How to Wake up a Dormant Language


If you’re one of those language learners who likes to pile up the languages you know, chances are you have a dormant language (or languages) stored up in the attic of your brain with cobwebs and dust surrounding it. And if you know as many languages as I think you do, it’s perfectly natural to have at least one dormant language–life gets in the way, whether you’re learning another language that takes up more of your¬†time, school and classes, social life, family life, personal situations, you name it. And it’s no one’s fault that there’s only 24 hours in a day. Am I right?

A dormant language can become active just as quick as an active one can become dormant. It’s easy for it to happen. When Spanish was the dominant second language in my life, I thought it would be like that forever (so much for the honeymoon phase); but I wake up a few months later and the second language working the gears in my head were Portuguese.

How, and why?

One word: Use.

I started to use Portuguese more.
All the foreign friends I had were Brazilian. And I spoke to at least two every day for a good period of time. All the music I was listening to was in Portuguese. I was living in Portuguese-land (or Brazil land) while still in the United States.

That’s how my Spanish became dormant.

One way to wake it up?

One word: Use.

Your dormant language may or may not surpass your best second language. But if you want to improve it, incorporate it into your life:

1.  Music

I’m listening to music in Spanish as I write this, and who doesn’t listen to music while doing X nowadays? Look at us, multitaskers. Find artists who sing in your target language, and even though you’re not actively “studying,” you may find yourself wanting to sing along. And this might potentially create a domino effect leading you to look up the lyrics, forcing you to look at the words and perhaps learn new ones. Then you’d be getting your pronunciation on track by singing along, out loud alone in your room or out in public.

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Hey guys….. (:

2. Movies & Videos

If you find yourself wanting to watch any movie, find a foreign film or if possible, an American film dubbed and subtitled in your target language (if you’re American or speak English). If you find yourself on YouTube, search up some videos in your target languages. One thing that films and videos have over songs is that they’re what languages (more or less) really sound like, as in, life isn’t a musical and people talk instead of sing. You’ll get your ears used to hearing that language again.

3. Websites

Find websites and read a little if you’re up for it. If you’re waiting around for nothing to do, do a Google search of a newspaper in your target language and read a paragraph or two. Chances are you’ll encounter a lot of vocabulary and correct grammar (hopefully)!

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That man doing the splits though…

4. Blogging & Writing

Tumblr friends, I know you’re on Tumblr a lot. Find blogs that feature quotes in your target language or blogs about places that speak your target language, anything that has to do with whatever language you’re trying to wake up! If you like fashion, find fashion blogs in your target language, food blogs, more language blogs, travel blogs, etc. On the flip side of just searching, if you enjoy writing (or typing), just write a small account of your day in your target language to get your brain using it again!

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A little bit of Spanish and Brazil on my dash…

5. Friends!

You can’t choose who you get along with, but I’m just saying that if you have a friend that happens to speak that target language, you could practice a little with them if you don’t mind. Internet friends always work too, find someone you really enjoy talking with so it’ll make “learning a language” into something like “just chatting with a friend.” You’re on Facebook talking to your friends anyways, so why not just make another friend and chat in another language, you know?

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Just a little chat!

6. Fall in Love–again

Maybe some of you are thinking that I’m going to tell you to find a significant other who speaks your target language…but that’s not the case (this time, hehe). I’m not going to lie, sometimes I start forgetting the beauty of a language or what originally attracted me to it because like I said, life gets in the way. But those little reminders of the language like music, or just hearing someone speak that language, sometimes makes me think, “wow, how did I ever stop learning that language?” Sometimes it’s not a matter of finding time, but sometimes it’s a matter of finding what you loved so much in the beginning.

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I love you, languages.


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