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Questions for bilingualists and trilingualists. Does being able to speak more than one language ever make you forget your mother tongue?

Being able to speak more than one language is certainly an amazing thing.
You get to feel, think and even act like (once you thought of them as)foreigners(but feel like not anymore, it’s like you’re already being part of them).
And you can communicate with them more deeply without a translator’s help, which is the best part, I think.
But it sometimes gives you a headache unless you’re a genius.
Have you ever had the experience when you have a bit of a hard time speaking your mother tongue fluently because of other languages you recently take up learning? And you think, since you started learning different languages, your ability to speak ‘mother tongue’ somewhat declined than ever before? If so, what’s your coping mechanism, so to speak? Do you give up on a certain language, reminding yourself that being able to speak these languages is enough, this is too much for me? (My Spanish, exhibit A.lol
No, I can't give up on learning it really 'cause I love speaking it.)
Or do you spend more time to keep up with your fast growing ability to mimic foreign languages accents while practicing all the languages you can speak every day? How do you balance..?
I sincerely ask you to impart your wisdom here.

P.S. What's your special way to practice languages?

  • Jan 6 2014: :) Shukriya Liz, Hamein jaan kar khushi huye ki aap hindi seekhna chahti hain.

    Namaste=to greet someone with both the hands folded palm facing each other when we meet someone.

    Shukriya=Thank You. , Hamein=I,We , Jaan Kar= to know , Khusi huyi=pleased, ki = that,aap=you,seekhna=to learn,chahti=want, hai=be

    I am pleased to know that you want to learn hindi.

    Kaisi hain aap ? Kaisi = How,hain=are, aap=you. How are you ?
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    Dec 28 2013: I agree that learning languages needs 2 main factors to be successful: subjective and objective .
    The subjective side is one's attitude. If one studies a language with lots of interest, that's the best. But if not, then it requires the person to foster an positive attitude to work hard at it.

    The objective side is the speaking environment. If you can have more chances to practice the language with the native speakers, you'll learn faster. I don't think native speakers will mind your mistakes or babbling, I think they know you're a foreigner and when you speak their language, they'll feel it interesting sometimes. If you don't open your mouth, how can you learn from your mistakes when speaking?

    You're always so modest~! I've seen many Korean students writing good English here. Chinese spend so much time on English and many of them work in international companies.

    It's late at night. Good night~!:)
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      Dec 30 2013: I agree, practice as with so many other activities makes you better.
      Attitude is also important. It's much easier to learn something you are interested in in than something you are not. Another is incentive. For example, if I'd live in China, I'd have a big incentive to learn Chinese. Also if the knowledge of a particular language can help you in your career, that would be another incentive.
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        Jan 2 2014: Thank you for your feedback. "For example, if I'd live in China, I'd have a big incentive to learn Chinese. Also if the knowledge of a particular language can help you in your career, that would be another incentive. "I think your words smack-dab hit the point.
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    Dec 28 2013: I speak Minangnese, bahasa Indonesia, English, Korean, and intermediate Japanese. I used to learn German and Chinese as well, but I can't speak them anymore - obviously I'm just a language-geek, not a genius! :)

    I was living in Korea for five years, during which time I used English as my first language. And starting from that period, I think I'd been thinking in English as well. Unless when I'm thinking about very specific situation that is more suitable to the other languages I speak (I like to imagine scenes in my mind, and think of what I would say in various situation -- this has been one of the best way of learning languages for me as well). Even now after I return to Indonesia, I still mostly think in English because it's been most convenient for me, and I can express myself better in English rather than in Bahasa.

    Along with its reduced usage, I do find that my Bahasa skills are deteriorating, sometimes I come out with really odd sentences. I even forget words, sometimes. During conversation, I can rather easily deal with it by using English terms now and then. But it's a problem when I'm writing emails or letters in which inserting English terms doesn't seem appropriate. I'm not doing anything in particular about it though, I'm sure I'll regain my Bahasa skills again the more I used them. After all, that's how I became more proficient in Korean (yes, classes did teach me something, but using it daily was really what made the language an integral part of me).

    My special way of practicing languages: thinking in that language. I'm currently re-learning Japanese. I learned Japanese about 10 years ago in high school and pretty much forgot anything but the basics. It feels so sad that I can understand more than I can express, so I'm re-learning now. I imagine myself in various scenes, and set up lines as if I were practicing an interview or dialogue with someone in Japanese. I know... what a geek! :P
    • Dec 28 2013: Dear Dewi
      Hi,welcome to the club! Yes, you seem like a language geek.
      So am I(Except for the fact that you seem to be able to speak more languages than I am).
      It's really awesome to meet a person like you who has such an ingenius way of practicing languages.
      I also use that method as well.
      I try to think Chinese or English. And it works for me, I think.
      I tried to think Spanish once, but it failed because of lack of skill.
      I'm planning to start again anyway :)

      you've been in Korea! 만나서 반가워요~한국어 공부 어떻게 하셨나요?
      It's so amazing that you really enjoy learning languages.
      I love your passionate attitude.
      Think I'm already inspired by you.
      I should perk up lol

      Thank you for your lovely comment
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        Dec 28 2013: Hi Liz, it's always great to meet fellow language enthusiast :)

        Actually I also tried Spanish, I couldn't mention it though since what I did was enroll in a class and stop attending after the second meeting or so.. 아무래도 저한테 언어공부는 마음문제인 것 같아요. 스페인어는 부디 "UN에 사용하는 언어중에 하나 더 배웁시다!" 그렇게 시작했거든요.. 성공적인 언어공부는 그 나라의 언어와 문화에 사랑에 빠진뜻 배워야지 된 것 같아요. 머.. 사람마다 다르겠지만요... ^^

        한국어공부도 관심부터 시작해서, 한국에서 살다 보니 필요성도 많이 느껴지죠.. 그리고 일하면서도 많이 늘었던 것 같아요.. 이제 인도네시아에 돌아니 좀좀 까먹을까봐 좀 걱정이에요 ^^

        I skimmed through the sea of han zi on the comments below. I really admire non-native Chinese speakers, even more those who can write in it. Your case with Spanish was my case with Chinese. Good luck!
        • Jan 6 2014: You’re really good :)
          I admire non-native Korean speakers for I know it’s one of the most difficult language to get used to.
          And you’re quite modest.
          고려대학교를 나오셨네요^^ 한국에 있는 동안 제일 기억에 남는 일은 뭔지 말해줄 수 있나요?
          사진 속 얼굴을 보니 정말 낙천적인 분 같아요.저도 사실 웃을 때 님처럼 그렇게 활짝 웃곤 하는데,저보다 훨씬 웃는 얼굴이 예쁘신 것 같네요 ^^ ㅎㅎ
          우리 서로 열심히 공부해서 진정한 language geek이 되보자구요ㅋㅋㅋ
          만나서 정말 반가워요~! 앞으로도 테드에서 좋은 인연 만들어가자구요~~!!
          (well, obviously we’realready am.)
  • Dec 28 2013: I have a slightly different comment on the topic of how difficult to learn a different language after one lived many years under his/her native language. Since Chinese language has many dialects, I find that people from Shanghai around the middle eastern region have less difficulty in English pronunciation than those from, say, the northeast region such as Beijing or the City of Qinang (in 山东). It seems that they have hard time to say the letter S, but often say it as the sound of SH, etc.) By the way, the dialect, we originally called the Pekingese, which frequently includes the character 儿, is a little different from Mandarin, because officially it doesn't involve the same 儿anymore. (A joke: if you ask a Pekingese speaker to say the English word; "cat", he will say it like "cattle") :)).
    Now let's return to your original question. I wonder what will happen when a person from Beijing moved overseas to Europe or the North America, at a very young age. After he adapted to his new language completely, what will he sound like when he is taught his Chinese dialect again or remember the former language? Will he sound like a foreigner with his "foreign" accent, or he could still sound like a perfect Pekingese? My bet is probably some thing in between.
    A foot Note: (The reason I changed the M/F gender of the speaker is because you ladies are usually more adaptive in speaking languages than us males. So I tried not to hurt your feelings)
    • Dec 28 2013: Good point,bart.
      btw, no worries as to hurting my feelings. I'm not really concerned with whether people just mention male speaker or not.
      I rather use both gender when talking to others not to hurt their feelings :)Just to be clear.
      Anyways, I think, as you say, if a person happens to live in a country for a long time, he will definitely be influenced by the way the folks talk. And it'd be hard for him to change his accent once he gets accustomed to it.
      I have some Chinese friends from different parts of the mainland. Some speak their own peculiar dialects a lot(which I got used to now).
      I also noticed, just like you said, some Chinese have difficulty with pronouncing S sound.
      But it still does sound unique and somewhat attractive to me.

      just out of curiosity, can you teach me some funny slang that you used to hear a lot in your province?

      Thank you for your comment :)
      • Dec 29 2013: Elizabeth, I made up a list of Shanghai and Hong Kong dialect for your reference.
        英语 上海话(word-sound) 广东话(word-sound)
        Lucky/Fortunate 运气好 - yuen chi hao 好运 - hoo wun
        Happy 高兴,开心-kao shin, kai sin 得意 – tac yi
        How are you? 侬好(伐) – noon hao (vah) 你好吗–nei hoo (mah)
        Thanks 谢谢(侬) – zia zia (noon) 多谢 – tor tsei
        No problem 勿要客气-vu yao ka chi 唔客气 – mn ka hei
        Why? 为啥 - wei saa 点解 – dim kai
        What is it? 啥物事 – saa muc zz 乜[口野] – mac yeh
        What happened? 啥事体 – saa zz tee 乜[口野]事 - mac yeh zee
        Mother,father 妈妈,爸爸-ma ma, pa pa 老妈,老爸- lo mah,lo pah
        Older sibling 姊姊,哥哥- tsia tsia, gu gu 姊,大佬 - tsie, dai loh
        younger sibling 妹妹,弟弟-mei mei, di di 细妹,细佬- sei mui, sei loh
        Daughter,son 女儿,儿子-nu er, er tse 囡,仔 – nu, tsai
        Children 小囡 – siao nur 细佬哥 – sei loh go
        Words in [ ] are combine single word. In ( ) are optional words
        And a few Shanghai .slang are listed below:
        触霉头 unfortunate
        卷铺盖 dismissed/fired from business
        打落水狗 bullying people who are already down
        杀千刀 deserve to be killed by many knife stabs
        交桃花运 becomes attractive to girls
        死去活来 almost dies from physical beating or mental devastation
        马上来 will come instantly
        怠慢 lapse in hospitality
        好吃懒做 enjoy life without work
        红得发紫 extremely popular or famous.
        Hope you will make use of them on occasions.
        • Jan 6 2014: (Sorry, I’ve been unable to reply to any comments for a while..)
          You must be accustomed to using various expressions in different local provinces.
          Some of them seem quite familiar to me :)
          Thank you so much, bart!
          Those are indeed useful ones! (And so fascinating!)

          I will make use of them on occasions :)
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      Dec 28 2013: Hi, I agree with you a lot. Only one thing I want to clarify that "er-儿“ is still included in Mandarin.:)
      • Dec 30 2013: Yoka, thank you for your comment. I would like to discuss some relevant points about languages and answer your point in a way too.
        First, when one is interested in all kinds of languages, he discovers that there are many interesting underlining ideas of the development or the evolution of language. One of these is the use of the so-called diminutive forms of the nouns. More precisely, as time goes on people would alter the form of the nouns by adding a few letters as the suffix of the original word. A prominent examples is the addition of the suffix of "-ette" in French language, which is used to explain a small size or cute or lovely person or object. So when the cigarette was invented, it was thus named by combining the suffix of "ette" to the larger sized object "cigar" to name the smaller object as the smaller form of cigar. But at the same time, or even before this, people already used the same approach, not only to mean diminutive, but also to express the loving feelings on everything including human names. So, we had Annette from Ann, Juliette from Julie and Jeanette from Jean, etc.
        In Chinese, the "suffix" for an intimate or diminutive object was used in Pekinese by adding a "suffix" of 儿 to the noun of people, animals of objects. But this is not unique for the Pekinese, it also had suffixes of different characters such as "子“, ”仔“, etc.. these "suffix" serve almost the same purpose as 儿. I mentioned the MANDARIN, as the national standardized Chinese language,not the spoken language(Pekinese) by the Beijing natives. This can be easily explained by the following fact. The residents in Shanghai have been educated with the Mandarin, but when they speak with each other or with the northerners, they would speak with mandarin pronunciation but they use only the words such as 房子银子筷子盘子etc, they seldom use the word 儿.
        In other word, even with a nationalized standard language, certain variations are still allowed. So we just differ in the definition of Mandarin.
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          Dec 30 2013: Hi, bart,

          Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge of the diminutive in French. It's so interesting~. I never knew that. I intended to go to France for study quite a few years ago. But at last I didn't manage to master it in a short time and gave up the plan.

          I'm always lucky to learn useful knowledge from intellectual people. I totally agree with the explanation on "er-儿" and "zi-子", your examples of way of using "er" is more related to some regional language habits. However, what I meant was more about its functional role in Mandarin.
          Sometimes we can't omit "儿“ because it'll make some words into different meanings. For example: 这( this or here) and 这儿(here), 把(a measure word for things with a handle) and 把儿( handle),we have to use "儿” to express the different meanings. Please see the following details about "儿“'s grammatical functions:

            ⑴ 动词儿化后转化为名词:
            滚——滚儿 抹——抹儿 鸣——鸣儿 扣——扣儿 堆——堆儿 包——包儿 罩——罩儿 卷——卷儿 套——套儿 摆设——摆设儿 笑话——笑话儿
            “滚”原来为动作,儿化后可为“打个滚儿”,“驴打滚儿”,“鸣”本来是动词鸣叫的意思,“鸣儿”表示“公鸡打鸣儿”。“抹”原为动词“涂抹”,“抹儿”是名词,如“瞧这两笔抹儿。” “笑话”原为一种动作,表示嘲笑、讥笑。“笑话儿”则指引人发笑的故事、言语或引人发笑的事。从这些中我们看出动词儿化后已经转变为名词。
            ⑵ 形容词儿化后可变为名词:
            短——短儿 尖——尖儿 粗——粗儿 黄——黄儿 丑——丑儿 弯——弯儿 鲜——鲜儿 零碎——零碎儿 破烂——破烂儿
            ⑶ 量词儿化后转化为名词:
            个——个儿 条——条儿 位——位儿 根——根儿 袋——袋儿
            ⑷ 名词儿化后可以成为另一个名词:
            头——头儿 口——口儿 嘴——嘴儿 门——门儿 手——手儿 眼——眼儿 风——风儿 里——里儿 信——信儿 白面——白面儿

          If I didn't have the chance to teach foreigners Chinese, I wouldn't have studied this. So I think it's really difficult for foreigners to learn good Chinese. When I teach foreigners Chinese, I'm also learning it in a different way form the way I used to learn Chinese in my childhood.
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    Dec 27 2013: I speak Swedish (First) English (second) and German (third), I know some Spanish and French as well but I'm not very good.

    I use English perhaps more then I do Swedish since I surf the web on most of my free time and it happens from time to time that I forget the Swedish word when speaking with someone. Depending on who I'm speaking to (if the person if proficient in English or not) I just use the English word instead, and the conversation continues.

    It's quite common among my friends to forget the Swedish word for things sometimes and then we either go around the use of that word or use it's English equivalent.
    • Dec 28 2013: yeah, I also found it convenient to use English when having conversations with others.
      I think if there're some sort of linguistic traits that enable us to connect with one another easily, it'd be clarity and simplicity. English got all the traits.
      It's good for you that you can flexibly use two languages with your friends.
      Consider the circumstance when they only speak one language and don't get the reason why you sometimes get blanking on some words(mother tongue).

      Thank you for your response
  • Dec 25 2013: Never felt much difficulty with it.
    The mastery of my first language did deteriorate somewhat when I lived in the states for a few years as a child, but that was due to reduced usage, not due to improving my English.

    What I did find occurring was that I was mixing the two tongues, in the sense that I would occasionally translate some expression from one language to another when I couldn't find something that conveyed the meaning quite as well in the language I was speaking. The results have thus far been mixed, as translation usually goes--I'd probably stop if I was doing it on the conscious level, but I usually only notice (or have it pointed out to me) after the fact.
    • Dec 25 2013: I'm having exactly the same experience
  • Dec 25 2013: I am a trilinguists, I speak Punjabi,Hindi,English.One thing I would like say is that while learning other languages one should also try to learn without translation(Direct Interaction with objects and Events) along with translation.
    • Dec 25 2013: Hi :)
      Actually, I’ve also learned English in that way, but I think that’s also one of the reasons why one can have difficulty with speaking his/her mother tongue. It’s good for starting learning a foreign language, but as the way he talks becomes more sophisticated (more like native speakers), he should, in turn, practice translating languages.
      Thank you for your insightful comment.
      When did you start speaking foreign languages, btw?
      Did you start by yourself, or with a group of people?
      Happy holiday!
      • Dec 28 2013: Hi Liz :)

        As I did my schooling in a English School, so I started learning English from Nursery Class starting with nursery rhymes. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,Jack n Jill Went Up the Hill,Humpty Dumpty Sat on a wall,Baba Back Sheep.

        At home I speak mother tongue.But while speaking mother tongue some words of English also get mixed up with the language.

        Hindi is our national language . While writing comments some words of Hindi also gets mixed up.

        There is one language in India which is called Hinglish. It is the mixture of Hindi and English.
        • Jan 6 2014: You know what? To be honest, I really love hearing the sound of Hinglish.

          I've always wanted to learn Hindi, but never had a chance :(

          Thank you for your comments, Santokh
          Best wishes
  • Jan 3 2014: Hey guys, I'm new to TED & browsing around all the questions and discussions right now. This question is interesting to me since I fit right in: first language was Italian, when I was 5 we moved to Germany. I have to say I forgot a lot of my Italian since my dad started talking German to me (as I refused to speak at all for the first 3 months). I later spent 1 year in the US and learned English. English is much easier for me now than Italian is of course, but since I am working in a French company (& speaking French every day), Italian is slowly coming back.
    I also learned Spanish in school but never used it.
    I studied linguistics and I can confirm that your enironment is one of the most important factors when it comes to languages.
    I read in 4 languages, I regularly speak 3, and since French and Italian are so close I feel more and more confident in Italian too..
    And I agree when you say that sometimes I can think of a word in English/French but can't find the same word in German OR the word with that exact meaning
    But thats what makes languages so interesting don't you think?
    Those little words that only exist in 1 language or even in 1 dialect only.
    • Jan 6 2014: Hi, Annalisa! Welcome!
      I envy you for you have such an environment where you can constantly practice French--which is not your mother tongue.
      I learned Japanese in high school, but I forgot.
      I learned German for a while, but also it kind of faded away in my mind 'cause I've never practiced it again..

      What we really need is just practice.
      For we know practice makes it much more like native-speakers.
      Thank you for you comment :)
      Great talking with you.
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    Dec 30 2013: I'm speaking 4 languages and although I never forgot my native language, I sometimes have trouble finding the right words.
    It probably also depends on how frequent you are able to use your native tongue. In my case it's very infrequent for the past 20 years or so.
  • Dec 30 2013: The best way is to find balance. Use your native language as much as you use other languages!!!
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    Dec 29 2013: Here in Southern California we can listen to radio programs in different languages, and sometimes I'll listen for a few minutes to a broadcast in a language I don't understand, it's interesting to hear another language being spoken even if you don't understand it. Does it seem crazy?
    • Jan 6 2014: Nope. I also enjoy listening to foreign languages which I don't understand.
      It rather excites me and encourges me to learn that language sooner or later.
      Think we have something in common, greg! :)
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        Jan 6 2014: elizabeth, when you are listening to a language you don't understand and you are thinking you might want to learn the language, how do you even find out what language the people are speaking? For example, here I can turn my radio dial and go to programs that are in different languages, usually the languages sound Asian, but I don't even know what languages the people on the radio are speaking--it could be Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese.
  • Dec 29 2013: Not to my knowledge. My first language was German and my second English. I speak both languages but one better than the other. Not because one has in some way overwhelm the other but because I left one country at the age of 9 and so did not complete my linguistic education. On the other hand it is quite common for me to think of a word first in my first language even though I speak the second far better.
    • Dec 30 2013: ha, the same as me!!!! Je mehr ich die englische Sprache behersche, desto mehr ich die deutsche vergesse. Das ist richtig schade!!!
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      Dec 30 2013: My first language is German as well, however I mostly think and almost exclusively read in English although the language I use on a daily basis is actually Spanish.
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    Dec 28 2013: No. It doesn't for me. The language skill needs to be supported by the literature, art and music from that language. When that done, it will not stress one's mother tongue. If one lives far off from where one is supposed to get ques of literature, art and music of his/her mother tongue - it may create a problem I guess.
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    Dec 28 2013: 伊丽莎白啊,你多心了还是你误解了?我的意思不是说你的人品有问题,我是说一种特殊情况:不是外语好就一定会受到别人尊敬。:)你为什么说你的人品有问题?哈哈哈。。。如果是真的,你的人品有什么问题?:)

    • Jan 6 2014: (不好意思,才看到你的reply。好久都没上网啊,已经超过一个星期。。)
      不是不是,我看你也误解了吧。我的意思不是说你的comment means我的人品有问题,哈哈。
      我常常把我的对方用的句话再用(it helps me memorize the new expression I just learned),就是说,开个玩笑。我的意思是如果我觉得学外语没劲的话,我就不学了,那样的态度不好,不太认真。
      感觉有点搞笑,felt like I should make some joke about it.




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        Jan 6 2014: 呵呵,我也是和你开玩笑的。有一点你说对了,一般我们都不会说自己的人品有问题因为那是个大问题。不过,一般人品不好的人不会这么诚实,所以你那么坦白你的人品应该没有问题~。
        C U~
  • Dec 28 2013: Years ago a couple landed in our airport and the linguists were unable to understand them but they had an ace in the hole and called a carpenter who could speak 20 languages. He sent them on their way and the Syracuse paper, I think it was the Herald American interview, him as to this extreme talent, and he thought nothing of it, saying after twelve to fifteen languages they come into a knowing of other languages. Check the Baseball museum in Cooperstown NY and there is a baseball player's medal for his knowing 15 languages that helped the winning of WWII.
    • Dec 28 2013: wow, 15 languages...and even 20.
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    Dec 26 2013: My mother tongue is italian, I speak everyday English at work and a bit of German as I live in Germany. At school I studied French which I almost forgot at the moment as I am not using it. I do not have particular problem with my italian, I am not losing it (I speak regularly with my parents and friends).
    I do have problem when I speak a foreign language which is not English (German or French): my mind set it up to "foreign language mode on" and this is English at the moment, so the first words I think of are in English and also the way how to build tences.
  • Dec 25 2013: I am a Chinese-American who migrated to the U. S. at the age of 38. When I was in China, I also had an experience of spending an entire year in a private school studying only the Chinese classic literature. I understand that the ability to retain all what one has learned is difficult especially in Chinese writing. By the way I also studied many languages, such as French, Spanish, Russian, Japanese, and to certain extent, Korean.
    As to the Chinese language, it is not so difficult to retain the ability to read and to interpret the meaning of the ancient and modern writing at all. However, I occasionally get stuck on the writing form of the "traditional" Chinese characters, but less difficulties in those in the "simplified" style.
    I still speak Mandarin with my wife, who is from Hong Kong, in my home, and also with a group of Chinese-American friends in the same city. (so I learned some Cantonese too). In my experience, one almost never forgets the reading ability of any language, but to some degree, loses some ability to speak, or to listen, to them.
    For listening ability, you could watch or download a few Korean or Chinese videos or movies to enjoy both the stories as well as the conversation. For writing ability, you can also find some Chinese language input software which could also let you communicate with your friends who could only read Chinese or Korean/Chinese.
    • Dec 25 2013: Wow..you seem to be so into learning languages.
      I heard even the Chinese living in the mainland consider it difficult to speak/understand Cantonese. You know, from a foreigner’s point of view, learning the ‘simplified’ is also 够了(they already think it’s 有点难啊). Koreans study ‘traditional’ Chinese characters from the moment they go to elementary school. But when we grow up, it’s rather a bit confusing to learn simplified characters when it comes to starting learning Chinese.
      Besides, in China, there are so many different dialects. One of my Chinese friends sometimes speaks some words(which don’t even sound like Chinese) and tells me it’s just what she used to speak in her city. If it weren’t for 普通话, we would have difficult time having conversations.
      But it's certainly fascinating to speak Chinese....

      Thank you for your advice, bart.
      Btw, I watch 北京青年(have you ever watched this drama?).
      I think it teaches me a lot about beijingren and their unique way of speaking Chinese.
      For instance, they seem to use this expression a lot, like “成吗?”.
      And they add “儿”sound at the end of almost every noun.
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    Dec 25 2013: Hi,I can only speak Chinese Mandarin, Shanghainese ,Japanese and English. But I think if learning and speaking other languages makes you practice your mother tongue less frequently, it's possible that you'll have some difficult moments that you don't remember how to say some words in your mother tongue. I think it doesn't only matter to language learning but any other skills as well. "刀不磨要生锈,水不流要发臭。" Constant practice is important.
    • Dec 25 2013: Indeed, Yoka.
      Practice makes perfect.
      You are so humble. You’re technically able to speak more than 3 languages. That’s awesome.
      Then, do you practice those 4 languages on a regular basis? Or you first make one or two languages fixed in your brain for a long time, and practice the other two every day?
      I don’t really practice English a lot these days, I just study Chinese.
      Somehow English is hard to forget. However, these days I don’t really have much time to chime in ‘small talks’ with my pals, so I kind of lost my ability to speak Korean fancy…(?) so to speak.
      I just use basic expressions because if I start to speak my mother tongue fluently again, it 影响my Chinese. I spend most of my time practicing Colloquial Chinese.
      Lol But it also has side effects. Whenever I get too accustomed to just speaking Chinese, I also have hard time writing Chinese by hand. Well, I can type pinyin on the screen, and I can choose the right words correctly—in regard to chatting with my Chinese friends. But when I try to write something on paper, I would miss some important part of a Chinese character, or write something different.
      So, I’m working on it.
      Just out of curiosity, have you ever had this kind of error?
      Despite the fact that you’re a Chinese, have you ever had somewhat difficult time writing Chinese?

      Thank you for your comment,
      Happy holiday!
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        Dec 26 2013: HI,Elizabeth, as you said you were learning Chinese, I 'd like to reply in Chinese. Hope you don't mind.:)
        谢谢你的夸奖,我会的还很少, 我看到很多外国人都能说至少3种外语。你的圣诞节假日过得怎么样?我们这里不放假,就和平时的工作日一样。不过,大型商场和百货商店里充满了圣诞气氛。我们马上会迎来“元旦节“-1月1日,到时会放假一天。韩国人怎样庆祝新年?和西方人一样吗?你们一般放几天假呢?

        我在工作中经常接触英语,周末有时用日语做兼职汉语老师。所以我很幸运我可以练习我的外语。:)你说的有关学习汉字的情形我在学习日语时也碰到过。日语的汉字很多也和中文很像但却不一样。不过, 日本人不写汉字写假名也可以行得通,所以一般问题不大,但是如果要真正做到日语完美就只好努力努力再努力了。你是外国人,学习汉字肯定需要很多时间练习。即使是很多中国人,也会有些汉字不会写, 不会读。因为有些汉字真的容易写错,大家也习惯用电脑打字,真正用笔写字的机会太少。所以你大可不必担心,慢慢来,何况你的口语应该很好。:)

        • Dec 26 2013: 你还那么谦虚。。。好惭愧呀,我好像要努力努力再努力啊,呵呵。
          我还没听说过“元旦节”呢。 听说你们春节的时候非常热闹,很有意思。
          我们新年前一天到浦项附近的地方赏日出。在那里也可以看到几对恋人, 你懂的。
          哇,很棒! 你平时有很多机会,可以常用外语。
          你什么时候开始学外语?在你们的大学有学外语这种的training classes吗?还是你一个人学了很多时间的外语吧?
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        Dec 26 2013: 你中文可以啊!果然不出所料。你还会日语,你就是至少会三种外语的人才呀!我觉得一般人们都尊敬见多识广的人,如果会多门外语就能了解别人可能不知道的事情。不过,我不喜欢那些外语好但人品有问题的人,外语再好,我也看不起他们。

        • Dec 27 2013: 没有~我学过是学过,但现在我不会说日语。可惜5555。。从高中学校毕业后没有一个机会再学,所以我都忘了。我还记的是日语语法很难学啊, 所以我羡慕会日语的人,觉得很聪明。
          你问我,“ 你为啥会选这些语言呢?”
          (西班牙语呢,哈哈!真的还差得远呢。不好意思哟,所以我说我的西班牙语是exhibit A, 就是说,one good example of ‘failure’这样的。但如果有机会的话,我想再学。)
          但我不同意啊,长大以后也可以啊,还是觉得更好 。

          或者你说英语的时候你觉得用日语at the same time有点难。

        • Dec 27 2013: Yoka, aside from our conversation, I want to hear your thoughts on this.
          I think what’s crucial for the people who learn foreign languages is the attitude. How they passionately indulge themselves in practicing the languages. When we start to think like,
          “我会一点, so don’t need to practice anymore.” Then, that’s the sign that we’re getting lazy.
          In addition to that, being able to speak a language requires a lot of experiences—which include being embarrassed in front of foreigners or getting compliments from them. We should do our best to use the language as long as the time allows us to do that.

          (In this case, “you” doesn’t necessarily indicate you. Just for making an example, I use this word a lot, lol)Whether the people around you think like you’re bragging about your linguistic capability or not, it doesn't matter if you’re diligently working on improving your skill—however over time, you’ll learn how to control yourself from constant babbling(for practice) in front of them.
          Well, most importantly, it’d be much better if you’re lucky enough to be with a group of people who have the same purpose(ex: learning this language). You can encourage one another to brush up the skill, right?

          What do you think, Yoka? Were you fortunate to be in that kind of environment where people around you encourage you to study more and 都说“加油!”?
          What was the biggest influence to your success in mastering languages?
          I've seen some Chinese buddies who speak English fluently. They seem to enjoy
          learning it. I'm starting to think Chinese English Education is really something.
          Something much more practical than other Asian countries.
          How do you guys learn English?

          Thanks for your insight, Yoka
          It's great talking with you
          Best wishes