Lost for words? Considering language attrition

Discussions at workshop

Bilingualism Matters is delighted to be involved in ESRC-funded First Language Attrition Seminar Series, which is led by Monika Schmid, University of Essex. As part of the series, we hosted a two-day workshop on “The Selectivity of Native Language Attrition” last week, which delivered interesting new findings in bilingualism research.

The term ‘attrition’ is somewhat controversial, as it refers to the decline in proficiency in one language for bilinguals – their native language. This is a common occurrence for bilinguals who start using their second language more frequently, for instance if they move to another country.

Attrition is often seen as a negative consequence of bilingualism but it is a completely natural phenomenon when frequently using more than one language. Academics from around the world came together last week to discuss research findings from various studies agreeing on how attrition affects not only bilinguals living abroad, but also those intensively studying a new language. Putting aside the negative connotation that might be connected with the word, the message was very clear from the workshop that this is a normal process and nothing to worry about.

If you are interested in learning more about this subject, check out the Language Attrition website. You may also want to consider attending the upcoming Practitioner Day in London on 10th November, which aims to provide useful information for practitioners, teachers, parents, caregivers and policy makers for the importance of the native or home language in professional and personal settings. Find more details here.

(Thanks to Robert Spelorzi, Eva-Maria Schnelten and Andrea Padovan for contributing to this post)