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VZwolf

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

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Rhyme

I'm Norwegian, and I'm in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme so I speak a lot of English. I wouldn't call myself bilingual, but I often think in English, and I often find it hard to speak Norwegian. The two languages are muddled in my brain, and at this point, I need to use an English-to-Norwegian dictionary to write texts in my own native language. 

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Rallion

Born English speaking, but I learned Portuguese and lived in Portugal for 2 years.

When I was in Portugal, my thoughts would tend to be in Portuguese if I was speaking to someone, reading, or writing in PT. If I wasn't doing any of those things, then it would generally just be whatever language I was speaking last - depending somewhat on context. If for example I was thinking about pastéis de natas (a very tasty food) I would think in PT, because the subject of my thought is a PT word. If I was thinking about pie, my thoughts would typically be English.

On the way home, passing through an airport in England, I did accidentally ask for directions in PT, and it took a couple of tries to realise I was speaking the wrong language.

I don't really have anyone to speak to in PT now so 90% of the time I think in English, and only start thinking in PT when I am remembering stuff I did in Portugal.

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Busrider

To appear fluent, you have to think in the language you are going to use. - Translating is a horribly tough job and way harder than understanding the other language. If I had to produce a bilingual paper I'd start in the 2nd language with less vocabulary at hand and translate / re-write it into my first later. 

I sometimes notice myself sponging up text about interesting to me topics, without caring to find the native German equivalent for terms used in English texts.

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hopeisnotlost

I´m fluent in  english only.But I do listen to songs that aren´t in english sometimes and they get stuck in my head.

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Woef

Sometimes I think in Dutch, sometimes I think in English. Usually when I'm with Dutchies I think in Dutch, but when I'm on my own I think in English. Sometimes I start to think in one language and then switch. Quite random :P

 

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OverwhelmedA

English is my second language, but I think in English most of the time. I think it has to do with the fact that I lived in an English-speaking country when I was very young, and it became so natural for me. When I came back to my home country it was fun to write personal notes or think in English (It felt more private and I thought I was like a spy or something.) and the habit stuck. Also, English is so much satisfying to use with sarcastic comments and dry humour.

The only problem with this habit is that sometimes I think of something to say in English, but it becomes really weird when I translate it so I can't speak out.

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Bloc

Interesting question. I have thought about this a few times. Usually I am thinking in German, when I am not talking in English. When switching the spoken language it take a minute or two for changing the language of thoughts. However sometimes I find myself walking or cycling down a road and realizing that I've been thinking the last time in English without realizing that I was thinking in English. When I am not using a language for reading, writing or talking, I don't why I am think in English or German. The only thing I can say for sure is that I am mostly thinking in German, except I am mostly using English at the day.

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Zoe W.

My first language is French, but English is my preferred language now.  I mostly speak, read, write, watch TV, etc., in English.  I think in both languages still (sometimes some swear words are better in French, sometimes better in English, haha).  However, when I am with someone who is as equally bilingual as me, I will mix both languages in the same sentence often without realizing it, I don't know why, just the way my brain works I guess, it grabs onto the first word that comes to mind regardless of language.  In my little world, Frenglish is alive and well.

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Laurann

I'm native in Dutch, but my English is better. I think almost exclusively in English, unless someone talks to me in Dutch, then I think a couple of sentences in Dutch, but when I'm left alone I go back to English again.

 

Hmm, now that I think about it, it's actually more complicated than that. If I think back to something I experienced in Dutch, I'll start thinking in Dutch, but when telling someone about something I experienced in English (a video I watched, an article I read, or something I experienced during my year in China) I think in English, even if I'm speaking Dutch to them. At times like this I feel like a freaking failure, because I can't translate my thoughts fast enough to tell the story convincingly, so I end up stuttering half Dutch half English sentences that don't make any sense. (Depending on who I'm with I'll just switch to telling the story in English at that point, but if I'm talking to a stranger that's awkward and inappropriate).

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Maks9090

So I'm fluent in Polish, Italian, and of course, English.

 

When I was a kid I thought more in Italian than Polish, even though I have always lived in Poland, and now, since about... uh... 5 or 6 years I do basically everything in English ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

 

I just think in whatever language appeals to me best at the time, and now it's English.

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Yato

I sometimes force myself to think in the language I am learning, so I can become more flexible with it. It is rather difficult. 

 

I find keeping track of the words and sentences you use in everyday life. Then translating them, and attempting to use them will help with this. 

 

One of the reasons people find language so hard, is they mentally translate it first. Instead of trusting their mind to use the write words naturally. So technically there are two kinds of bilinguals. Naturals (very rare) and quick translators (Common). The naturals are the people who can learn like 25 languages and be fluent. 

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Maks9090
44 minutes ago, Yato God of Tofu said:

I sometimes force myself to think in the language I am learning, so I can become more flexible with it. It is rather difficult. 

 

I find keeping track of the words and sentences you use in everyday life. Then translating them, and attempting to use them will help with this. 

 

One of the reasons people find language so hard, is they mentally translate it first. Instead of trusting their mind to use the write words naturally. So technically there are two kinds of bilinguals. Naturals (very rare) and quick translators (Common). The naturals are the people who can learn like 25 languages and be fluent. 

Am I a natural with untapped potential then?!?! *-*

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Yato
1 minute ago, Maks9090 said:

Am I a natural with untapped potential then?!?! *-*

Perhaps! Who can say :P

 

The only thing I have going for me, is pattern recognition. I can pick up patterns really easily, and it helps with language learning. Espcially sentence endings. 

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Maks9090
2 minutes ago, Yato God of Tofu said:

Perhaps! Who can say :P

 

The only thing I have going for me, is pattern recognition. I can pick up patterns really easily, and it helps with language learning. Espcially sentence endings. 

I guess you'd have a field trip with Polish haha

 

There are patterns for a MULTITUDE of stuff, it would take me so long to list all the stuff... and then most of those patterns have exceptions lol

 

(the only one that I can recall that DOESN'T have an exception is "no+verb" which are always separate lol)

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QuirkyGeek

I usually think in my first language which is english, but sometimes I'll catch myself thinking in french as well. I also think in abstract ideas, so thinking in any language is no walk in the park. XD

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AshenPhoenix

I dunno if I'd consider myself fully bilingual. But often when thinking of a phrase, since French is not a native language I will catch myself not thinking in French, but automatically translating into French. Like. I will think whatever I'm thinking in English, and then, almost like subtitles in a movie, be translating it into French half a second after and sometimes during the thought xD

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Toothlesss

J'a me appelle Heather, et je connais très bien l'anglais et l'espagnol.  Je commence à apprendre le français. 

 

Me llamo Heather y conozco bien ingles y español. Yo comienzo a  aprender a francés. 

 

Ich bin Heather und Ich kann Englisch und Spanisch sehr gut. Ich fange nur an, Französisch zu lernen. 

 

Not that I can think really fast in either of these languages except for Spanish. But my knowledge of Spanish really helps with the other romance languages and German helps with the other Germanic languages. Now that I'm actually learning some French I'm noticing soo much of the words already. (Thank you Norman Conquest and Battle of Hastings! lol ) 

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Binary_fiction

I'm a native French speaker who live in an English speaking province so I'm fully bilingual in those 2 languages but I'm also learning Spanish and have basic Hebrew from my conversion to Judaism. :)

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Nowhere Girl

I wouldn't consider myself bilingual in a strict sense. While I started learning English early and I can speak it fluently, it is still a foreign language to me. Unfortunately, most people never have a chance to be truly bilingual - the window of opportunity closes very early and it only opens if one has intense contact with another language at an early age (in my case the first condition was not met, all my earliest contact with English has been of the "typical childhood foreign language learning" type and I still wasn't really able to hold a conversation in English until I got a computer and started playing English-language adventure games at the age of 12-13). I regret it because bilingualism very much stimulates the brain - while bilingual children usually start speaking a little bit later, perhaps feeling confused, later they can learn other languages more easily, their brains become more "flexible". On a more psychological level I seem to experience a bit of such benefits of bilingualism - a general more flexible and critical approach to language issues - but maybe it's because I'm generally interested in these issues.

However, I'm an extreme "verbal thinker". When I think of something, I usually say whole sentences in my thoughts. And when thinking about something related to a foreign language - such as thinking what to write here - I'm able to switch to thinking in that language.

 

There can be some very interesting cases, language - and more generally, the mind - is extremely complex. A few peculiar cases I know of:

1. When learning Ukrainian, I started with a free online course. And the author - who is now also the Polish correspondent of the Ukrainian weekly "Dzerkalo Tyzhnia" ("Mirror of the Week") - started his contact with this language in a very interesting way. He was a student at that time, thought about going on a student exchange program and, seeking an adventure, spontaneously chose Kyiv despite not speaking Ukrainian or even Russian (there are a lot of Russian speakers in Ukraine and almost everyone understands Russian). Erlier, to prepare himself, he just started learning the very basics from a phrasebook and spent a short holiday in Lviv. So he just dived in almost unprepared and had to accomodate to intense contact with a language he hardly knew. He wrote that in the evenings he thought that he would finally have time to relax a bit and at least to think in Polish - no way, after all day he was so confused that, despite still not knowing Ukrainian well, thought in a mixture of Polish and Ukrainian. Or he met some other people from Poland and later realized that he couldn't recall what language he was speaking with them.

2. A man had the bad luck of being son of an American communist. His father made the bad decision of emigrating to the "homeland of international working class" and, to prove his good intentions - to show that he was not an American spy or anything - he persuaded his eldest son to renounce American citizenship. Later he realized that Soviet reality was not as rosy as he thought and the family quickly made a trip back. And the eldest son, no longer an American citizen, became trapped in the Soviet Union. (I can't imagine that the family did nothing to get him out of this jam, but I'm just relating the story I read.) He thought that seeking a solution with the American embassy could only bring attention to him and bring him trouble, so he decided to stay low and try to accomodate to the situation. He married a Russian woman and, after years of virtually no contact with English, he gradually forgot it even thought it was his native language. When, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, he saw his sister for the first time in years, he already spoke English poorly, like a not very well learnt foreign language. And then he had a stroke and a strange thing happened: after regaining consciousness he started speaking English fluently, as if all the years of being trapped in a foreign country had never happened. He was quite accepting towards the situation, he said that worse things can happen and he would just have to relean Russian. But anyway, it's an amazing story of strange pathways in the human mind.

3. A somewhat similar story: a man had a stroke and afterwards didn't remember English and spoke a strange language. Someone determined that it was Cornish, but still the question remained: how did he know this language if he had never learned it? It turned out that as a baby he had a Cornish nanny who spoke this language to him and, despite not consciously remembering it, this knowledge remained somewhere in his mind.

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rtlloyd98

Oh boy I've had a situation regarding this issue. I speak Welsh and English fluently. Sometimes if I talk to strangers I start to speak Welsh to them. This is usually triggered if I can't think of the English word. For some reason my Welsh brain takes over. 

 

Also I went to a Welsh school. We'd get punished for speaking English in school... so me and other peers mastered switching ;=lanuages mid sentence and then back again if a teacher wlaked in and out of a room. i.e

 

Speaking English in school yna'n newid i Gymraeg pan mae athro'n cerdded mewn then back to English when teacher leaves #WelshEducation

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ryan_

I mostly think in English, my first language, but occasionally I'll replace certain English words with words in another language. I do the same when writing and speaking sometimes, too.

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maemi

It's so interesting to read everyone's thoughts and experiences on this! I find myself switching languages depending on the subject. So if I'm thinking/talking about a favourite tv-show for example, I'll think about it in English (if the show is in English that is) and even prefer to talk about it in English too. Doctor Who is a good example; I'll rather talk about it using the words they use on the show instead of translating them myself. I never read the subtitles watching English speaking shows or movies even if they are on, so I don't think I would even know how to translate some of the vocabulary on that show.

 

I talk to myself a lot. Not out loud of course, but in my head or sometimes in certain situations I might whisper to myself. I hardly ever do this in my first language (Finnish). It's usually in English but I often try to do it in Swedish or Spanish or German too to improve those skills. But I have to say out of all these languages I still love Finnish the most and it is the language of all my deepest thoughts, feelings and emotions. I wouldn't want to let any other language take it's place.

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arekathevampyre

I speak 2 languages - English and Mandarin Chinese . I can understand bits and pieces of Chinese dialect here and there but cannot speak dialect . 

 

I am intending to learn Russian and German . 

 

Being bilingual is really funny because I can switch from one language to another in the same sentence and to make things worse , I can do translations in my mind (one language to another) but it always turns out to become garbage lol because I will just make a transliteration . wtf . hahaha

 

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Toothlesss

Comprendo mucho español, este quiero mirar Coco en español en vez de inglés. Los canciones suenan mejor en ellos lengua materna.  Inglés suena plano. 

 

 I understand a lot of Spanish, that I want to watch Coco in Spanish instead of English. The songs sound better in their native language. English sounds flat. 

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Cimmerian

This thread's been a lot of fun to read!

 

I'm not bilingual yet (although I can read and understand decently in the other), but I used to be able to think in French when I was using it more regularly. Now I've noticed that certain phrases in a second or third language become more automatic and integrated in my head so that I'll use them over their English equivalents sometimes. A couple silly little phrases that I use a lot while shopping tend to end up said in French over English for some reason. I have dreamed in French before but I swear only half of it was accurately used French. xD

 

Once I gain vocabulary in a new language I try to use it mixed in with English so that I start using the words or phrases more naturally instead of translating to them all the time, so sometimes I'll ask what the object is (in my head) in English and then not think of the object name in English but try to use Russian for the object. Or... sometimes it gets mixed up and I end up with French quizzing me on Russian since I know more phrases and sentence structure in French.

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elmrain

My first language is English, but I've been living in Japan for nearly two years now and even before that would have considered myself 'pretty fluent' in the language. I definitely think in Japanese quite a lot and quite often I'll go for Japanese over English. 

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paperbackreader

My country is multi-lingual and it is not uncommon to grow up learning 2-3 languages at the same time. Generally, most people of my country think in a 'pidgin' of languages with some words will default to the most prominent word of the available languages for my country, but with a preferred dominant overall language that sets most of the grammar rules. For me that more dominant language is English, but most of the vegetables names are more directly associated in my nation's language and most of my swearing in my dad's racial language... etc. Yeah, complicated. 

 

@arekathevampyre - What Chinese dialects do you half know? I speak and understand basic Cantonese - and I only understand a little bit but like the Chongqing dialect loads. The Hainan / Minan / Taiwan / Fujian dialects have some interesting intonations but make my head explode. I'd like to learn Russian too!!

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Correner

I technically spoke Mandarin Chinese first, but now rely primarily on English. I can think in Chinese and don't normally have to formally translate to English in my head to understand what is being said, but I have an okay vocabulary at best currently. As a result I get frustrated when trying to express a concept I have the words for in English but not in Chinese. I pick it back up quickly when actually around more than one person speaking Chinese. I would not consider my skill in Hebrew to be even passable. Used to be a lot better but it has decayed over time.

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