cue eye-rolling and people muttering 'how long is a piece of string'
bear with me though - I'm just curious as to how other people approach maintaining their non-native languages. How long do you spend, how frequently, and what do you focus on? Acquiring new vocabulary? Brushing up on rusty grammar? And specific to interpreting - do you practice sim more than cons? Thanks!
asked 12 Mar '16, 08:48
It's a blurred line between active maintenance, living your life abroad, and working as an interpreter - all of which contribute to maintaining your languages. But he's a rough idea of my week...
I have FR DE and PL as C languages. I live in France so I get plenty of all sorts of French - wife, TV, papers, life in general. It's difficult to put a figure on that in hours, but it's a few a week!
Whatever figure you come up with for 'hours per week', you have to be able to maintain that rhythm for years, not weeks. I see now that it's the constant repetition of subject matter, language, and information over the years that has been most useful, not the fact of having read about something once ever. That repetition is only possible with massive quantities of language going in, and that in turn is only possible over years and years.
To keep all that up I think you have to be doing stuff you enjoy. So find anything you enjoy in a foreign language and spend time on that. Or teach yourself to be curious about all sorts of stuff and start enjoying new stuff. (I used to read specialist magazines (aviation, potholing, finance, law etc) in Polish and German and developed interests in some unlikely technical areas!)
For a nice explanation of why we forget stuff and why we should keep working on our languages have a look at Gile's Gravitational Model of Language Acquisition.
answered 13 Mar '16, 05:14
One quick addition to Andy's excellent answer is that we don't always live in the country of our A language, and we need to maintain that one as well.
As someone from the US and much more exposed to British English here, I make a point of knowing where pronunciations (capillary, respiratory, controversy, Peshawar, etc.) and usage (to table a document, to be sick vs ill, "quite" as a modifier, pavement - which caused 30 minutes of incomprehension in a meeting, etc.) differ. I make sure to watch US news programs as well as listen to the BBC, and also keep up with the different news each covers as well.
answered 15 Mar '16, 09:11