Relearning a lost language
Thread poster: Ivars Barzdevics

Ivars Barzdevics  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:12
English to Spanish
Sep 15, 2009

Hello all,

I was wondering if anyone out there has been in a similar situation and could answer my question.
I speak both English and Spanish fluently (American dad, Spanish mom). Although my first language used to be English, I lived in the States for about nine years during my childhood, I now feel more comfortable speaking Spanish (I have lived in Spain for over 30 years now), and I also know a little French which I studied at the university. But my question is regarding a language a have totally lost: German. When I was 3 and 4 years old I lived in Germany, and, according to my mother, I spoke German wonderfully (Yes, my mom tends to exaggerate a bit about my skills). However, I never spoke it again and now I don't know a single word.
So my question is: Would it be easier for me to learn German again?

Any help would be highly appreciated.


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Sara Senft  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:12
Spanish to English
+ ...
It might be easier Sep 15, 2009

It's entirely possible that you will have an easier time learning German again. The fact that you picked it up when you were a child works in your favor because it happened when your brain was in prime shape to learn languages.

If you are serious about it, go for it!


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:12
English to Spanish
+ ...
Maybe not easier Sep 15, 2009

Maybe it would not be easier, but it can surely be done, plus the fact that you did once speak German should be an added incentive. What one knows at age 4 is of course not much, especially if it has later been forgotten. But I have known people who have relearned languages lost in childhood. They have to relearn them as a foreign language but they have been successful.

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Vitals  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 06:12
Member (2008)
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
Some linguists... Sep 15, 2009

Some linguists claim that until about 6 years old a child can learn a language, but if it doesn't practice it, it's completely gone from the mind. They call it something like a Border, of a Limit (forgot the name). I know people like you with a "lost" language, who never regained it. A similar thing can happen to people with brain damage...

Secondly, age matters... A young brain (up till 20-25 y.o.) absorbs the language easily, but if it is learned later...

I don't want to sound pessimistic, but I think you should start learning it from scratch, expecting some difficulties.

Your advantage is your English, which usu. serves as a great base for Deutsch.

Immersion would be the best choice of language learning, with exposure to native speakers of German all day long and without exposure to other native languages of yours.

PS: I teach in university only because I believe they have the best candidates for language learning - students (18-23 y.o.).


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Ali Bayraktar  Identity Verified
Turkey
Member (2007)
English to Turkish
+ ...
It will be very easy Sep 15, 2009

You already know English and Spanish. And a bit French.
That means you already know the basics.
Just replace the German grammar with one of the languages you know.

I don't think your experience with German when you were 3-4 years old would help you.
Because a child at 3-4 ages is not able to go inside a foreign language in details. He/she can speak only simple words such as "I want to play, eat go etc."

Even if I can't speak German at all I can say the same sentences now

I think, in written language you may develop a 99% understanding within 5-6 months (Of course with dictionaries and other sources), but (active)speaking abilities will take very long time.

Which side do you exactly want to develop written language or speaking language?


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Derek Gill Franßen  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:12
German to English
+ ...
Go for it! Sep 16, 2009

Henry Hinds wrote:
Maybe it would not be easier, but it can surely be done, plus the fact that you did once speak German should be an added incentive. What one knows at age 4 is of course not much, especially if it has later been forgotten. But I have known people who have relearned languages lost in childhood. They have to relearn them as a foreign language but they have been successful.


I tend to agree with Henry. Having been exposed to German at a young age is indeed an added incentive to (re-)learn it now.

My situation is similar in a way. I was born in Germany to American parents. I also spent some time in Germany at around age four. My mom also says I was able to speak German at that time (I attended some sort of Kindergarten). But, after moving back to the States, I forgot all but perhaps two words.

It was, however, that part of my personal history that later gave me the incentive to study German in college, then come to Germany, and eventually become a German attorney.

I can't really say whether learning German was easier for me, since I don't really have anything apart from my own experience to compare it to. But it didn't seem particularly difficult, especially since I really wanted to learn it--if for nothing else than to understand my German wife.




[Edited at 2009-09-16 11:12 GMT]


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