A total of 128 different languages are spoken on the BYU campus, and almost 65% of students at BYU speak a second language. Many students learned these languages while serving missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Language loss, or language attrition, begins almost as soon as missionaries leave their mission and return to an English-speaking environment. While keeping up a second language isn’t easy, it’s definitely possible. BYU Spanish professor Scott Alvord said immersing oneself in the second language for even as little as 15 minutes a day could be enough to prevent this attrition.
The Daily Universe interviewed BYU professors of language and linguistics as well as several returned missionaries who speak a second language and broke down their best advice into three steps:
- Be realistic. Be honest about the language level and realistic about how much effort it will require to put in practice. Set goals based on this self-evaluation. Realize that language practice won’t just happen; it will take effort.
- Input. All the foreign language materials are important for this. Listen to audiobooks, broadcasts and music in that language. Read books and newspapers and watch movies and TV shows in that language.
- Output. This means speaking and writing — constructing sentences. Find a speaking partner and practice talking with them. Practice writing.