We all know what it’s like to forget a foreign language from a lack of study or use. If you haven’t seen or heard a language in a month or two, you start to become less confident in your abilities, and maybe have trouble recalling certain words. A lot of foreign language education companies try to capitalize on our human tendency to forget. But I think we could all use a reminder about how natural it is to forget, and how maybe it isn’t as bad for our progress as we think it is.
As you know I’ve been on hiatus for about a month now, mostly due to laziness (which I’m mysteriously prone to during the summer), and I’ve begun to notice that I am forgetting some of the material that I learned and posted in this blog. My initial reaction was to panic, and my mind filled with dread at the prospect of reviewing lessons to make sure I hadn’t forgotten them. It can be so easy to feel like giving up when you’ve forgotten what you’ve studied so hard to learn.
But an interesting thought came to me lately that I thought was worth sharing. If one day you listen to a new song only once and decide that you love it, it’s not uncommon to wake up the next day and completely forget how the song goes. Sometimes, even if I remember the lyrics of a catchy song I’ve only heard once, I still can’t manage to recall the melody. Even though I feel such a strong emotional connection while I’m listening to it the first time, my mind somehow manages to forget. Then, after I search for the song and listen to the first few seconds, my memory comes rushing back to me, and I remember the melody again.
Language learning can be like this also. We might simply need a refresher now and again. When I get frustrated at how easily I can forget, I try to think of how natural it is to forget things, even the things we try the hardest to remember, and realize that it’s natural to forget things. Just like when we hear the opening to a song and remember the rest of it, sometimes all we need is a short review of past material before our brain gets back up to speed, and our language abilities become more fluid again.
But perhaps the greatest feeling, however, is the moment before you’re about the hear the new song for the second time. Even though you’ve forgotten how the song goes, you know you’re about to hear something you love, and you’re filled with anticipation and excitement. I realized this is how we should treat languages too. Even though I’ve forgotten some material, just the prospect of starting to think in another language and culture and learn things I’ve never known before is such a joyous experience. We should savor the moments when we forget, because it only means learning something you love for a second time.
With that said, I’m going to enjoy starting my studies again very soon after being away. Looking back I’m satisfied with my progress, and I’m excited to start making more. The best thing is that since I’ve started this blog, all the things I need to review are right here on my site. This has been great for keeping me organized, so I’m going to continue keeping track of what I learn here.
I’ll start writing up Learning Logs once again in the coming week! If anyone forgets any material during the long summer, my advice would be not to worry 🙂