Many people forget languages entirely after enough time. I've become fluent in Spanish, but I haven't used it in over a year, and most of my family and friends don't speak it fluently. With all the time and effort I've spent learning Spanish, I would really hate to lose it.

I've tried reading books in Spanish and watching television, but my lack of communication has made me a lot slower at speaking, and I sometimes cannot recall the word I need. I only vaguely remember some of the complicated conjugations. What can I do to keep my fluency, even when I don't have many people to speak it with?

  • 3
    One suggestion is to expand your 'family and friends' circle with people from different linguistic backgrounds and learn from them.
    – m4n0
    Commented May 14, 2016 at 16:25
  • I'm sure the biggest hurdle is motivation. All of the answers below are concerned with what you should do, but the best answer would be how you can keep motivated enough to retain the skill.
    – Blaszard
    Commented May 8, 2019 at 11:49

10 Answers 10


Speak to yourself!

Narrate yourself as you do housework, as you drive, etc. Speak your thoughts out loud.

When I'm alone, I'll converse with myself in Spanish. Depending on how good your imagination is (mine's not too shabby :P), things can get pretty exciting! Imagine a whole scenario, and explain it as if you were part of an audio drama. The more detailed, the better. In fact, come up with separate characters and hold a conversation between two or three of them. Not only could that get really interesting, but it should really help your conversational/speaking skills.

Note: Unless you are OK with getting weird looks, I'd refrain from conversing with yourself until you're alone. :)

Concerning general fluency retention, try writing. Short stories, poems, blogs, notes-- as long as it's in your target language, it'll help. I'd also like to recommend keeping a journal: even a paragraph or two per day can help you deeper ingrain new (or old!) vocabulary in your mind.

Finally, regarding reading: yes, read books, and in addition to that, change the system language on all your devices! It might take some getting used to, but it'll help!

  • This is a useful idea I sometimes develop :) However, I do think that from time to time this can also lead to "creating" new words. Don't you think it is interesting to check the dictionary regularly just to make sure you are talking properly to yourself?
    – fedorqui
    Commented Nov 6, 2016 at 19:40
  • @fedorqui This is intended to be a method for not forgetting/retaining/reinforcing a language, not for teaching yourself/learning new parts of a language.
    – Hatchet
    Commented Nov 6, 2016 at 22:57
  • 2
    I've used these techniques myself when learning Norwegian. Writing has been especially useful, as I have to formulate my thought AND remember how to spell in the language. System language on your phone is particularly useful. You use it so much, that you cant help but keep the terms fresh if you intend to keep using your phone! I've also found that labeling household items with their Norwegian names helped keep my common vocabulary fresh.
    – Stephan
    Commented Apr 3, 2018 at 19:31

Even if you don't have the time to actively study a language, a little upkeep can go a long way. It can be beneficial to recognize you're not studying actively for now, and decide not to study grammar, vocabulary or textbooks for a while. Instead, try to just use the language - just a little, but regularly. By recognizing that you're on a "break" from active study, you'll avoid being discouraged - and you'll be free to enjoy the small time that you do spend with the language, without feeling guilty for not studying hard enough.

For example, read a little bit each week. Try to find some reading material that's related to your interests - magazines are good, but also blogs or websites related to your interest. When you read, just try to understand what you can, and avoid looking up too many words.

You don't need to spend much time doing this - just a little bit of reading, but regularly, will keep you familiar with the most common words, and you'll pick up some new words incidentally as well.

Listening is another good way to keep up - for example, watching a video in the language once in a while can be very helpful.


To prevent yourself forgetting the language, you should basically use it on daily basis.

Here are few ideas how to do it:

  • use flash cards and keep them visible around your work place,
  • use some mnemonic techniques to repeat most troubled words,
  • print some language cheatsheet and place it where you can see it,
  • use some daily newsletters to read them on your free time,
  • use mobile/PC/laptop notification which can keep remind you about words,
  • change interface of every smart devices or computer into Spanish,
  • watch Spanish movies (with Spanish subtitles),
  • listen to podcasts or radio while your doing something else (e.g. working, cooking, sleeping),
  • talk to random people on-line (Skype, certain language groups),
  • if you like games, try Second Life (or similar), where there are virtual language classes,
  • if you're single, find some Spanish girlfriend:),
  • and finally, go to Spain for some weekend (they've very beautiful islands).

Use the language consistently and with passion!

Languages will often be forgotten if they are not used frequently. Slowly, piece by piece, the language will start to disappear as you no longer use that language. But, with continuous usage of the language, you can refresh your brain every day of your language and maintain fluency.

Like what Hatchet said, you can retain your fluency by talking/conversing by yourself with your language, create stories, and read articles/books in that same language. Do this with passion, a desire to keep the language in your brain, or you might just don't want to do this anymore and forget!

This article might also help: Forgetting a language: Why it happens and how to avoid it.


It sounds like you lack opportunities to actively speak or write the language, even though you have opportunities to listen or read it.

One way to use the language is language correction websites like http://lang-8.com and italki. You write diary entries in your non-native language, and other users (native or fluent speakers) correct what you've written. In return, you're encouraged to correct entries written in your native language.

It's not really useful for learning new grammar or vocabulary, but it is useful in reinforcing and maintaining what you already have.


Adding to the great answers by other members, I'd like to recommend (1) listening to Spanish language news through Podcast and (2) try to dictate (transcribe) what you hear when you have 10 to 20 minutes. You can listen while you are walking, exercising, taking a bus, etc. and no extra efforts are required.

Dictation is one of the most effective ways to improve your listening comprehension ability as indicated in this study and it will certainly help you to slow down the process of losing proficiency of any language. In addition, it will help you keep the words you have already memorized and learn new words, idioms and neologisms.

The more and more regularly you listen to it in your free time, the slower you will forget the language.



  • Music
  • Radio
  • Soundcloud talks


  • Movies
  • TV series
  • News


  • Books of your interest
  • Subtitles
  • Newspapers
  • Magazines
  • Blogs


  • Practice with a friend who speaks the language or is learning to speak it
  • To your self in mirror
  • Sing some songs
  • 7
    Hey! These are probably some really good methods but could you flesh your answer out a bit to help explain them? That would help it a lot!
    – Catija
    Commented Jun 17, 2016 at 19:51

I know, without regular usage/speaking you can not remember the words and recall them. The best ways to be fluent in any language speakinig are:

  1. Find the partner to speak daily.
  2. Read more news, books.
  3. Online discussion forums are the best way in your case.
  4. Join free language bootcamps/workshops.
  5. Start teaching.

Try tuning in to a local radio station of the region whose language you have learned. You can also search out YouTube videos which present using the language.

Make sure to continue studying for at least half an hour per day too.


A lot of apps, tools and practice methods fall short because the onus is always on you to open the app/textbook/flashcards and practice, every single day. Learning a language takes months, but retaining a language is a lifelong endeavor.

Flying to a Spanish city and immersing yourself in the language is considered the gold standard in retaining language because you don’t need to remember to open an app before bed every night. You reinforce the language simply by living it.

The perfect learning system would be one that lets you practice a language just by living your life - by doing what you already do as a habit - so you don’t forget to use it.

I have yet to find anything that can fully do this, but Fluent comes pretty close. It’s a browser extension that immerses you in vocab on any web page you visit by swapping out words and phrases with Spanish. It’s done in a really subtle way, so you can keep it on for ages, and over time, take any vocab you “sort of maybe know” and turn it into vocab you can use in a heartbeat.

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