The problem with pausing
For various reasons, I suspended my language lessons over the summer. I had professional and personal circumstances that wouldn’t allow me to carry on with the same teacher, but luckily I have recently been able to reunite with her and try to pick up where I left off.
Unfortunately, picking up where you left off sometimes isn’t that easy when it comes to language (and many other pursuits that involve practice or study). I hadn’t been maintaining the same level of exposure and practice with Chinese, and it took me a couple of lessons to pick up steam again. My teacher allowed me a week or two to use basic vocabulary in my output, before she started putting a bit more pressure on me.
Apparently I am doing fairly well, though, as she told me that she has had students who, after a break of a few weeks or months, have returned to her with a vocabulary containing not much more than ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’. I could still make full (and comprehensible) sentences. Of course, my break still involved speaking a bit of Chinese to people, and trying to read and listen a bit. I didn’t go back to a country that speaks an entirely different language.
So, if I ever have to have another break from proper classes, I’ll definitely try to keep exposing myself to more Chinese, so that my inevitable backward slide is down a slightly shallower slope. I don’t want to start again as a total beginner.