After learning English, I studied Finnish for some years and I attained a decent level. When I was studying Finnish, I noticed already that it was sort of "displacing" my German (A language I had only "half-learnt", I could more or less read it but I never was conversational), and even though the two languages are not related at all, whenever I tried to speak German, Finnish would keep on coming to my mind, and all the little words, prepositions, numbers, pronouns, etc, came to me in Finnish. I didn't care too much, for I wasn't using German, and I just let it be.

However, now, I have been studying Czech for some months already and, although my level is still clearly very low, I can tell that it has begun to displace my Finnish. I have not spoken Finnish in a long time, but it is a language I love and I try to read or listen to some Finnish every now and then, and I would definitely love to speak it again when I get the chance (when I travel there, for instance).

I have tried several things, like talking to myself and read just brief things in Finnish everyday but, since my focus is on Czech now, I still feel like it is going away. It is a very weird feeling and, interestingly, it happens with the most basic words: I am trying to say koska and I have to struggle not to say protože, I want to say mutta and what comes out is ale. And so on... Interestingly too, none of these languages have messed my English, which, even though it needs much improving, I am sure, it is at least quite stable.

What could I do to prevent that? Are there any known procedures to keep a previously learnt language when learning a new one? I mean, I guess a short answer could be just "hard work", just working hard on Finnish, but it is just sad to see that my Finnish gets worse now that I am studying a new language than if I wasn't doing anything at all, and regretfully I don't have as much time now to just commit myself to tough work in both languages.

  • 1
    Tarvitset kaksi rivinvaihtoa aloittaaksesi uuden kappaleen. Lisäsin puuttuvat.
    – Tommi
    Commented Dec 15, 2020 at 7:49
  • Forgive me if it’s been mentioned and I’ve missed it, may I ask what your mother tongue is?
    – waxwing
    Commented Feb 4, 2021 at 19:00

2 Answers 2


First, accept that there will be some interference while beginning the new language. It is unavoidable but it diminishes over time.

Second, a suggestion that has served me well: study your fourth language using material intended for native speakers of your third language (or second one), and vice versa. That way, you solidify both.

You don't have to use that material exclusively. Just include it in your rotation.

For example, in your case, finding material with titles similar to: "Teach yourself Czech for Finnish Speakers" or "Opeta itsellesi tšekki", if such things exist. The university of Helsinki advertises a Czech class, so there must be something available.


I've heard this situation quite a number of times from people learning languages. Mostly they start enthusiastically about say Spanish and they suddenly stumble upon an extraordinarily gripping French TV series and their interest on Spanish's eloquence shifts to the smoothness of French. Hence they give up Spanish for a while and when they start on French, they confuse their "depuis"-since.Fr. for 'después'-after-Sp.(which literally are two different conjunctions) or more to discordant words like "mais" or "pero". At first this may seem very unsettling a thing to happen but fortunately I've known a few tricks to avoid this happening:

In your case, it has happened to two languages of rather distant relationship and I'm sure it can happen to whichever languages you have already familiarized yourself with, there are some not-so-hard-work stuff you can hopefully follow to get rid of this:

Many of these instances happen at first to us, we think, "Well, funny. Why did that come to my mind. I didn't expect that and I 'definitely' not want that to happen later on(after all it's such a blunder, that doing it makes me a complete 'novice','forgetter',). Later on this type of thinking inadvertently pops up in the second instance making your word associations to reappear, hence, in the second time you try to "think" it replaces your language(this may hold true or not for you, but it happens!). And the simple trick is to not think that you make no blunder(even if you currently does-after all you have learnt it and should not see a mountain up ahead-and that memory of that instance helps reinforce a reminder that you had to be using "this" in say, Finnish instead of "that" in Czech.You can go through this while you are reading or speaking or thinking something in the desired language, just identify with what, say, the conjunction is, in what language and let it pass; with a few instances it would be prettily internalized.

The next trick is to associate either the sound or word with something you strongly associate with the language the part of speech in. This will be a bit of a work, at first and in no time they will naturally come to you, nevertheless. Say you have encountered an instance when you are comparing and identifying with mutta and protože. If you for that specific instance associate the letter m with Finnish and p with Czech you will be making a connection to ease you in the next instance that is going to happen to(this is meant to be a visual cue-like when reading-but is highly effective in speech or thinking especially if you are a visual learner-a person who associates and learns words with visual assistance and memory(those visual cues tend to arise in their while they try to speak too) :You can test if you are one(not strictly speaking, and those learning types are rather general than technical) by going through a self-improvised spelling bee and if you see the word come manifesting itself with all its letters and accents etc. you can, generally, declare yourself a visual one(that is intended to help in some way individually)

OR, you are the other type(who has acquired the language primarily through sound and not formed as much visual cues)and hence can associate the sound of m to Finnish(in that instance only-when comparing the two confusing ones) while p sounds Czech in the same instance. You can play the sounds in your head just as we did with visual cues-and quite interestingly to be bit of the both-combine both visual cues and sounds that are to remind you of their associations and relations once they appear again!

There are other methods where you can associate 'pictures' with words, like getting creative in remembering 'kirje'-Fin. with a visually embossed transcript written in Finnish and dopis-Cz. with Czech letters. But they tend to get intractable and out of hand and generally makes it harder for you to "find and apply" such ones-but the abstract letter ones are easy to made and tend to stay stronger and has been highly effective!!!

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