Pardon the awkward phrasing in the title, but I am essentially wondering about the following scenario.

A person, Alice, grows up bilingual, speaking languages A and B. She lives in a country C in which the national language is A, but her social circle is primarily people who grew up in country D whose native language is B. She has no B-accent when speaking language A. Alice then moves to D, and now speaks B almost 100% of the time with other native speakers. A few years later, she appears to have adopted not only a B-accent when speaking A (subtle, but heard by native speakers of A), but also certain broken-A phrases common for people whose first language is B and second language is A. That is, she now speaks A as if it is her second language, albeit still fluently.

My question is then: is such a phenomenon well-known? Where can I read more about it, if so?

More generally, to what extent does one's environment affect fluency of one's native language?

  • The situation you describe does not sound unusual to me, but that's just based on anecdotes that I have heard. Also, it seems to be commonly believed/a common experience that "re-learning" a language back to previous levels of proficiency typically takes much less time than learning the language for the first time. – brass tacks Nov 14 '17 at 19:24
  • A often-mentioned anecdote is Joseph Conrad's complaint that he had lost some fluency in his native Polish. – Greg Lee Nov 14 '17 at 20:27
  • I know a man who grew up in South America speaking spanish as a young child outward, but in home he spoke Italian. They moved else at an early age and he lost his ability to speak spanish. He still speaks italian, and he taught himself english with a King James Bible. So him in his case was losing a second language, which is common. I think I have heard of people losing ease of speech in first languages, but I can attest to this that you probably do begin using grammatically incorrect statements, I know I do on occasion, but then I run to the most obscure rules to justify, so technically no... – Matthew T. Scarbrough Nov 15 '17 at 13:33
  • Jacob Bronowski says in his The Ascent of Man that he lost the ability to speak and understand Polish, so I suppose it is possible. But I am not certain whether his first language was Polish or Yiddish. – Luís Henrique Nov 17 '17 at 12:39