The Guardian

Losing your first language? Here’s how to rediscover your voice | Monika Schmid

Expats are often shaky in their mother tongue. But fear not: the fight in the brain known as language attrition can be stopped• Monika Schmid is a professor in linguistics at the University of Essex
‘In a foreign context, expats like me feel like a fish out of water or, perhaps more accurately, like a sea lion.’ Photograph: Andy Hall for the Observer

When a former PhD candidate recently asked me to write a reference for her, I found myself facing an unexpected dilemma. She is a wonderful person and a brilliant scientist whom any employer should consider themselves lucky to recruit, and I’m delighted to provide a reference saying just that.

The problem lies in the fact that the job is a lectureship for teaching German. I’m German myself, as is she, and so I felt I should write the letter in German.

I couldn’t do it.

First off, I no longer trust my German spelling. This is

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