When I left Vietnam in December of 2003 after living there for nearly 10 years, I was fluent in the language. I could hold a conversation with anyone on most any non-technical topic (and even some of those if they were related to history or culture.)
I revisited Vietnam and 2005 and felt like I hadn’t really lost anything.
I revisited again in 2009 and everything, communication-wise, was still okay. Perhaps a little rusty.
Yesterday, some Vietnamese friends popped by my tropical island paradise and I began to realize something painfully obvious – 12 years of not speaking a language will seriously slow you down!
I can still speak, but the words don’t flow nearly as easily as they once did. The vocabulary is a little fuzzy, especially some of those words I didn’t use as often. The listening skills are also a little slow – I wouldn’t mind hearing that one again!
That’s the painful truth concerning language – you gotta keep using it!
I love speaking Vietnamese, and I do miss it, but I realized this weekend that for me to ever re-attain the level I previously had, I need to go back to Vietnam!
(I just stopped writing this post and forced myself to translate in my head that last sentence. I did alright. Yeah!)
So if you are a second language learner, seek out opportunities to keep up with it. Pick up some books in the second language. Reading is a great way to remind yourself of a whole second layer of vocabulary that you may not use too often.
And the best way of all, go somewhere they only speak that language!
When can I book my next trip to Hanoi? Hopefully this year.