People who abandon their English (abandonan su inglés) in the summer, or whenever (cuando sea), make English teachers sad. Why? Because we hate to see all the effort you made through the rest of the year (durante el resto del año) go to waste (echarse a perder). We love teaching you English, even through the summer. We miss you! Besides (además), abandoning your English is not good for you either (tampoco).
If you abandon your English, you WILL forget it!
But can you really forget a language? Well, according to science… You can! In fact, you can even forget your own mother tongue (lengua materna) if you don’t use it! Of course, that might take longer (eso puede llevar más tiempo) than a summer but… It happens! It is not something we’ve just made up (que nos hayamos inventado), it exists and it’s called Language Attrition (desgaste lingüístico). And today you’re going to learn about it.
What’s “Language Attrition”?
According to scientists, language attrition is the process by which your first [or native] language skills (tus habilidades con tu primera lengua o lengua nativa) get worse and worse, until you eventually (finalmente) forget it, either (ya sea) partially or totally.
How can this be possible?
It normally happens when speakers are unable (son incapaces) to use their first language because they have no one to practice with (no tienen nadie con quien practicarla), like when people move to another country and don’t use their mother tongue anymore. When the second language plays a dominant role (tiene un papel dominante, predomina) in these people’s lives they gradually start losing their first (empiezan a perder la primera de manera gradual).
How does it happen?
Language attrition affects different language aspects. The first thing you lose is vocabulary (lexical attrition); you might have experienced this already: it’s easy to forget words you don’t normally use even in your mother tongue, right? Secondly, it starts to affect grammar (grammatical attrition) and pronunciation (phonological attrition): the structures you use in your mother tongue get contaminated by (se contaminan por) the ones in the second language and your native accent becomes affected (acaba afectado) by the sound of the second language.
Why does it happen?
Scientists have detected many factors that contribute to language attrition. Some of them are:
Children are more likely to lose (tienen más posibilidades de perder) their mother tongue if they stop using it at an early age (a una edad temprana). The earlier the second language starts to cannibalize the first one, the more chance there is to (más posibilidades hay de) suffer from language attrition. In fact, it is very rare that a person experiences this after puberty, but there have been cases.
Frequency of use
Imagine those two languages living together in your brain. Imagine that you need to use the second more often. What’s going to happen? Exactly! That evil second language starts to invade your mother tongue’s space until it kicks it out of your brain entirely (la echa a patadas de tu cerebro por completo). In short (en resumen), the more you use a second language, the more likely you’ll lose the first.
If you’re not motivated to use your mother tongue, you’ll lose it. This can either happen because you don’t need to use your first language, or because you’re not allowed to (no se te permite) – this has happened historically on many occasions, take for instance Irish language during British rule (durante el gobierno británicos).
Now, if there’s a chance that you might lose your mother tongue if you stop using it, imagine what could happen to your English, especially if you’re not completely bilingual!
This is what scientists call second-language attrition, which according to Wikipedia is “the decline (deterioro) of second-language skills”, something that “occurs whenever (ocurre cuando) the learner uses the second language to an insufficient degree (de manera insuficiente) or due to environmental changes (cambios en el entorno)”.
H. Gardner, a well-known (muy conocido) psychologist, investigator and university professor at Harvard, defines the period in which you’re not being trained in language (no estás recibiendo clases del idioma) as “the incubation period”, and is when language attrition starts occurring.
For you, this “incubation period” might begin this summer!
Scientific experiments with language learners have proved that the first five years of the incubation period are when second language attrition is the worst… for you it might start (podría empezar) right after reading this article!
Gardner also proved that motivation to use the language outside the classroom is a key factor in preventing (un factor clave para prevenir) language attrition; even more important than the performance of the students inside the classroom.
So that’s it. It’s science. If you aren’t motivated to practice your English both inside and outside a classroom (tanto dentro como fuera del aula), everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve (todo lo que te ha costado tanto esfuerzo conseguir) for all these years can vanish (puede desaparecer), most of it during the first five years. How about that? (¿Qué te parece?) All that effort, gone. Do you really think it’s worth it? (¿Crees que merece la pena?) We don’t.
That’s why we aren’t going to let you abandon your English this summer (no te vamos a dejar que abandones tu inglés este verano). That’s not going to happen, right? As your English teachers, we can’t let you suffer from language attrition. It sounds pretty serious! (¡Parece bastante grave!) And on top of that (encima), we’d miss you!
That’s why this summer we’re offering you the best English courses, including Kids Camps (campamentos para niños) and our summer intensive programs (programas intensivos de verano para adultos) and, of course, VaughanTown. Besides that, we have brand new content on our social media, and a 24 hour a day TV station (una cadena de televisión que emite 24 horas al día) on YouTube, all to keep you learning this summer. Isn’t that amazing?