Losing and relearning your mother tongue

I’m bilingual (I speak Russian and English) and I moved to the UK from Latvia (a Russian speaking country) when I was 6 so I’d already finished kindergarten and started presechool.

I grew up around Russian people and speak the language at home with my mum and with my family in Latvia and I would say it is my native tongue. However, I’ve found that sometimes in the middle of a conversation I’d forget certain words or just find it easier to say it in English. Also, at home with my sister I tend to speak a mix of English and Russian (we alternate) and the same goes for my Russian speaking friends here.

I went to Russian saturday school for 5 years after I moved so I could keep up with my Russian. I can read/write and speak it fluently but I don’t know more complex vocabulary and grammar. I also translate English -> Russian subs on Viki so I guess this helps me a bit.

I’m trying my best to use Russian as frequently as possible but now that I don’t go to Russian school, it’s used less (only at home, with friends or in Latvia.) I did my Russian GCSE and passed with the highest level but even though I know that I probably won’t lose my mother tongue, I’m concerned that I know significantly less than if I actually lived in a Russian speaking country/attended school there.

In addition, I want to go into a language related career so I will definitely learn new languages (studying Korean currently) so I was wondering how to keep up with my Russian at the same time as learning new languages and how to keep learning it?

Also to have a Russian language related career my level of Russian would have to be a lot higher than it is now, even though I am better off than most people my age that moved here because I moved later and kept up my studies. My sister was 4 when we moved and when I talk to my Russian family in Latvia, they say that she speaks with a slight English accent whereas I don’t. I’ve veen told by English people that O have a slight Russian accent when I speak English though (it makes me happy :D)

Would I have to go back to Latvia and live there for a while to finish learning my language?

Is anyone else experiencing this? How do you cope with it?

Speakers of all languages, can you please comment on this?

Here’s an interesting article I found on this topic:

Sorry this post is so long, I’m just really interested in everyone’s opinions :slight_smile:


Hi; nice to meet you through this site.My native language is Spanish but I was raised in USA so I’m pretty decent in both. Not perfect because unless you are a genius that’s humanly impossible.

In my culture ppl are always going back and forth from US to my Island Puerto Rico, and back in the days the only ones that spoke English were the tourist and we rarely communicated with them anyway. So I forgot completely my second language; English. Although schools required an English course the English was more for first graders and there was nothing worth learning since the teacher giving the course had the most horrible accent in the world. So…

My sister, my brother and I, got so used to speaking only in Spanish that we all forgot the English language, and it was a nightmare when we came back to USA again and started High School. Thankfully, we had the Bilingual Education Schools back then and we enrolled in one of them, so our grades were not affected too much. What we lacked in English, we made up with Spanish courses etc.

I was completely obsessed with learning English again; so I started doing what I had available back then (no audio tapes at the time) I went to the library and got books to read that interest me, and I would ‘‘devoured them.’’ If I saw a word I didn’t recognized I would get my Dictionary, and look for the word definition, write it down 20 times until I memorized its definition and correct spelling.

Within 6 months I was able to verbally communicate with my teachers perfectly in English, and they were amazed on how fast I ‘‘learned English.’’ I mean my pronunciation was a bit off and caused many laughs in the classroom but that’s another story. So my suggestion is to read books in Russian or blessed with the times, find Russian Learning audio tapes and practice. Good Luck and I hope this suggestion helped somehow.

Libraries have now video tapes you can take out and practice with. But to me reading as many books as you can is the magic to opening your brain to this new language and re-learn it or improve it.


Exactly! If you read books in a certain language long enough, at some point you’ll even start thinking in that language.

@deftieweftie You already know the language. You may be getting a bit rusty, but you don’t need to learn everything from scratch again. What you need now is exposure to the Russian language, to keep it active in your brain or reawaken it. And reading books is indeed a great way to do that.

Other ways to expose yourself might be:

  • Watch Russian movies or series (or even English ones with Russian subtitles, as far as available)
  • talking with your friends and family or maybe even Russian speaking people you find online
  • Russian music
  • keeping a journal in Russian
  • apart from reading books you might also want to listen to audiobooks
  • keep subtitling here on Viki
  • write your shopping lists in Russian
  • read Russian magazines or newspapers
  • Google information in Russian on any topic that might be interesting to you

Oh, and when you learn Korean, do you use an English course/book? You might want to try a Russian method to learn other languages.

There are a lot of online courses on various subjects from Russian universities out there as well and some of them are taught in Russian: https://www.coursera.org/search?index=prod_all_products_term_optimization&partners=Saint+Petersburg+State+University&partners=Moscow+Institute+of+Physics+and+Technology&partners=Национальный+исследовательский+Томский+государственный+университет&partners=Novosibirsk+State+University&partners=Peter+the+Great+St.+Petersburg+Polytechnic+University&partners=ФРОО&partners=Mail.Ru+Group&partners=Фонд+развития+интернет-инициатив+(ФРИИ)&partners=Финансовый+университет+при+Правительстве+Российской+Федерации&partners=Университет+Дмитрия+Пожарского&partners=Международная+Академия+исследования+лжи&partners=Russian+Geographical+Society&partners=Mосигра&partners=Moscow+Institute+of+Psychoanalysis

Here’s a Russian cover of a song from a famous Dutch band :slight_smile:

There are also a lot of audiobooks on YouTube, for example:

And even a Korean course in Russian! :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

And let’s throw in some more music:

And the legendary Soviet singer of Korean descent who died in a car accident in Latvia:


Thank you for your reply, I’ll try find some good books to read.
So far, I don’t think I’ll lose the Russian knowledge I already have, more just - it saddens me to know I wouldn’t have learnt the language to its full extent.

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I’ll give the songs a listen and watch the video for the Korean course. So far the textbooks I use to learn Korean are in English because it is quite hard to finding Korean-learning resources in Russian…

I will definitely keep subtitling and I’ll try all the things you suggested :slight_smile:

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I did that! My mother tongue is Hindi and I forgot it. Thankfully I got the time to learn it again during quarantine.

Korean and Japanese are in a way, my mother tongue too but I have never been exposed to the languages.
I grew up in South Hampton and came to India for middle schooling and am here since then.
The Indian English accent is a bit rough and tough and when I was new to India, I used to laugh inside my mind at people speaking English (as a kid :sweat_smile:; not anymore).
While in England, I knew Japanese because of a silly agreement between my parents “The child must know at least one language of her parents and later on, it’s her decision to learn other two languages”. English is my dad’s native language and Japanese is my mum’s, so while I was in England I perfectly spoke Japanese. I spoke it with my Japanese friends.
But after I came to India, I couldn’t interact with Japanese people and only my mom was there as a speaker. I learned Hindi and I can speak it perfectly now with the Hindi accent.
All these years, I left my Japanese in a dusty room and to keep up with it, I write my diary in Japanese, I need a dictionary with me to look up for the kanji.
I still speak Japanese, just a little bit rusty, and my British English became Indian English.
My parents are still intact with their languages but I am lagging behind an entire language.
If I introduce my languages, I say, I am a native English and Hindi speaker with an advanced learner in Japanese and Korean.
It would be wrong if I said native in Japanese and Korean because my mom’s Korean is rusty too :joy:.


Language is like a muscle that you on occupation need to exercise. Watching media is always good but might not due alone. You will need to speak it, even alone to yourself helps. If you want to read and write is, buy a book you like in Russian. I suffer from the same problem, especially maintaining a language to which I probably will be the last speaker alive one day. You can in other words train your language in specific areas that your more rusty in or go with a cocktail of stuff. Just make sure you pick a method you like, you don’t want to end up reading a boring book you need to fight yourself on having to read it.

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Which one? :slight_smile:

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My local ‘dialect’ that is more akin Faroese than the standard language, and isn’t generally mutually intelligible.

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Sounds interesting. Can you tell us something in your “dialect” and see if any of us might understand it?

Vill to pårikit tvita?

Åm to naangaang kåmär ti hete vigaskile var to ka måst bestemm, bestemm. He e nåo såo, tåråga kåttbållar kan inga sluut åpp å jomi på tåkåte gärande. Att halderpoo å va gladär helatiin hjölpär inga åm to inga tvit ho to sjölv kennär teh inne, he e jo så, hansis inrehovo jöömbärse å restn tvit inga någå tills inrehovo plåppar åpp ooter, å pamar åpp allt skiit, sen bliir he skiitågärt. He e däffö hete skråote inga fonkkar. När cjakke e redda fö sesjölva helatiin. He e däffö he e illa.

What did I say? if you get more that 80% of that you get more than my friends, if you get more than 10-15% you understand more than any modern Sweden Sweed and if you get more than 30-60%, you understand more than the Norwegians. :smiley:

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Do you want to …? :thinking:

If you sometime will be called a …man, where you have to decide, decide.

It is now so,no-one can lock up teary meatballs …

… to be happy all the time doesn’t help you any further to not … know your inner self, it is already so, his … strawberries … nothing until … opens from the other side, to … open all shit, then you become very …

It is … to be called … no sparks.

When the jacket is ready for himself the whole time.

It is … it is bad.

Hmm … guess I’m not ready for immigration to your area yet! :rofl:

Do you want a translation? If so in swedish or english? :smiley:
You where on the right track on many of those while some totally off :stuck_out_tongue:

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Yes, in Swedish, please. :slight_smile:

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Vill du på riktigt veta?

Om du någon gång kommer till det där vägskälet var du ska måst bestämma, bestäm. Det är nog så, [De] ’krångliga dumskallarna’ kan inte sluta fastna på såna aktiviteter. Att hålla på och vara glad(positiv) hela tiden hjälper inte om du inte vet hur du själv känner där inne, det är ju så, hans innersta gömmer sig o resten vet ingenting tills det innersta dyker upp åter, och allt exploderar till skit, sedan blir de illa(skitigt). Det är därför det där skrotet inte fungerar. När folk är rädda för sig själva hela tiden. Det är därför det är dåligt.

Cjakk - sv:“folk”/“Människor” utalas samma som sv:“schack” dock skrivet fonetiskt.
To - sv: “du” is:“þu” eng:“Thou”/“you”
Tåkå & Tåkåte- sv: “sådant” och “sådant därt”
Kåttboll – sv: ”Kottboll” fi: ”Käpy pallo”, gulligt sätt att säga ”dumskalle”
Gärande – sv: ”göranden”, ”att göra” -> ~Aktivitet

Edit: Some of those phrases could have been written much more clearly in the swedish translation, but I tried to go for as much as word-for-word as possible. Since the dialect is archaic it may talk differently about concepts.

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Now it makes sense! :laughing:

And here I thought they were talking about köttbullar! :rofl:

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Köttbullar -> Kyttbollar
“Jag lagade sådana där köttbullar i köket” -> “Ja laga tåkåte kyttbollar i kööke” :smile:
The word båll has become to a way to say “head” so kåttbåll lit. “Cone head”. There’s lot’s of stuff like that.

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Actually, in Dutch the word “bol” can in some cases also refer to a head.

The regular Dutch word for head is “hoofd” for people and “kop” for animals (“Kop” can also be used for people if you want to be rude. Domkop = dumbhead).

Btw, if anyone cares

When reading dutch I can often understand most and when passively hearing dutch in the background I can mistake it for a slightly ‘weird’ Swedish, though trying to hold a conversation is really hard due to many sounds that can’t easily be discerned for what letter they may represent in the alphabet. In that way Dutch is easier than German.

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