You study abroad, you learn a language and you promise to yourself and all the friends you met that you will keep the language up when you get home. You look up when the local language exchanges are and start thinking who you know in your city that speaks Spanish/Chinese/French etc…but in reality
It’s REALLY HARD to keep up a language when you’re not surrounded by it 24 hours a day.
When I left China I sent lots of Chinese books and magazines home, I subscribed to lots of Wechat accounts that regularly post in Chinese and said to myself that I would maintain my Chinese blog, to keep up my essay writing. Have I?
Keeping up a language is probably harder than learning a language in the first place…even though you know the language, can get by and communicate with people in that language, when you leave that country, it’s hard to even have the same conversations.
For example a common conversation in China would be when the Didi driver called to ask where I was. This meant I got good at giving directions, explaining which road to turn down and learning the names of roads, supermarkets and schools to guide the driver and tell him where I was (even though I would always be at the spot I selected on the map and he has the map on his phone in front of him).
Switch back to living in the UK, and if I go to a language exchange, directions will probably never come up in conversation, and I’ll never say 你到底在哪儿？ (where exactly are you?) in the same way again. So that vocabulary will gradually disappear and get pushed to the back of my mind.
I have read some wechat articles, and have posted one new blog post since coming back, but it’s not enough and I really feel I should be investing more time in my language skills, both Spanish AND Chinese.
How do you maintain your level of language when you’re not living in that language environment?