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VZwolf

To Bi/Multilinguals... (Or Anyone, Really. Come in!)

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VZwolf

Just a stray thought I had.

As a kid I remember asking myself what languages other people thought in. Logically seeing as I am British and my first language is English, I speak and think in English; so it would make sense for other people (say, a German person) to think in whatever language is their first (i.e. German).

But what of bi- and multilingual people?

I would assume that unless fluent in another language, you would continue to think in your first. But is that true?

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argar

I think so.

We are always more comfortable in out dominant language.

When we get really upset and swear, it is out dominant language that comes out.

I don't think it matters how fluent we are in other languages.

So I think it is safe to assume that our thoughts are the same way.

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DiEvAl

It depends on what I'm thinking about. Generally I think about stuff in the language in which I talk/hear/write/read about it most often.

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Fitzsimmons ♡

I think in English or Italian depending on the day, or moment of the day, or who I am with, or what I am doing. I don't even notice.

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FoxEars

Honestly, assuming I have the requisite vocabulary, I actually tend to favour my second language (French) for most thoughts I have. (If I ever come across a point in my thinking where I don't know a word in French, I will genuinely think the word in English in a French accent. This doesn't happen too often but it vaguely amuses me when it does.) Weirdly, this is especially true when I'm under time pressure (which makes me rather inefficient at ... well, most things, to be honest), perhaps because French is generally a more fast-paced language? I don't know.

With the exception of time-pressure, when experiencing predominantly negative emotions I tend to revert to thinking in English, whereas when experiencing predominantly more positive emotions I find myself thinking more and more in French (sometimes to the point of accidentally letting a word or two of French slip out in conversation, which I'm sure makes me seem incredibly pretentious :redface:).

^ FoxEars ^

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Rising Sun

I would assume that unless fluent in another language, you would continue to think in your first. But is that true?

I read that one strong sign that you reach true fluency is when you start thinking and dreaming as much in your learned language as in your mother language. It's quite true for me. The thing is I'm a visual thinker though, so I don't think in words most of the time. I think in words only when i imagine a conversation, something I imagine I'll write or when I dream about people talking or reading, and when I do it's often a mix of both languages. I often use the shortest or most accurate word coming from both languages and that creates quite a monstrous "Frankenstein" language in my head, and not only in my head sometimes as I might accidentally speak like that IRL :D I know other bilingual persons who do it as well.

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fiѕh

I'm german and think English when I've been speaking it say, over a day. Sometimes I even can't come up with the proper german words anyway, English is more comfortable sorta...

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Notte stellata

It depends on what I'm thinking about. Generally I think about stuff in the language in which I talk/hear/write/read about it most often.

I think in English or Italian depending on the day, or moment of the day, or who I am with, or what I am doing. I don't even notice.

I can relate to both of these. But yes, I can only think in a second language that I'm fluent in.

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C-3PO

i usually think in English because i think a lot about topics which i read about mainly in English(for example about sexuality, gender, video games). It actually is getting so bad i sometimes forget words in my first language, Dutch, or literally translate an English phrase to Dutch.

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Rashkae

This is a really interesting topic that I never really thought of before. I "speak" two languages, English and American Sign Language. If I'm in a situation where I'm signing, then I think in Sign and end up visualizing the words rather than "hearing" them in my head. However, this does not extend to reading. If I have to read something during a time when I'm signing, then I read in English without translating the words into the visual language. But, if I'm listening to music, then I translate the song into Sign as I listen along to the lyrics.

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scarletlatitude

Honestly, assuming I have the requisite vocabulary, I actually tend to favour my second language (French) for most thoughts I have. (If I ever come across a point in my thinking where I don't know a word in French, I will genuinely think the word in English in a French accent. This doesn't happen too often but it vaguely amuses me when it does.) Weirdly, this is especially true when I'm under time pressure (which makes me rather inefficient at ... well, most things, to be honest), perhaps because French is generally a more fast-paced language? I don't know.

No joke, that is how I learned to pronounce things in French. :P

I guess I am technically bilingual... I am somewhat fluent in French, but only very basic conversations in French. I could probably pass for a French primary school student. I don't think I know it well enough for it to enter my thoughts unless I am purposely trying to think in French.

This is a really interesting topic that I never really thought of before. I "speak" two languages, English and American Sign Language. If I'm in a situation where I'm signing, then I think in Sign and end up visualizing the words rather than "hearing" them in my head. However, this does not extend to reading. If I have to read something during a time when I'm signing, then I read in English without translating the words into the visual language. But, if I'm listening to music, then I translate the song into Sign as I listen along to the lyrics.

That is actually really interesting. I have a friend who lost her hearing partway through childhood, so she speaks English and uses Sign Language, and can read lips. Now I wonder what language she thinks in...

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MSmile02

When learning a language I make myself think and ponder things in that language. Because of that I find it very rare when I think in Spanish. Now I'm trying to learn French and I've found all of my showers thoughts to be composed in broken French with some English and Spanish mixed in. It feels really weird to speak another language in your mind but it's also very amusing and I often find myself smiling like a goofball when I catch myself thinking in any language now.

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AnotherWeasley

I'd say it really does depend on which language you feel more comfortable with. I'm German by birth and upbringing, but I feel more comfortable thinking and speaking English now. I just ike it better as a language and I've been told by several people that my English is better than my German now (which sucks when you're trying to write a paper in German xD). Generally I think in English, I only switch to German if I'm speaking to someone else in German. As soon as I'm alone and not reading a German text or something it's back to English.

And it probably also depends on the topic. For example, I can't talk about asexuality in German, because I've only read English texts and spoken to others about it in English. It just sounds weird when I try. When my brother asked me about my attitude towards sex and relationships, I immediately switched to English. It's the same with most fandoms: the quotes are in English ergo I talk about it in English

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Lixt

I think more in English than in my native language (French).

In my opinion, when you're fluent you think in the same language you're currently speaking (or listenning, reading, writing), otherwise you're losing time translating and you can also get stuck because you're trying to translate an expression that may not even exist in the other language instead of expressing a concept free of any particular and rigid expression.

When I'm not speaking/listenning to someone/reading/writing, it can be up to : mood, subject, last language used, if I'm alone or not, where I am, etc.

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XYZ96

when I've been hearing/speaking english for a few day my thoughts are mostly English, if I've been hearing/speaking german for a few days I think mostly in german...

or if I don't know a word in one language I'll switch...

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bittersweet988

My first language is Italian, but I often find myself thinking in English. That's probably because I have been studying English since I was very young and I like it more than my first language. Also, because of my job, I deal with English texts everyday, so thinking in English comes naturally to me.

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K!m

My mother tongue is Filipino, but most of the time I think and talk to myself in English. I'm actually better at English, so there are things I can explain in English but not in Filipino. The opposite is true sometimes as well though. Then again, I'm not very good at articulating in general, but I digress.

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Tos

It depends! Things like the topic I'm thinking about, the people talking around me/what language I heard spoken most recently, if I'm reading or not, and, if there are multiple inputs, which ones I'm paying attention to more can make a difference.

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Trava u doma

I am Polish and I think in English, unless I'm talking to someone who lives in Poland, but even that not always. Interestingly, when I talk to a Polish friend who lives in Britain we will frequently insert English words and phrases into the conversation. I've lived in the UK for three years now, and while my English is still not perfect, it is the dominant language for me.

I think in Russian when I talk to someone in Russian, because it is a sufficiently similar language. On the other hand, I really don't know what language I think in when I speak German.

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Queen Under the Mountain
Like others, if I spend the day reading and listening in English, I'll probably think in English too.

I started thinking in English when I was studying as a tool to pratice the language, since it is hard to find someone to speak in English with me all the time, but at some moment it became an habit and there are days I barely think in Portuguese (my mother tongue). I also perceived that, when I'm trying to think logically about something emotional, I tend to think in English too, it helps me to put a distance between me and the subject, enhancing the logical thought.

Now that I'm learning French, I'm starting to try to think in French too, but how it is very basic yet, I imagine two people talking in my head, one in French and the other in English, so when I don't know how to say something in French I switch to the english person in my head, yeah, crazy, I know :P

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DiEvAl

I've conducted a small experiment after I saw this thread. It was just a simple poll on a social network. The question was "In what language are you thinking right now?" (in English). Most participants were from Russia and Ukraine, and none were from English-speaking countries. Here are the results:

English 8

Russian 5

Ukrainian 4

Kazakh 1

Dutch 1

Looks like asking a question in English makes people think in English (duh!).

And yes, I know that the sample size was too small, and there was even no control group :(

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AgentKEW

I'm not fluent in any language but English, but I know words and phrases from all over. My thoughts (and my speech) are just a jumble of everything I know. Occasionally including a language I'm building just to have something to do, which confuses anyone who's listening to me talk to myself. I'll say something like "What the y-ziv is that?" (y-ziv is pronounced yur-zeev translates roughly to something along the lines of hey - it's an exclamation of surprise and/or confusion) and I'll get the strangest looks. Or I'll be talking and not notice that I slipped in a word of Japanese or Spanish or something.

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m02a16ds

I am multilingual and I don't think in "languages" at all when alone. In my head I think more in...images, I guess? In weird multidimensional-but-mostly-visual concepts.

While having a conversation/reading a book/watching a movie/etc, I think in a most recently used language.

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Anyina

I remember thinking, when I was really young (maybe4 or 5 years old?), that it seemed rather dumb for people to speak other languages when "then they would obviously have to translate back to Spanish (my native language) in their heads" xDD I just couldn't compute, since I thought in Spanish, how would other people be able to think on any other language...

Right now I'm fluent in several languages other than Spanish, and I'd say for me thinking in one or another depends a lot on the person/situation I'm thinking about. I'll switch to English, for example, depending who I'm thinking about or "talking to" inside my head.

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Annapox

My first language is English, but when I was little I was also fluent in German (my family lived in Germany for a very short time). I'm re-learning German now, but my parents are still pretty proficient.

My mom says she dreams in German sometimes, but I haven't quite gotten there yet. But we both have trouble with crossword puzzles because we think of the German translations of the clues instead of actual English answers and then wonder why nothing fits. When I'm speaking German, I think mostly in German, with the exception of the more complicated sentences that I still have to plan out in my head before I talk. Other than that, I only think in German occasionally, and it's usually just one word or phrase at a time rather than the whole thought.

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Sutaomiiru

I would say that I almost think equally in English (second language), as in Swedish (native language). I think in German (third language) quite often too, and sometime I think single sentences in Japanese (fourth or fifth, depending on how you count).

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Cleo

I'm trilingual for now and I must say that I switch extremly quickly between languages, in my mind, as well as when speaking. It's just completely natural to me. So yes, whatever language I know, fits to certain situation, that's the language I'll start thinking in. It's fun! :D

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Yew

English is my 'social' language and Japanese is my 'personal' language. (English = mother tongue, Japanese = second)

I only use English when in company/on English speaking forums. As soon as I'm on my own I think/talk to myself in Japanese.

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acetylcholine

I only speak Spanish at work, and after a few Spanish-speaking customers in a row, I notice that I tend to prefer to continue in that language. Sometimes I notice myself thinking in Spanish, but mainly within this context. I often wonder if I was using the language outside of work if I would be more likely to think in Spanish.

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Emery.

I think in the language that suits best for the situation, or what concept I have in mind, which often results in a wierd mixed language in my head. I tend to think aout a situation in the language I most often speak or read and write about it. So I tend to e.g. think about Math in English, bc I was taught it at school in English, and about daily activities in my native language (it's a Slovian language), because I talk with my family about it in this language. I rather don't think in my third language, German, unless some word or expression is really on spot, and I am less fluent in it than in English. I know English comparably well to my mother tongue, becuase I attended an international school and we learnt, wrote and read a lot in English. German is a thing I have been learning for 6h a week with not that much involvement. But I would say that it's not the lack of fluency that is holding me back from thinking in German, but rather lack of situations carrying connotation of German words, so to say. Sitautions don't bring memories with German words, these words and grammar are not what I associate with any situation I am in on a normal basis. I have lots of memories involving English, on the contrary. And a lot of concepts in my head are entirely in English, read in English first, reasoned in English, dealt with entirely in English. English brings emotions and is connected with them, whereas German isn't, for me. I'm not sure if I'm showing my point clearly :P

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