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Old 05-27-13, 07:21 AM
Atlantis21 Atlantis21 is offline

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Red face Heritage Speaker Having Difficulty Improving/Re-Learning Language Skills


This question is for heritage speakers (referring to those of us who have learned our native language at home but with little to no formal schooling in the language) who have lost language skills for a period of time but have re-learned them. To ask this question I'm going to give some concise context, then pose my problem/question.

The Context:
I'm a First Generation American to a full family of Russian Immigrants. Russian was my first language and watching home videos from when I was a kid I'm super jealous of how good I was at speaking the language. Obviously surviving as a student with ADHD is tough enough, so practicing Russian in America was not a priority. So I lost my ability to speak Russian well as an adult.

The thing is, I understand the language perfectly. When people talk to me in Russian I totally get it, but when I respond I sound like child.

Taking Russian language classes was ridiculously hard because it's such a left-brained approach. Even when I speak English, I don't think about how I'm conjugating or if the word is masculine or feminine - that's just not how my brain processes language.

Like with most ADHD problem-solving techniques, I decided to look back at times when I succeeded with similar goals and try to reframe my approach to focus on my strengths. Obviously I was capable of learning English - but I was terrible at English/Writing classes, but surprisingly not at applications of those skills such as debate/theater/creative writing/speech. So I realized that the key is in fight-or-flight / immersion. So right now I am in Russia for 6 weeks taking a Russian class. So far, just being here is super motivating and I'm getting much better at comprehending the nuances of the language.

The Problem:
Being in Russia and interacting in an immersive environment is helping my comprehension, but I'm still struggling to SPEAK. When I hear the word, it's like I've heard it a thousand times. But when I'm trying to say something in Russian I literally blank and can't for the life of me think of the words (that I know I know!). This may seem like a typical issue for people trying to become fluent in a certain language - but I've come to realize that ADHD is typically involved and when I approach the solution from the ADHD side, it's almost always more successful then when I try to take neurotypical advice.

I feel like the solution is rooted in ADHD Learning Skills, but I'm looking for Learning Techniques/Habits/Perspectives/Advice specifically applied to heritage speakers trying to re-learn or improve their language skills.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and for sharing your ideas, experience, and advice!

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