A recent post by Lingua.ly Learning a language? It's all about the connections! reminded me how important it is to maintain and improve my foreign languages.
Native vs. "Old” Learned Languages
My native language is German, but I've been living in the US for many years. Without reading German newspapers almost daily, I would not stay current with the changes in the German language.
And, while I rarely have to look up any words and I'm not afraid of forgetting my German (I still speak it at home every day), I know that keeping up my French is more of a challenge.
I learned French as a young man when I lived in (French speaking) Switzerland. I now read it quite regularly online, have conversations, and e-mail with French speaking friends and family members.
But with French, I am more aware of the need to constantly maintain it. If I don't have an opportunity to speak it in a while, I find that it takes me some time to recall vocabulary and to get comfortable again with my pronunciation and sentence structures.
New Language Improvements
Having started to learn Italian and Spanish only a few years ago, I am still working on improving both my proficiency and fluency. I can read both languages quite well now and my fluency is improving.
However, I am very aware of the fact that my vocabulary has to increase. I regularly play our own Italian 1 and Spanish 1 games and have recently started to use Lingua.ly to help me grow my vocabulary, especially in Spanish.
As I like to read Spanish online newspapers, using this new Chrome Extension works great for me. (I am still waiting for the iPad app so I can also read in bed, but understand there is an Android app already.)
I not only get the translation of words I don't know, but can also practice & recall those words later – a key factor for moving vocabulary from short-term to long-term memory.
We're planning to do a more detailed review of Lingua.ly later, when we have gained more experience with it. But for now, I'll just enjoy maintaining and improving "old" and "new" languages!