Saturday, 27 August 2011

Maintaining Languages

Languages, like any other skill follow the principle of snooze you lose. If you don't use them, your ability to use the language deteriorates over time. I have noticed this, and have become aware of it, and really want to do something about it. For me, it's even worse - though not uncommon - that it's happened to my native language. Oh I can still speak, read and write Gujarati, but when I used to use it in daily life my knowledge of the language was advance. But now that my life is lived almost exclusively in English, with the exception of few conversations or letters exchanged with family members, it's very hard to stay in touch with the language.

And even with the languages one constantly uses, there is always more to learn. Therefore, I've decided to make maintaining my languages part of my regular life. Routines and schedules may sound boring to you spontaneous people, but they are the best things I've found for steady progress in anything, and to create and sustain habits. So routines and schedules is what I'm going to be aiming for.

First thing to decide is HOW to maintain the languages, and WHAT do I need to do for each one.

Increase Vocabulary. As I live and breathe English, and I read A LOT, and write in English, I don't need to do much active work with it. But increasing vocabulary ACTIVELY will be a good thing.

Read. Write.

Read more Gujarati books. This is how I developed my skills in the first place, so it makes sense to maintain it. I've books in Gujarati, and it's not too difficult to buy more when I need them. Plus there are always online sources available.

My family and friends love my letters, so that's a good reason to keep writing. But what I want to do is make a conscious effort to write some of my journal entries in Gujarati. Currently, I end up writing occasional entry in another language, but majority of my journals are in English. Because I'm always thinking in English, so it's the speediest way to write my journals. I need to retrain my brain, because once upon a time I used to be able to write journals in Gujarati. Not only that, but I used to write poems and stories, and create instant poems in poem wars. So ability is there...but will need to work hard to regain it.

Read more - this never hurts.

Practice Writing. I haven't used much of Hindi script for a long time, so in this language, this is my biggest weakness. And again, as with Gujarati, I'm going to try and incorporate this into my journal writing.

As I learn more Spanish, I also intend to make this part of my journaling. And again read more books, and another thing to do is type or copy Spanish books. I find that helps a lot with a new language. Typing an actual book makes you aware of sentence structure, new words, and the flow of language. Whether or not I understand, it would give me a better feel for the language architecture.

So that's it for me. What about you? Do you try to maintain your language skills, even if it is your native language? 


  1. Amazing. So you know 4 languages and intend to write journals in all of them... Wish you all the best.

  2. WOW! You rock! I want to learn Spanish, I had a class in college, but didn't do well... I need to increase my English vocabulary for sure!

    Great blog, Dolly!!!

  3. Atit,

    Well, Spanish is a works-in-progress, but hopefully by end of the year I can say that I "know" it. Journaling is one of the best ways I have found to improve at anything.

  4. Erica,

    Thanks :-)I think in school/college, most of us don't really appreciate the importance of what we are learning so I'm sure you are not the only one. I wish I had taken more language classes, but never mind...carrying on now!

    Here is an interesting English word I learned the other day - Uxoricide