5 ways I keep in touch with my mother tongue

Translation agencies often mention on their website that they work with ‘in-country’ linguists. This means that they use translators that live in the country where their native language is spoken. This is a selling point because of first language attrition (FLA); the gradual decline in native language proficiency. This happens when you use your second language more frequently, influencing and ‘corrupting’ this way your first language.

Language attrition does not only happen to translators, but to anyone living outside the country where their native language is spoken. And if you don’t take corrective measures, your native language competence can seriously deteriorate.

So here is what I do almost daily to keep in touch with my mother tongue.

1. Listen to the news from the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation (ERT)

These days, with technology and online streaming, it is easy to connect to radio or TV channels anywhere in the world. I go to http://webtv.ert.gr/ and while I am not able to listen to some programmes due to my location (IP address restrictions), I can watch the news which I try to do every day.

2. Listen to podcasts in Greek

That’s a tough one because not many Greeks have gone back to recording podcasts yet! The best podcast series I have found in Greek is ‘Πολιτιστικές Αναφορές’ by Deutsche Welle, funnily a German channel. I listen to those on my iPhone app ‘Podcasts’. They are very accessible as they download automatically on my phone and they are usually quite short. I tend to catch up with my podcasts on the train on my way to events, interpreting assignemenets and client meetings.

3. Read magazines and newspapers in Greek

That’s an easy one as newspapers are online, free and accessible as long as you have internet, a phone, a tablet or a computer. Apart from the digital newspapers, there’s print too! I am lucky to live so close to London where international news stands still exist, especially around Oxford Street, Charing Cross and international railway stations such as King's Cross St. Pancras. Alternatively, when I visit Greece, I stock up!

4. Listen to Greek Parliament live

I visit the official Greek Parliament website where I watch live or recorded debates on a variety of topics. I tend to choose topics relating to my interests such as languages, education, business, culture, social and gender equality, law and psychology. This also helps me keep in touch with current national and international affairs.

5. Oxford University Greek Society Member

I am lucky to live in Oxford where there is a strong Greek community, a church, a school, a choir (Nostos), a theatre group (Praxis) and a university society (OUGS)! I am a member of both the OUGS society and the choir. I meet with the rest of the choir members once a week for 2 hours rehearsing songs in Greek. We hold a number of performances per year. This means that I not only socialise with other Greek people, but I also read and perform songs often written in various Greek dialects. OUGS organises parties, BBQs, lectures, football tournaments etc. which are all great opportunities to meet people and speak Greek!

Are you a translator or an expat living abroad in a country where your mother tongue is not the official language? What do you do to keep in touch with yours? Let me know in the comments!

Vasiliki is a translator, interpreter, transcreator, blogger, consultant and director of Greek to Me Translations Ltd. She works with English and Greek and specialises in legal, creative, and psychometrics. She is a Chartered Linguist, member of CIoL, ITI and PEM and she is registered with the Greek Consulate as a certified translator and interpreter. She holds a BA in English and Masters in Business Translation and Interpreting. She is a Steering Group Member of the CIOL Translating Division and CIOL Business, Professions and Government Division. She is an Associate Lecturer in Legal Translation at London Metropolitan University, a public speaker and writer for industry magazines. Her mission is to help you achieve your goals through the power of words. You can follow her on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.



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