Is it possible to forget my first language?

  • Lingusitics
  • Thread starter Algren
  • Start date
  • Tags
    Language
In summary, because it happened, the speaker's parents always say that the speaker was proficient in language A. The speaker has no memory of language A, but has the memory of language B and C which their parents say the speaker learned afterwards.
  • #1
Algren
74
1
Because it happened. My parents always say that i was proficient in language A. But i have no memory of language A. I have the memory of language B and C, which my parents say i learned afterwards.
Is this even possible? How could i have known my first language (when i was 4-6 years old), and forgotten it(COMPLETELY - stress on this) by the time i was 7?
 
Science news on Phys.org
  • #3
I have read accounts of this happening to kids who get shunted into a different culture with a different language at an early enough age. The mechanism by which you forget the original language is simply through disuse of it, coupled with exclusive practice of the new language.

It is amazing what basic things we can lose through disuse. Oliver Sacks broke his leg very badly in early middle age and it was in a cast for months. By the time the cast came off, he had completely forgotten how to use that leg, and the whole notion that he'd ever used it to stand on or walk with was extremely alien to him.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/0684853957/?tag=pfamazon01-20
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • #5
zoobyshoe said:
It is amazing what basic things we can lose through disuse. Oliver Sacks broke his leg very badly in early middle age and it was in a cast for months. By the time the cast came off, he had completely forgotten how to use that leg, and the whole notion that he'd ever used it to stand on or walk with was extremely alien to him.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/0684853957/?tag=pfamazon01-20
Thanks for the insight. I hate how delicate the pre-puberty ages can be.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • #6
Algren said:
Thanks for the insight. I hate how delicate the pre-puberty ages can be.
Note that this happened to Sacks in early middle age. The implication is that our abilities depend on constant maintenance throughout life.
 
  • #7
I know a woman who came to the USA from Germany at age 12 as an adoptee, she didn't completely lose her German but she is not fluent (according to my German friend who talked to her)
 
  • #8
Another issue is grade level limited vocabulary. Kids emigrating from China at age 8 will have a more limited vocabulary appropriate to the age and it won't progress unless their parents speak it at home? Interestingly, younger children also lose any sense of accent from their first language and learn to speak the new language like a native.
 
  • #9
Different people learn languages differently. Those who learn by sound do so quickly, but also lose the language easily. I learn languages slowly and from writing, but remember much of the German I learned at age 8. I have used it rarely.

A Balinese prince went to medical school in Holland. By the time he returned he had difficulty speaking Balinese.
 
  • #10
Algren said:
How could i have known my first language (when i was 4-6 years old), and forgotten it(COMPLETELY - stress on this) by the time i was 7?

How did you lose contact with your first language? Was it the one your parents originally spoke, and then they switched to using another language? Or did you move to live with other people who spoke another language?

My mother's parents were Finnish immigrants in the US. When she was small, they lived in a neighborhood where mostly Finnish speakers lived. At first she spoke only Finnish. She didn't start to learn English until she started school at age 6. At that point her parents also started speaking English at home as much as possible, but I remember that my grandmother didn't know much English, so I'm sure my mother was still exposed to some Finnish at home and in the neighborhood.

By the time I was a child she had gone to school, worked and lived among mostly English speakers for many years, but she still had contact with older Finnish speakers. She managed to remember enough Finnish to be able to use it when we visited Finland (her only trip there) when she was 60 years old.
 
  • #11
I have some Russian friends who lived in Sweden for many years and their daughter was born and went to nursery there. They moved to the UK when she was 6 (I think, she might have been 5) and although she did not speak any English when moving she was fluent after about 18 months (they mostly speak Russian at home but all her friends are English) and by the time she was about 9 she had completely forgotten all her Swedish.
 
  • #12
I think a sound can be transformed into its "neighboring" sound under some environmental or social factors (e.g one listening to the latter repeatedly).
It is not strange at all to see an adult who has been living abroad and rarely used his native language for a long time can properly make all smooth statements in his natural speech or daily conversation. It's not all his faults. The jerkings are created automatically with the insertions of the words from the language he mostly uses during his speech, unintentionally. But if he is back to his home for a couple of years, things will be back to normal, perfectly :woot:.
Some people do so (pretend to be of higher classes, foreigner-like who don't know or already forgot their mother tongues) just on purpose even after years living in their own homeland to differentiate themselves from their own community, but to me theirs (thoughts and pronunciations) sound like a fun to laugh that to shame them I think isn't as worth of my input energy at all. :DD
 
  • #13
i think if you don't use a Langauge for a very long time, this could happen anytime.
 

Related to Is it possible to forget my first language?

1. Can someone completely forget their first language?

While it is possible for someone to forget their first language, it is not very common. This phenomenon is known as language attrition and usually occurs when a person is no longer exposed to their first language for an extended period of time.

2. How long does it take to forget a first language?

The rate at which someone forgets their first language varies from person to person. Some studies suggest that a person can start losing proficiency in their first language after just a few years of not using it, while others may retain it for decades without practice.

3. Can forgetting a first language be reversed?

If someone has forgotten their first language, it is possible for them to regain proficiency with practice and exposure. This is known as language relearning or language recovery and can be achieved through various methods such as immersion programs, language classes, or even talking with native speakers.

4. Are there any negative effects of forgetting a first language?

Forgetting a first language can have some negative effects, particularly on a person's sense of identity and communication abilities. It can also lead to difficulty in connecting with family and cultural heritage if the first language is an important part of their identity.

5. Is it possible to forget a second language as well?

Yes, it is possible to forget a second language if a person is no longer exposed to it for an extended period of time. Language attrition can occur for any language that is not regularly used and maintained. However, relearning a second language may be easier compared to relearning a first language due to prior knowledge and experience.

Similar threads

  • Art, Music, History, and Linguistics
Replies
9
Views
2K
  • Art, Music, History, and Linguistics
Replies
23
Views
13K
  • Programming and Computer Science
Replies
15
Views
2K
  • Programming and Computer Science
Replies
8
Views
973
  • Programming and Computer Science
Replies
11
Views
2K
  • Programming and Computer Science
Replies
16
Views
2K
  • Programming and Computer Science
12
Replies
397
Views
14K
  • Art, Music, History, and Linguistics
Replies
3
Views
1K
  • Science and Math Textbooks
Replies
3
Views
1K
  • STEM Career Guidance
Replies
3
Views
1K
Back
Top