SSi Forum

Long lost language skills resurfacing


So this is happening in my brain right now and it’s really beautiful and also really weird. Anyone else with similar experiences?
I just got back to learning welsh after a long break and as I keep going somehow my French starts to come up every now and then. Mind you, it’s been almost 15 years since my last class in school. Like I would sit and try to make up sentences in Welsh and all of a sudden I find myself switching to French. And compared to what I’m used to what’s coming out of my mouth when trying to speak French on holidays it’s so so much better and (at least seemingly haha) flowing quite nicely. I really do enjoy that and I’m thinking that maybe my whole language-brain is getting rewired with ssiw. Well who knows, but I feel that’s great advertising for ssiw: get fluent in ANY language :orange_heart:


Hi @hannah-deuchler. That’s interesting… When I left school, 52 years ago, I had an O Level in French and German. I’m a native English speaker. Of course, in my day travel was fairly limited and we didn’t even have a car but I did travel to France while at University and enjoyed using my (limited) French. I seem to have an ear for copying what I hear, but we weren’t taught like that then. Just text book grammar and vocabulary learning and very limited speaking. However, I can still read quite complex French texts with reasonable comprehension e.g. Compte de Monte Christo, and I have ploughed through some of ‘Notre Dame de Paris’ (I love classics!:wink:). I am still actively learning German as my son and daughter-in-law live in Austria and she is Austrian! I’m reasonable at German but not fluent enough for my liking. SSiW does something that the other methods don’t, it literally programs the brain and it seems to work in a similar way to how we learn our native language. I’m watching my grandson go through that process now…
My experience is that I can engage in a limited conversation with my Welsh neighbours and feel very comfortable and I don’t have to always translate from English first. The response seems to just come… In German, I’m not there yet… But my French is more limited to reading comprehension.
My trick these days is to think what I want to say, then say it in one language e.g. Welsh, then work out what it is in the others! It’s a good challenge. I probably know a lot of phrases in German that I don’t know in Welsh and vice versa. It can be annoying for my wife but since she says she wants to learn German she ought to listen :wink:. So, ‘everything will be fine’ becomes ‘bydd popeth yn iawn’ and ‘alles wird wieder gut werden’! Or Guten Morgan, Good morning, Bore da! It works a treat… When greeting a stranger in our (Welsh) village, as I don’t know if they speak Welsh I will say, Good morning, Bore da.
The brain does have neuroplasticity!(ability to continue to learn - even into older age - where I am now :smile:). I would say, ‘Use it or lose it’. Dal ati a pob lwc i chi :slight_smile:.


Thanks for sharing your experience! I think some people need a lot of courage to (re)start learning something new after a certain age, just because we hear so often that there are „age appropriate“ activities. So I’m really very glad to read about your language adventures!
I always went by use it or loose it, that’s why I’m so extremely surprised how French just sort of crept back into my conscious mind without me actually using it. Has me baffled, but I love it!
And if you ever are in need of a practicing partner, let me know! I’m German and I’d love to help.
Enjoy the weekend you all!


I think it was Ghandi who said, ‘Lebt als ob ihr Morgen sterbt. Lernt als ob ihr ewig lebt’… :wink: For the none German speakers… ‘Live as if you will die tomorrow. Learn as if you will live forever’!:slight_smile:


It was 40 years since I did Welsh at school…but a fair bit of vocabulary came back straight away - I wish I’d stuck at it rather than doing O’ Level Chemistry (which I failed miserably!!!:grinning:)


This happened to me at the outset Hannah, but I think it’s just because your brain is searching for words in a second language. When I first started learning French this happened to me because I’d learned German for 5 years at secondary school. Later when I learned a little Italian, I kept recalling French words. So it was less of a shock to me when I started learning Welsh and kept recalling French words. Now I find that when I try to say things in French I have to think hard because Welsh words come to mind first. It’ll be pot luck if I open dialogue in Germany, Italy, France or Wales in the right language :slight_smile:


Yes you’re right, that happens to me any time I start learning a new language. It just feels a little different this time, because it’s not the usually dominant foreign language coming up and also different in the way that it seems like the bits of French I remember now are coming together more easily than I‘d expected


Just to add my little bit. I experienced quite a few instances of this “lost language Phenomenon”. In my youth - many decades ago - I spoke Italian quite well. Having an Italian girlfriend did help. Oddly, Italians mistook me for a Sicilian, an island I still haven’t visited. Then, a couple of decades I started to learn Spanish. I quickly fell in love with the language but suddenly my long lost Italian would squeeze in.
The other instances are also curious and i wonder who had thew same experience. Back in the 70s I was in Beijing on a scholarship learning Chinese. In those days China was still fairly closed and there were about a couple of dozen students from Western countries also studying Chinese. As we all struggled to learn, we tended to communicate in our broken and dreadful Chinese. Among us students was a Frenchman. I hardly knew him but every time I spoke to him a look of incomprehension would come over his face. No wonder - he didn’t understand German! This still happens to me on occasion. I speak with someone but what comes out of my mouth is the wrong language. A little annoying but it’s not the end of civilisation. Of course, it happens more often that I treat German speakers to a dose of English.
Now that I have started Welsh I wonder if the same will happen when I try Cymraeg. Oh, my French is appalling.


I can relate to your experience
Hannah. I did O level French 60 years ago and some German 35 years ago but now that I am learning Welsh I find that when struggling to think of Welsh words, French and German ones pop into my brain. Even more weird, my brain seems to differentiate between these languages and Arabic (of which I learned a very little when working in Abu Dhabi) and Cantonese (of which I learned the.minutest amount when living in Hong Kong). So when I was trying to remember a Cantonese word it was an Arabic one that would float into my mind and not either of the European languages
It’s all very strange. I’m sure a psycholinguist.could explain it.


I found something related happening at one point with Welsh and Spanish (I’m an English native speaker raised in England). I do occasionally think of Spanish (first learned at school) words instead of Welsh ones, while French (first learned a little at home from non-native French-speaking family members who liked to be playful in the language, then some school learning) has rarely if ever interfered.

At one point a few years ago I was working to get Spanish back up to usable conversational levels, and found Welsh had started interfering a lot with the Spanish - I would open my mouth and start a sentence with “Mae …” and then be left thinking “how does Mae work in Spanish again?”, as if my brain had decided foreign language = bod at start of many sentences …

There was a regular Wednesday night Welsh language chat in a local pub, and a Wednesday night Spanish-English intercambio in another local pub. I started going to the Welsh first for an hour and then straight to the Spanish - to begin with I could often say nothing at all in Spanish with only Welsh constructions or words coming to mind, but this lasted for a shorter period each time. I also used the SSI Spaeneg (through the medium of Cymraeg) courses - I didn’t learn any new Spanish, but it really helped my Welsh listening (as the Welsh is quicker and much less careful than in SSIWelsh), and I think also helped with a noticeable shift: I gradually got better at switching between the languages without mixing them up.

I don’t know if language learning really breaks down into separate skills as neatly as this, but SSIW and other things had given me chances to practice listening, speaking, reading and writing - having this new regular challenge (in friendly company) allowed me to develop a separate important skill, that of switching between non-mother-tongues, and this helped with keeping those languages more separately usable in my head.

The pandemic interrupted the experiment, but these days I quite often drive or walk around describing things or making up nonsense songs or stories which switch fairly smoothly from a whole line or sentence in one language to one in another, and I don’t think I could have done that a while ago.

Back (eventually!) to the long lost skills - I have done nothing active with my French over this whole period (except very occasional short conversations with Francophones who were struggling in English), but it seems to very happily slot in to the nonsense song- and story-making in its turn, without confusing the other two non-mother-tongues. And my confidence in French is greater, I think, than before SSIW.

So maybe language confidence can be a language-independent skill (or attitude)? And maybe deliberately practicing Welsh/Spanish switching has improved some general language-switching/language-distinguishing capacity?

Pwy peut saber? :man_shrugging:t2:


Same for me…,.learning Welsh has improved my very rusty French!
I now have a new language that even fewer people can understand😂


I love this thread! Brains are wild!