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

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booksoversex

I mostly think in my own language. When I lived in Ireland, I thought in English because it was the language I used the most. I often think about TV shows and stuff in English because that's the language I watch them in. I quite frequently swear in English in my mind when something happens, which is sort of hilarious. English has become a "natural" language to me, I think you have to be pretty fluent in a language to think in it. I understand Spanish fairly well but still have to translate it in my mind to English or Norwegian to fully grasp the statement so I can make a reply.

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kitsuneyaro

It depends on where I am and what I've been doing, I mix the languages up. I know I can go from Swedish into English in the same sentence,

instead of looking for words that are temporarily forgotten in my head, or just using preferred words. I game a lot and talk in English/Japanese on mic.

I don't think a lot in Japanese though, unless I've been spending a whole day around it.

However if I'm really pissed off, I will feel the urge to go back to Swedish, because I normally don't speak 'angrily' in the other languages. My Swedish

accent will then shine through.

Even when I'm away from Sweden for months, I will still yell JÄVLA SKIT or whatever if I hit my toe against something. xD

But generally, the language I'm talking to someone with, is the language I'm thinking in at that moment, unless it's a language I have no clue about.

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windvn

My mother language is Vietnamese then I learned English, Japanese and Germany. Now my levels of English and German are equal and I'm often confused between them :( However, I still think in my mother language more frequently. When there's no vocalbulary in that language, I think in the language that I have read or heard.

Do you have any tips to separate these language with the same level? Or my problem is that I learned German from English :-?

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InsomniacAnna

I think more in Spanish or English than I do in Catalan, even though it's one of my two mother tongues xD. I slip from Spanish to English easily and I don't even realise I do it. Same with Catalan, I slip languages in my mind.

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Kuebiko

As a Singaporean, I grew up speaking English, Mandarin and a whole bunch of other dialects and weird mishmash. I taught, and am still teaching, myself Swedish, German and Russian. I can't say that I have a first language. Although if I had to chose, it would be English.

But if my first language were English, I definitely don't think in English alone. I think, and speak, with all the languages I've learnt or come across. English mostly, yes, but very interspersed with Chinese, German, Russian, Swedish, dialect, Singlish. It's all there. Of course, I could make myself think entirely in English, but sometimes the thing described by a word in one language simply doesn't translate nicely to another language.

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Kastiel

I'm french Canadian. I live in Quebec. French is my first language. Everyone around me speaks french. But I think in English. I read in English, I only watch shows in English. I express myself more in English. I sometimes have trouble finding the words in french. I hate hearing french slang. Parler joile, no thanks. Joile sounds often like someone is being impolite.

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dash

I think in whatever languages I'm surrounded by, even if I am not yet fluent in those languages. People always say you don't dream in a language until you're fluent in it, but not for me... I dream in whatever languages are around. Even if the words I'm using are wrong, they're right in the dream. ^_^ Give me a day surrounded only by language X, and my dreams will be in language X.

If I'm switching between languages a lot, I don't think "in a language" at all, but meta-symbolically, or partly "in the language" and party meta-symbolically where there are gaps in what I know how to express. Or I think in a mashup of languages at the same time. In trying to think in English and Hebrew at the same time, example, this meant I was thinking both left to right and right to left at the same time, and that was an odd feeling, indeed!

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Hooded_Crow

Hi!

I'm French and I also speak English (I learned it and now I'm fluent). I think and dream in both languages, alternatively. It depends on who I'm talking to or dreaming about, actually. If I'm speaking French with someone, I'll think in French. If I'm speaking with my partner, I'll think in English. Occasionally I think up a sentence I'm gonna say and realise it's not in the right language XD

And then there's when I'm alone. More and more, I think in English in those instances. Because I'm a writer and I write in English, so my instinct is to form sentences in English. But that's not always the case.

What is absolutely certain is that I am not thinking up stuff in French and then translating it in my head before I say it in English. I don't think it works like that when you're fluent in a language.

Hope that helps :D

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Måskemigselvetsted

I'm not bilingual, and my native language is Danish. But I sometimes/regulary think completely og partly (like a mix between the languages) in English.

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Feliz

Interesting topic. I shall join and provide an add-on at the end.

My parents are from Puerto Rico, so while I was born and raised in the U.S. (Michigander here), I experienced a bilingual household. I learned both English and Spanish around the same time, so it's hard to say which one is technically my first language. I mean, what was the first word either of my parents used when speaking to me upon birth? Was it in English, or was it in Spanish? Is that how you'd count what my first language was? I suppose I should ask them someday and find out, if I can remember to do so. Nevertheless, I still ended up speaking much more English than Spanish, naturally, and therefore, I think and dream almost exclusively in English, about 99% of time. It probably doesn't help that I'm subconsciously Americanized, if that makes sense. Even though I know the accent mark system in Spanish and know how to write in the language, I still can't even write a novel in it whereas I can and have in English. I simply get too lazy to use Spanish much of the time, and I really should use it more. I'm still fluent in it, since I have to communicate with relatives who don't speak English, but I could afford to speak it more. Native Spanish-speakers would especially be able to tell that, despite my decent pronunciation from a lifelong learning, I'm not a native speaker. After all, they always tell me, "¡Lo hablas bien!" ("You speak it well!") A non-speaker of Spanish might not be able to tell I'm not a native Spanish speaker, however, since my accent is obviously going to be more experienced-sounding than your average student taking a Spanish course. But it could be better. I just wish I weren't lazy with it.

And then, there are the generous bits of French and Portuguese I speak, quite a bit, along with the smaller bits of Italian and German. But I highly doubt I'll ever think or dream in any of those if I already don't in Spanish. And because I don't dream in Spanish, it means I never dream with non-English-speaking relatives. They are completely absent in my dreams as far as I can remember. Ever considered that as an add-on to the topic?

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piplup

whenever im thinking i start w/ english & add in some spanish words so its a bit of a mix & i sometimes cuss in spanish too

i was sneezing a lot in class last week & my classmate looked at me & started laughing & i thought lo siento which means im sorry & i was like they cant read your mind pip

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Midnight Star

What language I think in depends on what I am doing. Of course I mostly think in English because I live in Texas, but when I was in Japan I found it infinitely more helpful to think in Japanese. I still get to think in Japanese though when I am playing a game where the characters speak Japanese. The text is also in Japanese depending on the game.

I can't think and act within both languages at once though. When someone talks to me in Japanese, I am not translating them into English in my head. I found that really counterproductive.

Of course I used English as a reference point while learning Japanese (which I still do sometimes), but the need for that diminished when I got more experienced at using the language. When I can, I use Japanese to learn even more Japanese :lol:

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AshenPhoenix

I'm not necessarily bilingual (yet!), but it depends on the day really.

I'm relatively versed in French, and some days I'll have French days (or weeks). Not where I necessarily think exclusively in French, but most of the time I will either A. Think in French, or B. Translate most of what I'm thinking into French and repeat it to myself. I don't really know why I do this, but it happens a lot when I'm idly thinking, it entertains me though, working through the sentences and such. But yes, I translate or just think a lot in French :P

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srb
I keep switching between different languages. I usually think in English but it depends on the context, my mood and what I am currently obsessed with. For example, I tend to think in my mother tongue when I miss my cousin, I think in Hindi when I am upset about something my friend had said. Yesterday, I was listening to a Marathi song, so most of my thoughts were in Marathi.


Also, I wonder how much fluency matters because sometimes I insert a few French phrases (or make English words sound French :D) I don't speak French. I only know a few phrases and yet my brain convinces me that I was thinking in French.


Though, most of my thoughts are a mix of feelings, images (video would be more accurate, perhaps?) and incomplete sentences (even in languages I am fluent in).

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Quasar.w

Even though my first language is german (a very heavy german dialect) and I grew up in an entirely german-speaking family I think most of the time in english. I sometimes find it odd myself but anyway. I just feel like I can express my thoughts and feelings better in english, and it sort of let's me view stuff more objectively (?) and clearly... dunno XD and I also consume a lot of things in english (series, films, video games, articles, AVEN,..)

I do think that you have to be quite fluent in a language in order to do this. I also know italian, but am not that good at it, and I don't do it there!

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Yuri Daisuki

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.

Agreed. Also, I think it changes if you are recently spending a lot of time on one language. For example, English is my first language, but because I've been spending a lot of time reading Chinese novels, I realised I think in Mandarin quite a bit recently (whereas it would've been English hitherto).

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King Al

I generally think in Italian or Spanish. But living in England so long makes it easy to think in any of them languages.

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Sylvastor

Uhm... I'm usually thinking in pictures, visual mind here. :wacko:

But when I try to think in languages, it's... both. Or to an extent also "all three".

German, Polish (both "native") and - due to my excessive use of it on the internet - also English (learned).

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Tos

I do think fairly often in English, especially if it's a complex subject, because it's my first language. However, when I started learning Japanese I made a point to use it as much as I could even when on my own, so I tend to talk to myself in Japanese a lot and think in Japanese to the extent that my knowledge allows. Also when thinking of fanfic scenarios and such I will use Japanese if the characters are Japanese (I watch a lot of anime).

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Mimirella

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.

It's the same for me! My first language is German (Austrian), but almost everything I do in my spare time is in English (my books, my movies, websites, ...). And it happens alot that I can think of the English word, but can't come up with the German one. When I'm home alone, I even talk to myself in English :P :lol:. And I catch myself thinking in English regularly.

The thing is, in my head I would say I'm rather fluent. But when it comes to real conversation with somebody in English, I stumble alot and I have to reconsider every f****** word I want to say <_<

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Ace of Amethysts

I wish I was bilingual...

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Guest

I can use a mix of Italian and English... I can do some Japanese but that takes more effort at the moment.

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RK800

I mostly think and speak in my native tongue but occasionally my brain will throw in terms and words from other languages, especially if I use them often. I'm not sure if I'd consider myself multilingual though, as I'm not really fluent in other languages just know enough to speak and understand.

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hakuhatsuchun

I'm bilingual and it's really hard to say which it is for me. If I'm alone I tend to think in whatever language isn't around me - e.g. in Japan I think in English and in the UK I think in Japanese. But I think that's just to hear myself think. But this is not a good idea when coming off your lunch break - I've often almost spoken to people in the wrong language. Like opening books from the wrong end... Generally, though, if I'm around people who might talk to me I tend to switch to whatever language they are talking.

It's actually weird for me because I have quite a visual memory sometimes the character for something e.g. ame (rain) will come up before either language (word) presents itself. Because I learnt the character both in English and Japanese at the same time it is actually easier to think of it than either language specifically. I never get English words in the same way though...

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mountainhead

I'm bilingual Dutch/English (Dutch is my native tongue, but I speak English fluently).

This is quite hard to explain, especially if you're used to speaking and writing a single language; the voice in my head speaks a strange mixture of the two. It mostly depends on the environment I'm in at the moment; when I'm speaking English to people, I tend to think in English, whereas if I speak Dutch, I also think in Dutch. Dutch is the dominant one of the two, though — many Dutch swears are English loan words, but sometimes I involuntarily use Dutch interjections.

I don't think I've ever tried to talk to someone in the wrong language (as I rarely actually speak English in real life), but it does happen a lot that I can think of the English word for something, but not the Dutch one. However, I dread saying English words around fellow Dutch speakers — I have an obvious British accent that I simply can't hide. I'd mention some English book I've read, and the only reaction I'd get would be "wow, you speak English really well".

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miauw

I tend to think in a mix of my native tongue (Bulgarian) and German and English, both of which I am fluent in. Depends on the day and circumstances mostly.

When I am in Bulgaria I tend to think in all three languages and I often find than using only Bulgarian is extremely limiting when I am trying to express myself.

When I lived and studied in Germany (for more than 6 years) I lived and breathed German, thought in German, dreamt in German.

When I was working (as an office manager and translator/interpreter) in a Bulgarian-German joint venture with a lot of international contacts I kept thinking in two or more languages simultaneously - as if I was instinctively and preventively trying to interpret my own thoughts to myself or to keep prepared to instantly translate and/or switch to another language. 

When I am in the process of translating I know that my thought patterns change but I am too concentrated on the translation itself to observe and explain how. I just know that it's something innate and not something that can be thought (being a philologist does not a translator make).

The last three years or so I have lived in Belgium and studied in an international program, so - English. Everything in English. Reading, writing, speaking, thinking, dreaming. But now that I am not studying any more I have started learning Dutch very, very intensively, for the last month or so. I am still at barely A2 level (more or less) but a few days ago I caught myself thinking in Dutch while brushing my teeth and worrying about an upcoming language test. 

Some years ago there were even some instances of me thinking in Russian after I have watched a Russian TV series or read a book, even if my Russian is mostly passive - I understand a lot but I have never spoken it or even written in it really.

 

TLDR: I love languages and tend to immerse myself in them completely. If I am fluent enough in the language and am in the respective environment, I tend to think in that language. When in a neutral setting (at home) I tend to think in a mix of all languages I know well. Especially since some words just don't translate at all or some languages express finer nuances better. 

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Jelle van der Lee
On 6.09.2016 at 6:21 PM, Sylvastor said:

Uhm... I'm usually thinking in pictures, visual mind here. :wacko:

But when I try to think in languages, it's... both. Or to an extent also "all three".

German, Polish (both "native") and - due to my excessive use of it on the internet - also English (learned).

Same here. And the same languages.

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sir octepus tea

I´ve always found people asking what language I think in kind of invasive for some reason. 

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Hinabi

Well my native languages are German and Danish, but depending on the day the language I think in varies. I actually dream either in German or English, but I curse in English (Even in my sleep). Though if I get really angry I go over to German again. Sometimes I cant even form a sentence without using danish or English words...it can be a little confusing for people, who don't speak all 3 languages.

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Antihero.

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