4 Answers

  1. Prominent linguist Leonard Bloomfield described Italian Americans with a similar life history who switched to English and forgot their native language completely, even though they moved to the States in their youth. The rate of forgetting your native language is related to the regularity of language practice and literacy in it. If the person in your example watches movies in their native language, writes letters, talks to their loved ones on Skype and / or in the family, the language will not be forgotten, although it will be greatly influenced by the main language of the environment.

    It even happens that when moving to another country, people manage to keep the environment in their native language — as a result, for many years of staying in a new country, they do not advance in mastering the local language, remaining in the world of their native language. For example, in the United States, this happens to many native speakers of Chinese and Spanish.

    “What language does a native speaker of two languages think in” — if they are completely bilingual, they think in both languages. The choice of language may depend on the topic or context of the situation (for example, if everyone in the family speaks Russian, then thinking about family matters will be in Russian).

  2. I live in the Czech Republic and my work and studies are only related to the Czech language. But at home, my Russian young man is waiting for me, who, in turn, works and studies with the Czechs. plus, over the years that I've been living here, there have been whole topics and areas of knowledge that I didn't know anything about before emigrating, i.e. they were mastered from scratch in Czech and have no equivalent in Russian in my head (or have a very clumsy “amateur” translation). For example, before I moved to a university in the Czech Republic, I didn't study art history. Therefore, when I talk about art history, I think in Czech, trying to translate it into Russian as I go, which is immediately noticeable to any listener (pauses required for translation, not always successful use of cases and prepositions, incorrect declensions and use of word genders). I think that the earlier a person moves to another country, the more similar areas of knowledge that they will learn in a new language. I am not only talking about professional knowledge, but also about everyday knowledge: ask me to explain how the system of utility payments works, and I will say už přece začínám česky.

  3. I met a guy who lived in Russia until he was 5-7 years old, and then moved to England. He is now 22 and has such a strong accent in Russian that it takes a long time to realize that he once lived in Russia.

  4. A person begins to “think” in a language when it becomes easier for him to remember an English word than a Russian one, because in the context of his life it makes no sense to translate it, and there are no Russian analogues. For example, there are certain administrative institutions in France (CAF – Caisse d'allocations familiales, etc.) that don't exist in Russia, and even Russian speakers very quickly start using French to name documents that don't have names in Russian in their heads. It sometimes sounds funny, like this: “Have you already gone to the Department? They asked me for a new titre de sejour and once again a certifique de domicile and a tax statement – well, this tax is dubitacien.” And the friend immediately understands what we are talking about, because she understands what specific documents are meant, and if she called them the exact Russian translation, it would not be clear.

    When a person starts communicating with foreigners in the local language, this process is even faster. You have to think in the language in any case, when a person remembers these dialogues, thinks about them, thinks about what they should answer or add, and what they will say next. If a person communicates only with foreigners, they will begin to think in the language quite quickly – within a couple of years (depending on the level of their language upon arrival). And if he continues to communicate with Russian speakers and read the Russian press and the Internet, thinking in a foreign language is meaningless for him, and his brain may never be completely rebuilt. Although he will remember conversations with foreigners, of course, in a foreign language.

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