and could speak and write French. Be it in actual French class about literature, or some years in physics or chemistry or history or philosophy or whatever.

I finished school over 10 years ago.
And I would never say I can speak French. Because I can't and it's been that way for years.

I can, however, understand (almost) everything, watch a movie, read a book. But I can't speak it, at all. So while I've forgotten a lot that understanding means it's still there. It's just passive instead of active.

And it's so immensely frustrating, every time I try to talk I have this "tip of the tongue" thing, I know I should know the words, but I don't. Everytime someone helps me out or I read the word I facepalm because of course it's that word. It happens with the easiest words. And even if I remember the word I don't know anything about the conjugation or tenses and feel especially stupid speaking since my pronunciation is native-like, because I grew up with little phrases and the sounds around me and with that I feel people expect me to speak better...

Worst thing is that I don't particularly like French. It's something I feel obliged to know and I don't. And because I get so frustrated with myself I lose motivation. Every once in a while I play with the Duo tree finding it too easy and too hard at the same time. It's weird. But if I'd put in the effort I'm sure it would be a lot easier than learning from scratch and might even happen relatively fast.

I'm sure you can refresh your Chinese skills a lot easier than if you just started learning, the words might still be in some corner of your brain just waiting for you to wake them up. :)


I also felt obliged to learn Chinese during primary. The tests were way harder (Besides, my scores were just average at it) than the ones today at school.

Now I feel angry and regretful to myself. Maybe, since I was a child, I didn't understand why you ought to learn languages and preserve your learned languages.

My dad ever showed me a video where an American who mentioned mentionned sth. about the Chinese language. He said that "You have to learn Chinese,whether you like it or not. This sentence shocked me because Chinese is (going to be) an international language like English in the future. So you know how I felt yesterday.

Anyway, should one stop intensively learning a language when you are already in the proficient user level (C1) and start learning a new language?


I did something similar with French and also regret it so much.

So basically my story is I just started learning french on duolingo in may of this year. I did it for about a month or two and stopped duolingo (and French in general) and only started to pick it back up 2 1/2 months later. In that time my french fluency plunged since I wasn't practicing at all.

But I do have a little French background because my mother speaks french and she would read me french books and occasionally speak to me in French. She would have some bilingual french and English books laying around the house that I would occasionally pick up and attempt to read.

But now since I'm a little older (I'm 13ish) I have been taking my french VERY seriously. I mean everyday I get almost 1,000XP (or more) and I read french children's books from my early childhood and read them. I write in french everyday as well as listen to the french news https://savoirs.rfi.fr/fr (sooo good!!) I would estimate about 5 hours a day at the least. I have so much free time and I never know what to do with it so I just do french. My mom plans on letting me skip French 1 and 2 and letting me take french 3 with the juniors when I start high school. The teachers will give a test to test out.

Anyways, good luck learning Chinese and German! I know my story isn't nearly as bad as yours but I thought I would share it anyways


for those that take French Here are some great resources:

https://savoirs.rfi.fr/fr (Best news channel ever!)

https://learn.lingvist.com/#guess (Amazing omg)

https://www.memrise.com/home/ (Prbly already know)

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_3_15?url=search-alias%3Daps=practice+makes+perfect+french=Practice+makes+%2Caps%2C757=10JBZNO3SNVWD (Best french workbooks ever!)


Salut, s'il vous plaît retirer votre âge de votre commentaire, ce n'est pas autorisé.

Désolé pour les erreurs dans mon phrase au dessus, j'ai utilisé Google Traduction.


C'est d'accord.

Je n'ai pas donné mon âge exact c'est une estimation pour montrer que je suis un utilisateur plus jeune.

aussi, google translate est ok mais il y a quelques erreurs et phrases gênantes.


So true! You are wise for realizing this so soon. I neglected my french learning for many years and had to go back to the basics. But don’t despair, I find that relearning something is much easier the second time, sometimes it is so frustrating to struggle with basic when I used to be almost fluent, but it is all coming back really quickly.


I have a similar experience with Russian.

When I graduated in engineering, I got job in a research team. The subject I worked on was dominated by the Russians. They were far ahead and all the most interesting scientific papers were published in Russian. So, I decided to learn Russian and went to a language school.

(For the young ones reading this, this happened during the "cold war", long before the fall of the Berlin wall and showing interest for the Russians at that time was somewhat suspicious)

It took me three years of efforts, Very demanding, but very fruitful. At the end, I could read the scientific papers and patents almost fluently. As a bonus, I could also speak a reasonable every day Russian.

Unfortunately, soon after I got a new job and never used Russian again.

Let's jumps 10, 20, and more years later... Times have changed, I wanted to visit St Petersbourg and decided to "refresh" my Russian beforehand. So I went to school again and was given an admission test. Guess what :

I could not even understand the questions of the admission test ! I could still read the cyrillic, catch one word here or there, but couldn't understand them, let alone write and answer !

I was so sad ! So many efforts reduced to nihil !

Of course, we now have many tools around : internet, podcasts, webTV, websites like DuoLingo, etc. But believe me, went you get older it's not "coming back" that easily. So keep the brain working and practice !


Unless you live a life as a translator or have some other jobs that forces you to use multiple languages maintaining a lot of languages becomes an impossible task.

For example in the U.S. you will speak english at 99.999% of jobs probably even fewer jobs then 1 in 100000 require another language. Spanish has some uses but only in some areas/cities. Not including native language, maintaining more then 3 languages past B1 would be a near full time job, it would sink a lot of free time.

Ill be happy with Spanish at C1 with one or two other language at B1 conversation level. These are 10 year+ goals. The only way I see having two languages at C1 + is Spanish and Portuguese because they are so close. Simply don't have the free time for more then that.


For example in the U.S. you will speak english at 99.999% of jobs probably even fewer jobs then 1 in 100000 require another language.

Well, try that in Europe and good luck !

My job is not "language oriented" but on a regular week, I often have to interact with my counterparts in French, English, Dutch, and sometimes German or Spanish !


Having to relearn a language is quite annoying. Thus I can absolutely understand your frustration.

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