Poll: How Do Multi-Lingual People Think?

Saelune

Trump put kids in cages!
Legacy
Mar 8, 2011
8,411
16
23
So, I find language absolutely fascinating. I also find people able to learn and speak multiple languages interesting and impressive. I know many people here are multi-lingual, and I am really curious about your experiences linguistically speaking.

For one, how do you think in regards to your languages? When communicating outside your native language, do you simply think in your own languages than translate it? I expect thats the usual way, but while I have tried learning other languages, I am certainly not bilingual.

How similar/different is your native language compared to english? What inspired me to make this topic was reading up on word order. English uses subject - verb - object word order, but the examples of alternate orders was rather mechanical about it, turning "I eat bread" into "bread eat I" when really, it would be better translated to "Bread that is eaten by me".

Obviously I am asking for more than word order, especially if the languages share word order (since SVO is a common type)

How involved with your various languages are you? I know many places where the native tongue is actually spoken less than english for example, but do you feel you equally use all your languages, do you favor one over the other? Which and why?

I probably have a ton of other questions, but feel free to add in -anything- you think I might find interesting.

Oh, and should probably say what your languages you know and can communicate in are, and which is your native.

Edit: I am reading all your posts and they are super fascinating! I am also surprised by how many of you arent native English speakers.
 

Xprimentyl

Made you look...
Legacy
Aug 13, 2011
5,211
3,433
118
Plano, TX
Country
United States
Gender
Male
My father is from Panama, so Spanish is his native tongue. He tried to teach me growing up, but seeing as aside from him, there were only 4 other Panamanian family members here in the States and my mother?s family (she?s black) being who I was around most of the time, I wasn?t exposed to Spanish regularly enough for it to stick naturally. My dad said I used to get frustrated and cry when he tried to teach me. I did start taking it as an elective early in high school, aced it ending up in advanced classes taught at the local Big 10 university my senior year and was largely fluent, but then in college, booze, girls and music took precedent and I stopped using it, so I?ve lost most of it. I can still understand a lot of it if I really listen, but I?m far from fluency.

Anyway, I asked my dad this same question in high school, if he thought in Spanish and translated it in his head before speaking, and after then +25 years in the States, he said he still occasionally translated in his head, particularly words that aren?t used as often or don?t have a direct translation. My dad?s brother was the first to come to the States, and despite speaking Spanish as a first language his whole life, became so engrained in American culture, he said he started forgetting Spanish! It wasn?t until my grandparents and dad met him here years later that he was able to speak it more regularly and it came back to him. To this day, they speak Spanish to each other, but it?s entertaining to hear them occasionally pause, stumble and just settle on the English word when the Spanish one escapes them.

Fun story: rewind to the late ?80s, around Christmas time, my uncle and dad were chattering away in their bush language, and from the other room, I caught one word ??blah-blah-blah-NINTENDO-blah-blah-bliddy-blah?? My ears perked up and I said ?I?m getting a Nintendo?!?? and my dada said ?no, that?s means something different in Spanish.? I was devastated. A thick-headed, devastated idiot more thoroughly; of course, I did get my first Nintendo for Christmas. XD
 

Aerosteam

Get out while you still can
Sep 22, 2011
4,267
0
0
Filipino is my original language, but I moved to Scotland when I was 5 so I mainly speak in English. My mom speaks to me in Filipino (she does know English), I understand it but can't string a proper sentence together so when we converse I still use English.

I never thought about it, but I guess I do translate Filipino to English in my head.

The crappy thing about English is that it has tons of rules, but also tons of words that break those rules. And it doesn't help how there's multiple ways to spell the same word differently depending if you're in the UK or America. The thing I love about Filipino is that everything to pronounced exactly how it's spelt, as opposed to English where words don't always sound how they're spelt.
 

Lil devils x_v1legacy

More Lego Goats Please!
May 17, 2011
2,728
0
0
English was not actually my first language. When I was a baby they only spoke Hopi, Navajo and French to me. When I was a toddler they started teaching me English then Spanish as well. In school they spoke English, Spanish and French. I learned some German, Dutch and Italian from friends in school, but very little. I always find it odd when I hear people say "You're in America we speak English here" where is it that all of the Native American languages spoken? Why would a language foreign to our continent be mandated over languages indigenous to our region? Makes no sense.

I think in multiple languages and not everything even translates to other languages.
 

kurokotetsu

Proud Master
Sep 17, 2008
428
0
0
I can communicate in four languages, but only three of those fluidly enough to carry extended conversations. I learned a fifth but hell I can't be fluent or carry a conversation in Japanese.


I am a native Spanish speaker but have had English in most my life, spending my firat years in California and then being toght in a bi-cultyral school, where half of the classes where in Engliah and with native English speakers.

Catalonian and French make the rest of the languages I speak. All four languages are from a the same European region with a lot of mixture and have been huatorically influenced by each other and have several cross over words amd expressions. They all also usr the subject-verb-object structure so translation when needed is a bit easier (Japaneis is a subject-object-verb language and reading and expressing one swlf becomes quite harder).

In the languages I am more fluent I always think in that language and don't translatw unless it is am expression or word I am missing. In Frenvh I try to think with it but my vocabulary isn't as extensive which means I have to translate it usually.

I reguarly practice my English aibce my job and media are in large parta in English. Catalonian was spoke regularly in my housegold fue to two of my grandparents but since their death I use it a lot less and I have sometimes French conversations with my mother.

I do underatand some words and expressions in Italian and German but I myself can't speak either

I think that covers your questions.
 

SupahEwok

Malapropic Homophone
Legacy
Jun 24, 2010
4,028
1,399
118
Country
Texas
I'm not multi-lingual myself, but from past conversations I have had with those who are, my impression is that true multi-linguists (those who are both fluent and regularly use multiple languages everyday) will think in whatever language they are currently using. Fluency can really be tested by being so comfortable with a language that you can use it in your thoughts. If you have that level of mastery, why would you waste time and effort translating your thoughts from another language?

Again though, that's from the folks I've talked to who speak multiple languages regularly, like professional translators. I think folks who use a second language either irregularly or not very much think in their "primary" language because they don't need sufficient mastery of the second language to the point that they can think with it (or at least that it's slow enough that any convenience is lost).

Aerosteam said:
The thing I love about Filipino is that everything to pronounced exactly how it's spelt, as opposed to English where words don't always sound how they're spelt.
You can mostly blame the French for that.
 

Johnny Novgorod

Bebop Man
Legacy
Feb 9, 2012
17,676
1,912
118
I'm Argentine so I'm a native Spanish speaker, though I was brought up around English as well.
The reason for which is my dad - also Argentine - spent a few key years of his childhood growing up in California and had to re-learn Spanish when his family came back. All his life he found being bilingual to be tremendously useful and basically ended up making a living out of it, becoming the head of a school's English department. It's sure opened up a lot of doors for me too.

I tend to think in both Spanish and English. It depends on the emotion or the nature of the thought I guess. I think intuitively I gravitate towards this or that language based on what I want to transmit, sometimes within the same sentence. And that's how I talk with other bilingual people within the family. With others I just stick to Spanish, since alternating between the languages is considered a sign of snobbery in Argentina.

Anyway, just had a thought. Would it be frowned upon if I created a thread solely for Spanish speakers?
 

stroopwafel

Elite Member
Jul 16, 2013
3,031
355
88
When I read English I also think in English b/c language is mostly associations we attribute to words which is more than literal translations. When I speak my native language I tend to use different words and sentence structures b/c they make more sense in that language. I can understand other languages but English is the only other second language I have sufficient mastery over to understand it in it's cultural context. I think I now prefer English to my native language b/c it's more expressive and has more words. My native language however is superior for corny humor as English never makes me laugh so hard. Again, that is mostly due to association which can only be understood on the level of native speaker.

I would definitely recommend anyone to try and master a second language though as it can really make you culturally aware. Like, it can enable you to look at your own language and culture as an intimate observer.
 

American Fox

Le Best Tank
Aug 14, 2012
382
0
0
Like that time on Scrubs when Carla was freaking out when she started dreaming in English instead of Spanish?
 

Ironman126

Dark DM Overlord
Apr 7, 2010
658
0
0
stroopwafel said:
When I read English I also think in English b/c language is mostly associations we attribute to words which is more than literal translations. When I speak my native language I tend to use different words and sentence structures b/c they make more sense in that language. I can understand other languages but English is the only other second language I have sufficient mastery over to understand it in it's cultural context. I think I now prefer English to my native language b/c it's more expressive and has more words. My native language however is superior for corny humor as English never makes me laugh so hard. Again, that is mostly due to association which can only be understood on the level of native speaker.

I would definitely recommend anyone to try and master a second language though as it can really make you culturally aware. Like, it can enable you to look at your own language and culture as an intimate observer.
You. You actually prefer English? What? I'm a native English speaker and I absolutely hate English.

If you don't mind me asking, what is your native tongue?
 

McElroy

Elite Member
Legacy
Apr 3, 2013
4,416
301
88
Finland
My English is fluent enough that I often have dreams in English. However, I absolutely prefer my native Finnish in every occasion (exception being live-action dubs) and go out of my way to find the translation or make up one myself from English to Finnish. Finnish kids these days (and not just kids) dilute Finnish with gratuitous English mannerisms, words, phrases, poor translations and Anglicisms. Sometimes it makes me a prick, but I try to spread my view on the matter everywhere I go.
 

lionsprey

New member
Sep 20, 2010
430
0
0
depends on context. for example as i was thinking about how to answer this question i thought in english however when im asked what my favorite food is i think in swedish. and i sometimes use swedish or english words if there is no better translation for the concept im trying to describe.
 

Gethsemani_v1legacy

New member
Oct 1, 2009
2,552
0
0
Bilingual in Swedish and English. I tend to think in whatever language is easier in context, ie. if I am thinking about posts made on the Escapist I think in English, but when interacting with my family I think in Swedish. Occasionally, especially when gaming, I switch between the two rather seamlessly or intermingle them.
 

stroopwafel

Elite Member
Jul 16, 2013
3,031
355
88
Ironman126 said:
stroopwafel said:
When I read English I also think in English b/c language is mostly associations we attribute to words which is more than literal translations. When I speak my native language I tend to use different words and sentence structures b/c they make more sense in that language. I can understand other languages but English is the only other second language I have sufficient mastery over to understand it in it's cultural context. I think I now prefer English to my native language b/c it's more expressive and has more words. My native language however is superior for corny humor as English never makes me laugh so hard. Again, that is mostly due to association which can only be understood on the level of native speaker.

I would definitely recommend anyone to try and master a second language though as it can really make you culturally aware. Like, it can enable you to look at your own language and culture as an intimate observer.
You. You actually prefer English? What? I'm a native English speaker and I absolutely hate English.

If you don't mind me asking, what is your native tongue?
Yeah, I think English is great b/c it's very flexible. My native language is Dutch. Probably a language that is impossible to pronounce when you're a native English speaker. :p
 

iseko

New member
Dec 4, 2008
727
0
0
I think in my native language mostly. However when Ive been speaking french/english exclusively for a couple of days, my brain switches to that language. Its the same for most people I k ow.
 

Bobular

New member
Oct 7, 2009
845
0
0
I'm only fluent in English. I did a course on basic Japanese before I went their on holiday and I was able to get by OK asking for directions or buying stuff (though I found that there were enough English speakers there that if I had difficulty one was always around to help), but I couldn't actually have an actual conversation with anyone.

In the UK we aren't expected to learn other languages, we expect everyone else to learn ours which is terrible and one of the reasons I wanted to do a Japanese course before going there because I didn't want to be the stereotypical English tourist and I've known a few other younger Brits that think the same way so maybe in a couple of generations we'll catch up with the rest of the world and learn some more languages.
 

Poetic Nova

Pulvis Et Umbra Sumus
Jan 24, 2012
1,974
0
0
3 languages, albeit dutch is everything but fluid. My own mothertongue (which is a dialect), the afformentioned dutch, and english. However I plan on studying Japanese and latin. Plus for my girlfriend I want to make sure I can find my way with german aswel even if she knows english probably better than me.

My thinking is either in said dialect, or english.