language attrition

Is Language Attrition a form of loss and decay in language ability? A Fundamental Guide to 3 Essential Questions on Language Attrition according to research

language attrition

Take on an unyielding exploration of the linguistic conundrum of Language Attrition by delving into 3 essential questions on the topic in this article.

“I need to use Google Translate just to have a conversation with my mom”. This were the words from Ashally De La Cruz, a high school student who was born in Dominican Republic, who has moved to the USA since 5. From a child migrant who used to fear schools because she could not speak English, she now faces the struggles of communicating in her heritage language (Spanish) with her mom. Ashally shared her experience of “losing part of herself” in this moving article, which touches on the phenomenon we are engaging today: LANGUAGE ATTRITION.

For individuals bearing the effects of LANGUAGE ATTRITION, the experience can be heart-wrenching (as in the case of Ashally) and devastating. As such, it is by no means surprising that this unfathomable subject is highly associated with the sense of “loss” and “decay”, as that is indeed the lived experience of “attriters” – those who experienced this phenomenon personally, especially in a way that it is brought into salience.

So, is LANGUAGE ATTRITION a form of loss and decay in language ability? How does this phenomenon relate to language educators or even policymakers working on language curriculum? This article aims to bring the insights from the depths of scholarly literature and empirical research to transform our understanding of this prodigious subject.

L1 attrition is natural

1. What is LANGUAGE ATTRITION (first language attrition and second language attrition)?

what is language attrition
Photo from Envato Elements / Language cards falling apart

Despite the common association, LANGUAGE ATTRITION is a complex phenomenon that goes beyond language loss or decay. First and foremost, laypersons tend to frame it as a phenomenon cast in time, such as observable outcomes where there is evident deficiency of linguistic performance based on expectations, such as a first language (L1) speaker not behaving like one.

Researchers, however, prefer to look at it as a dynamic process with snapshots. While the observable outcome (or snapshot per se) is the immediate reality that may be analysed, it is always contextualised in the broader scheme of things which needs to take into reference the myriads of factors (e.g. language contact, language development, language learning) that are associated with change over time.

One definition of LANGUAGE ATTRITION that has been adopted most extensively would be the one proposed by Köpke and Schmid (2004): “the non-pathological decrease in proficiency in a language that had previously been acquired by an individual”. With this as a basis, I will further unpack the term to illustrate the intricacies of the definition and distinguish this with other phenomena and also to highlight the emerging perspectives of how LANGUAGE ATTRITION is framed more recently.

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1.1 The “non-pathological” element of LANGUAGE ATTRITION

The term “pathological” refers to something related to, caused by, or of the nature of a physical or mental disease or disorder.  In that sense, a change – usually degradation – in individuals’ language proficiency can also be caused by pathological issues, such as any form of brain degeneration or cognitive impairment due to injury or illness.

LANGUAGE ATTRITION does NOT include cases of language change due to pathological causes, and only considers “non-pathological” conditions. Consider the following scenarios:

  • An individual who moves to a country where his/her L1 is not spoken may gradually find it more challenging to speak and understand the L1.
  • A person who studied a foreign language in school but rarely uses it later in life may find his/her language skills diminishing over time.
  • An eager bilingual spending loads of time immersing in his/her L2 and interacts less with his/her L1 speakers

Scenarios like these are non-pathological, as also in the case of Ashally, where individuals encounter changes in the linguistic environment can lead to the LANGUAGE ATTRITION in which we are discussing in this article. Moreover, upon closer examination of these scenarios, we can observe that they usually involve various contexts of bilingualism or multilingualism, which is increasingly common in our interconnected world.

1.2 The “decrease in proficiency” element of LANGUAGE ATTRITION

experiencing a decrease in proficiency
Photo from Unlimphotos / A man experiencing decrease in proficiency and requiring more effort to understand

The word “decrease” generally implies a reduction or a lowering in amount, quantity, size, intensity, or degree. In essence, it refers to this change in the “proficiency” of a language which brings to the perception of “loss” or “decay”. The most immediate hits are in the mental lexicon where one encounters difficulties in finding the right word, similar to the sensation of navigating through a labyrinth.

The tricky part comes with the construct of “proficiency”. Usually, it refers to the observable linguistic behaviours or otherwise “linguistic performance”, such as the slower processing speed (e.g. not as fluent as before in speaking or reading) or the increasing reliance on alternative codes (e.g. using expressions from the L2, gestures and body language to complement verbal words). This is also more aligned with the general sense of “proficiency” by the laypersons or even academics.

However, within research on LANGUAGE ATTRITION, there are also studies that examined the change in mental representations of the grammar which are usually more associated with the more obscure construct of linguistic competence, despite controversies surrounding the tools (e.g. grammaticality judgement tests) that are used to elicit that (Altenberg & Vago, 2004; Kecskes & Papp, 2003; Schmid, 2011).

One important point about “decrease”, though I cannot determine whether that has been deliberately implied by Professor Barbara Köpke and Professor Monika Schmid, is that it does not preclude a future “increase” – akin to the relationship between an ebb and a flow. This is definitely a different framing from “loss” or “decay” which tends to portray a more pessimistic roadmap of no return. This will be explored later in later sections.

1.3 The “language that had previously been acquired” element of LANGUAGE ATTRITION

In the early days of LANGUAGE ATTRITION research, identifying the right participants for a study was a challenge as the field was still navigating its way into understanding and qualifying the phenomenon. No distinctions were made between groups with different linguistic histories, although they may demonstrate similar patterns of language use with systemic difference in contrast to L1 speakers of the same language. 

LANGUAGE ATTRITION presupposes a “language that had previously been acquired”. In that sense, individuals should have acquired the system (or grammar) of the language in question before experiencing the decrease due to non-pathological causes. If the system was not acquired in the first place, it would be the case of “Incomplete Acquisition” where the individuals have not yet gained the expected capacity to demonstrate the intended linguistic performance.

For instance, there are many children who have yet to mature and have not engaged with their L1 (of which Ashally is also an example) substantially before they migrated elsewhere. How can we make valid assumptions that they will perform comparably to other L1 speakers who continue to grow with the language? How confident are we about the structures or parts of the grammar that they have already acquired to actually make arguments that LANGUAGE ATTRITION actually took place? Basically, how can we justify whether it is not a case of something that was never there in the first place?

At this juncture, let me make it clear. While the field has stabilised on the choice of the terms “LANGUAGE ATTRITION” and “Incomplete Acquisition”, these are not terms that I would have preferred. Both terms suggest the biases associated with an elusive state that is “ideal and complete” – one that belongs to the so-called native speakers. Nevertheless, as these terms have already been used ubiquitously, any challenge in terminology will probably be futile.

Notwithstanding these issues, if we return to the element “language that had previously been acquired”, we will also notice that it does not exclusively refer to either a L1 or L2. Studies of LANGUAGE ATTRITION have largely focused on L1 Attrition, since that is more alarming and shocking. The notion of becoming a foreigner in the language you were born to, grew up with and found pride in using effectively is especially scary for many.

However, L2 Attrition should also be given its rightful attention considering the amount of resources devoted to L2 learning around the world. Undoubtedly, cases of L2 Attrition are more difficult to qualify as they are even more interweaved with the issue of Incomplete Acquisition.

Yet, aren’t we interested to know how resilient our language education has been? Aren’t we eager to know which of our language curriculum has been most effective in setting up learners for lifelong maintenance as opposed to those that are more susceptible to attrition over time, and why? Aren’t we curious in nurturing key competencies in supporting our learners for lifelong learning of the L2 – such that they can either slow down the attrition process or they can recover and improve later? As Professor Schmid puts it (2023): it is time to stop ignoring L2 Attrition and consider more research on it.

1.4 The “by an individual” element of LANGUAGE ATTRITION

Individuals vs Group
Photo from Envato Elements / Language attrition as an individual phenomenon, instead of a community

This element brings us to the last disambiguation exercise surrounding the definition. Similar to the earlier issue of conflation with Incomplete Acquisition, the study of LANGUAGE ATTRITION as we know it now was also not well distinguished from the study of Language Shift – a community-wide phenomenon in which speakers of one language gradually shift to using another language, often due to social, economic, or political pressures.

LANGUAGE ATTRITION is very much an intragenerational process which are focused on language change in the psycholinguistic and neurolinguistic domains of the individuals. In contrast, Language Shift is dedicated to the investigation of intergenerational language change in the sociolinguistic domains and is more concerned with larger communities as opposed to individuals.

1.5 Relevance of the definition of LANGUAGE ATTRITION to Language Educators

How does the definition of LANGUAGE ATTRITION matter to us? First and foremost, we need to be aware this phenomenon exists. We cannot take for granted that our learners remain accomplished where they have left us. Language that is acquired formerly can potentially undergo attrition later given the triggering conditions.

Next, we know that LANGUAGE ATTRITION can happen under non-pathological conditions, on which we will shed light further later. Some of these conditions are beyond our locus of control, but we can tap on the collective knowledge of the conditions and factors that can affect the extent of attrition to support our learners who are at risk or already experiencing it.

Additionally, LANGUAGE ATTRITION does not occur suddenly but is a slow and gradual process. While this may make it challenging to catch it precisely, but it does give us the confidence that we have the time and space to intervene.

Finally, it is worth noting that LANGUAGE ATTRITION can occur in both L1 and L2 users and learners, given the triggering conditions. No one is exactly immune to the possibility of such a language change as long as we are experiencing variation in our degree of engagement with our previously acquired languages and that we are continuously exposed to new languages.

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2. What parts of language does LANGUAGE ATTRITION affect?

So, we know that LANGUAGE ATTRITION happens – something within proficiency (or linguistic performance) and may even be extended to linguistic competence. Then, the question that follows is: What are the components of the system that get affected? Specifically, what is the manifestation of attrition in different linguistic domains? Are there some parts that are more vulnerable than the others?

2.1 Lexicon

Close-up of an Opened Dictionary
Photo from Envato Elements / Close-up of an Opened Dictionary

The first domain to consider is the Mental Lexicon. The Mental Lexicon is the cognitive system that stores and organises a person’s knowledge of words, from the most common to the most obscure, in a hierarchical structure based on their phonological, orthographic, morphological, syntactic, and semantic properties. It can be thought of as an internal mental dictionary stored in the mind.

The Mental Lexicon plays a critical role in allowing for fluent and effortless language processing (e.g. language production and comprehension), from where individuals access information about words and their meanings quickly and efficiently. The Mental Lexicon is constantly being updated and expanded as a person learns new words and their associated properties across the different components. When a person processes a language, their mental lexicon is activated to retrieve the words along with their corresponding properties from memory.

Regardless of L1 or L2, LANGUAGE ATTRITION studies have converged on the understanding that the lexicon is the area where initial signs of attrition are observed – something which individuals undergoing LANGUAGE ATTRITION will notice too (Gross, 2004; Hutz, 2004; Köpke, 2007; Montrul, 2013; Schmid, 2006, 2007, 2011; Yılmaz & Schmid, 2019). LANGUAGE ATTRITION can manifest in numerous ways within the lexicon, such as:

  • Perceived reduction in vocabulary size;
  • Increased difficulty in lexical retrieval; and
  • Deterioration of lexical access fluency.

These manifestations can be observed in scenarios where speakers struggle to recall words or produce incorrect word forms, and might also have to resort to code-switching to another language to compensate for the lexical gaps.

There are many reasons why the Mental Lexicon is largely prone to attrition, as explained by scholars from different perspectives and can be largely integrated as follows: within linguistics, the Mental Lexicon is an open-class system (Schmid, 2011), where it is updated frequently with new additions or adaptations to stored information. Even within monolinguals, there is no lack of new lexical items added to our inventory (e.g. neologisms, all COVID-related phrases and terms). For bilinguals/multilinguals, lexical traffic goes in many ways (translanguaging scholars will frame it within a complete linguistic repertoire) and thus adaptation or restructuring to the conceptual system of the dominant language(s) can happen easily.

2.2 Phonetics and Phonology

phonology
Photo from Envato Elements / A group of sounds

The domains of Phonetics and Phonology refer to speech sounds and their organisation within a language. Generally, this is not a frequently researched area for LANGUAGE ATTRITION scholars. In theory, when languages in contact have many similarities in pronunciation or sound combinations, there exists the possibility of a weakening of phonetic and phonological distinctions which can lead to a diminished ability to differentiate between similar sounds or phonetic features. For languages that have very different systems, the one facing reduction in engagement may also result in the lowering of sensitivity towards the phonetic and phonological features of that language.

In actual situations, it seems that sound systems are less amenable to attrition, especially in the case of L1 (Schmid, 2011; Schmid & Köpke, 2007). Individuals experiencing L1 attrition may adjust their L1 pronunciation habits slightly, but typically this does not impact the fundamental phonemic structure of the language, such that the individuals in question do not suddenly behave completely like foreigners. Of course, they may be perceived to be different from other L1 users which are on the monolingual side of the spectrum but not to the extent that they are regarded as “foreigners”.

As such, individuals with a mature system of L1 are unlikely to suddenly speak like a foreigner even after many years of reduced contact with the L1. Note that this is different from individuals that started with Incomplete Acquisition or heritage speakers that did not have many opportunities to mature in their heritage language.

For L2 attrition, studies have largely focused on vocabulary with little on grammatical or phonological/phonetic accuracy (Schmid, 2023). I have not been able to access anything in particular that have empirically investigated attrition in this domain or provided an overview of research in this area. Unfortunately, the one important chapter (which I do not have access) is here. From what I can see though, it would seem that “aspects of phonology” are still generally resilient against attrition even in the L2.

2.3 Morphosyntax

Lastly, Morphosyntax, the combination of morphological and syntactic structures in language, is another domain impacted by language attrition. In most research articles, this is referred to as “grammar”, “grammaticality features” or grammatical accuracy”. This component encompasses the rules that govern word formation and sentence structure.

Again, in theory, LANGUAGE ATTRITION can imply a decline in grammatical accuracy and complexity in the use of the language in question, regardless of whether it is a L1 or L2. Such deterioration can be demonstrated by production of ungrammatical sentences, difficulty in parsing complex structures, over-generalisation or simplification of grammatical rules.

In actual findings, the conclusion to all these aspects is less than straightforward. Researchers do not have a common agreement that change in any particular aspect of the Morphosyntax can be regarded as THE indicators of LANGUAGE ATTRITION. One particular controversy is whether a decline in performance as demonstrated in any of the examples in the previous paragraph, is essentially corresponding to a performance issue due to temporary accessibility problems or a longer-term fundamental change in linguistic competence.

Nevertheless, there are some converging trends in understanding of LANGUAGE ATTRITION in the domain of Morphosyntax, which can be briefly presented as follows:

  • Attrition in Morphosyntax is subject to selectivity, where aspects of Morphosyntax that are require higher costs of processing by taking in information from other cognitive systems (e.g. discourses, pragmatics) are more susceptible. Classic examples are individuals with L1 Japanese experiencing difficulty in pinning down the accurate honorifics when interacting with speakers of different ages and backgrounds.
  • Rules and patterns of Morphosyntax that have been stored as procedural knowledge (e.g. over time as L1 in early learning) are less vulnerable than those that are acquired as declarative knowledge (e.g. L2 instruction for adults). This means that L1 Morphosyntax of adult learners are less likely to affected by L2 Morphosyntax that they are most likely to have learned from formal instruction.
  • Attrition experienced in Morphosyntax are not permanent and can be at least partially reversed (Sorace, 2020).

2.4 Reflection for Language Educators

In what way does our understanding of the components of language impacted by LANGUAGE ATTRITION help us? There are practical implications for language instruction. For one, since the mental lexicon is particularly susceptible to attrition, it may be useful to focus less on rote vocabulary memorisation which leads to representation of the lexicon as declarative knowledge. Instead, we can devise more strategies that promote a proactive management of the mental lexicon for individuals. This can help learners retain or reactivate their vocabulary knowledge over the long term and be better prepared for real-world language use in the long term.

Second, if sound systems are generally resilient to LANGUAGE ATTRITION, we can be more deliberate in calibrating the amount of resources and time in calibrating the acquisition of listening, speaking and reading skills. It might appear to be a no-brainer for the oracy skills, since that is direct engagement of the sound systems as part of explicit and implicit learning processes.

For reading, it might be less intuitive. To really master the skill of reading, learners need to be able to encode the phonetic symbols and phonological patterns from graphemes before or simultaneously mapping them to the semantic meanings (you can read this article to find out more). In this process, learners have to get very accustomed to the inventory of sounds and their graphical representations in the language. Also, with reading skills, that is an additional layer of insurance against LANGUAGE ATTRITION.

Lastly, we know that learning morphosyntax declaratively has its vulnerabilities. This implies that we may need to be more intentional in driving a more communicative-based approach even as we teach grammar. This was also an observation from the interpretation of the findings of L2 Attrition research over the decades (Schmid, 2023).

3. What are the possible causes of LANGUAGE ATTRITION?

Now that we have a more elaborate understanding of what LANGUAGE ATTRITION is and how it impacts on the various parts of a language system, we may be curious into asking: Why does this happen? We know they are not due to pathological reasons.

I have also highlighted earlier that LANGUAGE ATTRITION is very much associated with contexts of bilingualism and multilingualism. But then again, what is it within bilingualism and multilingualism that caused the change to take place? Are these causes within our locus of control?

3.1 Reduction in use and function of the Language in focus

a representation of reduction
Photo from Envato Elements / A representation of reduction

One of the main causes of LANGUAGE ATTRITION is a reduction in the use and function of the language in focus. When individuals experience a significant decrease in the exposure to and use of a language, they may undergo a substantial decline in the proficiency. Note that this includes both first and second language, and is thus the case for both L1s and L2s.

So, what are scenarios that might have caused such a reduction? Below are some possible non-exhaustive scenarios which are applicable to the L1:

  • Refugee families fleeing from catastrophic events in their homeland to a foreign country where their native language or L1 is not used. They settled down sparsely (i.e. not in enclaves) and do not get to mix with other using the same native language or L1.
  • Immigrant families who move abroad for professional reasons and integrated well into the local community who hardly uses their L1(s) 
  • Learners who are eager to learn a L2 modify their language environment by spending much more time immersing in communities using their L2 within the same city, and is thus using less of their L1 in the same period.

Below are some possible non-exhaustive scenarios which are applicable to the L2:

  • Immigrant families who have stayed and learned the local languages as L2s for some time, either returned to their home country or moved on to another country where the L2 is not used (or at not widely used).
  • Students who have learned a L2 to various proficiency levels but do not have many opportunities to continue engaging the L2 in their personal and professional lives after instruction.
  • Individuals who used to work in a field which use the L2 extensively switch careers to another which uses their L1 primarily, resulting in fewer opportunities to use their L2.

There are several explanations why reduced exposure in a language can cause attrition, from which I highlight a few representative ones:

  • Paradis (2007) postulates that attrition arises from a prolonged absence of “stimulation” from the language(s) in focus;
  • Schmid (2011) suggests that retrieving memories and information from the language(s) becomes increasingly challenging when they have been unused for an extended period; and
  • Köpke (2007) proposes that significant cognitive demands, emanating from limited access to the lesser-utilised language (whether L1 or L2) and its competition with the more readily accessible languages that is dominantly used by the individual, imposes considerable demands on executive control mechanisms. This subsequently leads to processing difficulties, thus leading to a less fluent use of the language.

3.2 Influence from competing languages to the Language in focus

presence of competition from other entities
Photo from Envato Elements / Facing competition from other pawns

Another main cause of LANGUAGE ATTRITION is the influence from competing languages to the language in focus. Traditionally, in the study of second language acquisition, significant attention has been given to the topic of Cross-Linguistic Influence (CLI), which is basically defined as the “influence that knowledge of one language has on an individual’s learning or use of another language”.

We probably have no lack of anecdotal examples of how some of our learners may be apparently transferring some of the expectations and norms of their L1(s) to the L2(s) that they may be learning. CLI can cut across different components of the language system and different effects can be seen in various language combinations (e.g. L1 English and L2 Mandarin, L1 Spanish and L2 English, L1 Dutch and L2 Italian).

Notwithstanding such, researchers did not use to investigate CLI in the context of LANGUAGE ATTRITION, which became an important bridge between attrition and acquisition. When an individual engages a L2, especially for learning and living, there is inevitably an interaction of the languages in the individual. The CLI may not necessarily just be from the L1 to the L2 but can also be bidirectional, where traffic can come from the L2 (which has become more dominant in use and exposure) to the L1 too. If we bring it further, when the individual continues to engage newer L2s, on top of the earlier repertoire of languages, further CLI can happen in multiple directions.

If we link back to the scenarios illustrated in the earlier section, we can see the potential:

  • Refugee families settling in the new host country where their L1 is not used. They have to learn at least one of the L2s (which is native to their host country) to which they would probably have a lot of exposure.
  • Immigrant families having to use a L2 more extensively in the new country. They will also interact with a wider group of L1 users of that L2.
  • Learners immersing in communities using their L2 will be languaging in that L2 most of the time.
  • Students who complete their studies and transition to different environments where their L1s and L2s are not native to the context may need to acquire and utilise a new L2 to a greater extent.

These scenarios demonstrate the possible CLI of competing languages on the already acquired L1(s) and L2(s). When new features of how a language can be used are introduced to the brain, the possibility exists for the cognitive system to integrate it into the previously acquired language systems. And as it shows, there have been several studies which have demonstrated how the degree to of L1 attrition can be impacted by different aspects of L2 knowledge and usage (Gallo et al., 2021).

3.3 A combination of the 2 factors

Despite the vast amount of literature which argues for either of the contrasting hypotheses (reduced language exposure and usage vs CLI from competing languages), the truth is that results from both sides are mixed. While this can be attributed to methodological issues (e.g. validity of approach) which is quite common in the early days of the field, a major part of the complication is associated with the difficulty in teasing out the intricacies from the premise of evidence – a similar set of results can support either hypothesis, depending on the researcher’s personal preferences or biases.

The field is not oblivious of this hurdle. Many scholars have come to agree that a better model of LANGUAGE ATTRITION should factor in both sides of the coin – theories of LANGUAGE ATTRITION and second language acquisition should be connected (Gallo et al., 2021; Schmid, 2011; Sorace, 2020; Steinkrauss & Schmid, 2017).

With this frame in mind, we see that the phenomenon of LANGUAGE ATTRITION is inextricably linked with bilingualism, and entails an intricately compounded network of various factors embedded within acquisition and attrition. If we review the earlier scenarios (I will not repeat them here), it is not difficult to link them up: the cause of attrition is probably a combination of reduced language exposure and usage AND CLI from competing languages.

3.4 Reflection for Language Educators

Unfortunately, research has yet to provide comprehensive set of strategies for language educators to address the challenges that come with this phenomenon. There are some which are directed at individuals and parents. Based on the understanding thus far, however, here are some strategies that I hypothesise that may be within our locus of control and can be considered (albeit still raw, reductionist and untested):

  • Provide ongoing support and resources: Keep in touch with learners even after they have left your custody by providing ongoing support, such as email newsletters, webinars, and alumni events. Provide access to online language resources and tools that learners can use to keep practising and improving their language skills on their own.
  • Emphasise the importance of language within a community: Leverage partnerships within the community to integrate the learners into a network of support, where the learners can continue to engage with their L1s or targeted L2s beyond the classroom.
  • Address CLI from competing languages: It’s important to address competition from other languages that students may be proficient in or prefer over the language they are studying. Teaching methods and materials should be designed to address this competition and make the language being studied more relevant or useful to the learner.
  • Encourage language immersion initiatives: Nurture learners to be capable of creating and embracing language immersion opportunities. With an increasingly connected world and a blooming metaverse, there are many possible immersion opportunities in different language worlds without having to travel.

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Conclusion: What can language educators do?

In conclusion, LANGUAGE ATTRITION is a complex, multifaceted phenomenon that has received growing attention from researchers and language educators. This apparent decline in a person’s language abilities, regardless of L1 or L2, can have significant implications for individuals, communities, and even entire societies. Given the widespread and dynamic nature of language attrition, there is a pressing need for us to adopt a more proactive and strategic approach in addressing this issue. This can be achieved through a combination of increasing awareness and understanding of the phenomenon, experimenting with various pedagogical strategies, actively engaging with current research, and supporting such research through forming partnerships and collaborations.

Firstly, it is crucial that language educators recognise and acknowledge the phenomenon of LANGUAGE ATTRITION. By developing an empathetic understanding of LANGUAGE ATTRITION, we can help to alleviate any stigma or misconceptions surrounding this phenomenon and ensure that learners who may be experiencing attrition are provided with the necessary support and resources to address their language difficulties effectively.

We should also closely follow the latest research in the field of LANGUAGE ATTRITION to keep updated on latest recommendations in addressing the phenomenon and how we can play a role here. A useful resource for this purpose is this website that aims to serve as a hub for information and research on the topic – managed by one of the key authority figures on the topic, Professor Monika Schmid (you would have seen many of her works cited in this article). I will also be writing follow-ups to this article in the near future on factors that can impact the degree of attrition and some known strategies for reversing attrition.  By staying updated on the most recent studies and findings, we can continually refine our teaching practices and strategies based on empirical evidence and best practices.

In the meanwhile, we could also experiment with a variety of pedagogical strategies and methods tailored to the specific context of LANGUAGE ATTRITION. I have provided a list of recommended strategies in this article. Crucially, we should continually evaluate the effectiveness of their strategies and make necessary adjustments based on students’ needs and progress, ensuring a student-centered, supportive, and inclusive learning experience for all. Do share with me some of your thoughts too!

Lastly, language educators can contribute to the knowledge and understanding of LANGUAGE ATTRITION by forming partnerships and actively supporting research in this area. This could involve us collaborating with researchers and institutions, participating in data collection efforts, or providing feedback and insights based on their own experiences and observations in the classroom. Such partnerships can serve as a valuable bridge between research and practice, enhancing the knowledge base on LANGUAGE ATTRITION and positively impacting the teaching and learning process.

  • Gallo, F., Bermudez-Margaretto, B., Shtyrov, Y., Abutalebi, J., Kreiner, H., Chitaya, T., Petrova, A., & Myachykov, A. (2021). First Language Attrition: What It Is, What It Isn’t, and What It Can Be. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 15. DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2021.686388.
  • Köpke, B. (2007). Language attrition at the crossroads of brain, mind, and society. In Schmid, M.S., Köpke, B., Keijzer, M., & Dostert, S. (Eds.), Language Attrition: Theoretical perspectives (pp. 9-38). Amsterdam Netherlands: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
  • Köpke, B., & Schmid, M.S. (2004). Language attrition: The next phase. In Schmid, M.S., Köpke, B., Keijzer, M., & Weilemar, L. (Eds.), First Language Attrition: Interdisciplinary perspectives on methodological issues (pp. 1-43). Amsterdam Netherlands: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
  • Schmid, M.S. (2007). The role of L1 use for L1 attrition. In Schmid, M.S., Köpke, B., Keijzer, M., & Dostert, S. (Eds.), Language Attrition: Theoretical perspectives (pp. S: 74-81). Amsterdam Netherlands: John Benjamins Publishing Company.Schmid, M.S. (2008). Defining language attrition. Babylonia, 2(8), 9-12.
  • Schmid, M.S. (2011). Language Attrition. Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • Schmid, M.S. (2023). The final frontier? Why we have been ignoring second language attrition, and why it is time we stopped. Language Teaching, 56, 73-93. DOI: 10.1017/S0261444822000301.
  • Schmid, M.S., & Köpke, B. (2007). Bilingualism and attrition. In Schmid, M.S., Köpke, B., Keijzer, M., & Dostert, S. (Eds.), Language Attrition: Theoretical perspectives (pp. 1-8). Amsterdam Netherlands: John Benjamins Publishing Company.Sorace, A. (2020). L1 attrition in a wider perspective. Second Language Research, 36(2), 203-206.
  • Sorace, A. (2020). L1 attrition in a wider perspective. Second Language Research, 36(2), 203-206.

References

Altenberg, E.P. (1991). Assessing first language vulnerability to attrition. In Seliger, H.W., & Vago, R.M. (Eds.), First language attrition (pp. 189-206). Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press.

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