It can be difficult to maintain fluency in the language that you have been brought up with. Particularly when you are not living in the country that you were born in and are surrounded by people that do not speak your language. For instance, I was born and raised in Germany until I was 12 but have been living in the UK for over 13 years now. In a way I would consider the UK to be my new home, however, I do still have a strong bond to Germany and try to use my language skills as much as I can. However, I have noticed that my German has definitely become rusty over the years. Living in the UK and being surrounded by mostly non- German speakers has not helped either. So, I asked myself, what could I have done and what can I do to maintain fluency in the language that I love so much?
The first thing we need to understand is that being bilingual is a blessing and huge advantage that is worth putting time and effort into. The benefits of bilingualism must not be underestimated, it not only allows us to communicate and share cultural awareness with wider group of people, but it also critical to our own sense of self-identity. In this regard it has been huge aspect of my life, and I now working for Euro London I can apply my language skills on a daily basis which I absolutely love. Maintaining fluency in your native language is particularly acute in this sense as it may be the one thing that will later on in life lead you to an opportunity that will shape your career.
The question that a majority of people ask themselves is how one can maintain fluency in their language? I personally think to maintain fluency and appreciation for your language, you need to demonstrate consistency. But how?
It will not come as a surprise, but consistent practice is key, using the language so it is always fresh in your mind. We always seem to find excuses,and I certainly did. I used to think it was impossible to use German because there was no one around me that spoke the language. But the truth is that you can always find ways to use your skills. Find native level speakers to meet in person via social networks, use specific platforms to find people to talk to by Skype, be friendlier and make more effort with tourists, join clubs and actively monitor your social circle and environment for opportunities to use the language. All of these are ways you can speak your language regularly.
Other actions that can be beneficial – listen to podcasts in the target language, read blogs or online news or an entire book in that language. Something that has really helped me personally was keeping in touch with friends by chatting to them on Facebook or writing emails. This was something that I really enjoyed, as it allowed me to keep building on personal relationships whilst improving my writing skills. I guess you can call it a ‘win win’ situation.
What it basically comes down to is as much exposure as possible and active usage of the language. If this does not happen, the language will deteriorate in your mind. Just because you knew it “once” does not mean you now own it forever; use it or lose it!
Written by Alvin Sarfo – Temporaries Consultant