Keeping more than one language alive and well

That’s a wonderful philosophy,


I find it helps if I mix active and passive learning. For instance, in active learning mode I may be speaking Welsh for half an hour which takes a lot of energy. For a rest later I may tune into a film in Spanish which takes less energy and is fun. I think and hope my brain is building up some Spanish neuron building blocks while I am anaesthetised with enjoyment, Another day, I may reverse the priority and be in active learning mode speaking Spanish and then go watch S4C to relax.



@triciaroberts my Welsh extended family is as common as muck, but Trisha loves me (I think) :blush:


@sarapeacock again on the theme of possibly reading a book which is available in Welsh and French, have you ever come across the Lemony Snicket books? I had never heard of them, but noticed them in the children’s section of a bookshop in Wales last year, in Welsh. I bought the first in the series which in English is “A Series of Unfortunate Events”. I have never got around to reading it because I have stupidly mislaid it, and it’s not with my other Welsh books. It’ll turn up one day I’m sure. But I happened to think of it after reading this thread and looked for something like “Lemony Snicket Welsh” on the Amazon UK site, and not only did it come up with the Welsh versions, it came up with several French versions.

So if you can put up with with children’s (possibly teenagers’) books, that might be a possibility.

They were originally written in English (by an American), but you probably don’t need the English version(s), if you have the Welsh one(s) available.

I just did another search on Amazon, and for some reason, only the Welsh ones are coming up if I search for “Lemony Snicket Welsh” now (I think the Amazon website tries to be “intelligent”(!) and probably “knows” I don’t usually look for French books…). But you can still find them if you look explicitly for “French”. You would probably have to do a bit of research to find out how specific titles have been translated.

Aha, here we go: just realised that you could filter by language and author:
…can’t make a direct link work, but if you go to “books”, then “shop by department”, then “books” (again),
then choose “french”, then choose “author”, you get a long list of authors. Choose “Lemony Snicket” and dyna hynna. I got 39 books over 3 pages.

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A post was split to a new topic: Questions from Borneo

I believe “Questions from Bormeo” was renamed to Personal progress since the suggested topic doesn’t return any page but it rather says it doesn’t exist.

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I’m afraid I’m very late to the party with this thread, but this is something I have real problems with. I suspect I am particularly weak in this area, and I do wonder if there’s anything that can be done to help.

There seems to be a basic distinction in my brain between English and non-English - but the subdivision within the non-English bit can be terribly blurry! I’ve always spoken German with my husband, which we continued to do naturally when we moved to the UK 13 years ago - and in recent years with more of an effort for the sake of the kids. So I never had a chance to let German slip even a little bit when I started learning Welsh.

The two languages certainly have a very different feel in my mind, but that doesn’t stop them interfering annoyingly with each other. Recently I’ve been putting a lot of effort into Welsh, and it has started popping up in my much more established German (as well as the other way round, which has always happened).

For example, last night I was reading in Welsh when my husband asked me a question. I answered in German, except that the last word came out as “plant” instead of “Kinder” - and my next sentence started with “Pam”. Conversely, someone was telling me something in Welsh last week and I automatically said “Schoen!” - maybe for want of quite such an appropriate interjection in my Welsh vocab at the moment.

The first time I spent a whole afternoon in Welsh, at St Fagan’s with the local group just over a year ago, I got home and my mother in law phoned. I was the only one in the house, and had the absolutely bizarre experience of being unable to put together a single German sentence. It was extremely embarrassing - fishing desperately for words and hitting only Welsh ones!

At Xmas in Germany I was consciously practising switching from reading in Welsh to speaking German, all the time, and was pleased that I did seem to be getting better at it. (I think the context of my parents-in-laws’ house helped too.) But although it has improved significantly since the St Fagan’s experience, the mix-ups are still real and annoying.

I do wonder how the various polyglots round here deal with this kind of thing? (Or maybe they are just naturally better at it, which is why they are polyglots!?)

Oh dear, sorry for rambling on!


I can’t resist to think that there has to be some kind of (secret) connection inbetween German and Welsh as I do this too. And bare in mind that my German is rusty although I can still say I can it better then Cymraeg. Ask @brigitte. We can speak an hour in Cymraeg, English, even Slovene and I quite often have hard times to find Welsh word to say something but when she says “OK, shall we speak some German now?” my brains switch to Welsh and I all of a sudden remember only Welsh words. The more strange feeling is that, many times when I speak Welsh I form a sentence and then I tend to put German addition to the end because I feel there’s something missing in Welsh sentence. Especially this happens when the Welsh sentences are supposed to be short. They just seam too short to me and I feel like they have to consist of something more and probably German additions come to my mind from pure fact that German sentences quite often tend to be longer.

I sometimes have “attack” of Italian words when trying to speak Cymraeg or German but not as often as there is Welsh “attack” on German what happens more often than oposite way. The German “in-mix” of Welsh is sometimes so strong that I all of a sudden can’t form even a short sentence in German at all because all what comes to my mind are Welsh worda and structures.

Your experience now really seams interesting to me. I thought I am actually the only one with this funny trouble which I always have to laugh upon, but the “problem” obviously can be more widespread and way more “sirious” then I tend to think. :smile:

Solution? Sorry @netmouse, I don’t really have one besides that one that I tend not to worry too much, but, yes, I agree it can be annoying and a bit embarrising especially when you tend to tell something sirious to someone and you simply can not.

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For me to feel really comfortable in a language, I need to be surrounded by it in every sense of the word - namely, people around me are talking in it and other stimuli like books, radio and TV are in that language. Once you introduce other languages at the same time my brain has to make choices and start switching. If I have a language that is dominating at that time, I have to find a “channel” to break away from it and speak and think in a competing language.

So I think it is perfectly natural that sometimes Welsh is dominating and forcing its way in and at other times German.

The target of easy switching among languages might be one of practice and habit and relaxation. The more tense I am the more one language dominates and the more difficulty I have switching.

Some days are magical and I will find that conversations with Italians and the French in our border area happen without reflection. Catch me on a bad day and I feel like a novice and as I heard Aran say once - one’s mind feels as if it is ploughing through treacle.

So you have lots of company. Cherish the days that you are spontaneously switching among languages with ease. Quickly forget the bad days,



Thank you, @JustinandEirwen and @tatjana!

I would really love to try living exclusively in Welsh for a while to see what would happen! Maybe one day… can always dream!

[quote=“JustinandEirwen, post:49, topic:4352”]
Cherish the days that you are spontaneously switching among languages with ease. Quickly forget the bad days[/quote]

Thank you, great advice! After all, we’re in this for the fun of it, mostly!

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Yah. I always laugh upon what I tend to do with poor German language forcing Welsh into it. It’s really funny how I simply can’t remember anything in German at all. Maybe (if there comes to it) next time when speaking to @aran he should say “Let’s talk some German.” and I’ll know all the Welsh immediatelly even that I didn’t know at all until that time. - :smiley: :smiley: :smiley: :smiley: :smiley:

That is precisely my experience also (except I haven’t had the chance to use my ‘other’ language as much as you have your German). Perhaps we should force ourselves to do exercises to practise swapping from one to the other - telling a simple story, perhaps, with one sentence in German/French, then the other in Welsh.


Thanks, Sara, I feel reassured if it happens to you too!

Ouch!! Even the thought of that really hurts my brain! I don’t know if that is a sign that it would be a good idea to try it or not… (My instinct so far has been to try and keep them separate, but I don’t know if that is necessarily helpful.)


Language interference is extremely common in polyglots - in fact, I’d be surprised if it wasn’t universal - and it’s a line of enquiry that academics like to play around with (although there isn’t, as far as I’m aware, an agreed model for what exactly causes it).

Situations like an unexpected phone call are particularly likely to trigger interference - but it is absolutely, definitely one of those areas where practice (specifically, practising switching) makes a real difference… :sunny:


I’ve had exactly that same situation with a phonecall in Welsh after I’d been speaking Esperanto for a couple of a days with a visitor. I felt like some weird goldfish, my mouth opening and shutting but nothing coming out. It was excruciating!

But I’m much better now because I’ve been practising switching. Aran is right. It’s just practice that’s needed. Now I read in one language, and try to pause every now and then and talk aloud in the other, or I put Radio Cymru on while I read in Esperanto, and it’s getting easier. I do still put Welsh words into my Esperanto as I speak Welsh much more often so it’s become stronger, but it doesn’t feel like my brain is going to burst anymore when I swap from one to the other.


Interference: I wonder if this is relevant?

(only the abstract is available for free)

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This is starting to make me feel a whole lot better! (Horrible experience isn’t it, btw?!)

I was starting to think at Xmas that it should be possible to improve with practice - it’s good to hear the general consensus. I think I may need to give it a bit of thought, rather than just ignoring the issue and hoping it will go away!

Think I’ve heard this somewhere before. Funny that.


Quick update: I was awake in the night thinking, in Welsh. (A mixture of a bad and a good habit that I’m guilty of.) As an experiment, I tried translating sentences I’d just thought up in Welsh into German and discovered that it was almost impossible! It was the brick wall feeling all over again - I’ve found an area of brain that is completely undeveloped!

I don’t know whether working on this is likely to reduce the interference in the long run - but I think it is going to be an interesting phase.

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Well, I can say that I had (for my circumstances) quite long conversation in German with @brigitte yesterday (about 10 or 15 minutes of it) after all that mixture of English, Slovene and most of Cymraeg finding myself struggling with my German quite a lot. I had to force myself to remember the German word quite a lot when Welsh words came to my mind constantly. However I can say my rusted German comes back to me quite nicely and I hope this mixture will be reduced in time. But both - Brigitte and I agreed that we should practice switching in between the languages in order to reduce the mixtures. I didn’t try to translate Welsh to German yet and I might try to see if there would be a barrier you’re speaking about too, but I surely have troubles to translate Cymraeg into Slovene. However the difficulty is not that of I wouldn’t know or remember the words but very simply that of it feels strange to me to translate Cymraeg into Slovene. This probably comes with the fact that I’m exposed to Cymraeg/English speach all the time but not Slovene/Cymraeg.


Although nothing like as often as would be desirable in the loving embrace of my own family, I’m sorry to report…:wink: