Multilingual thinking

When someone speaks fluently more than one language, or even when you spend a lot of time studying a foreign language, sometimes our brains mix these languages and we end up saying words that don’t exist or using a strange grammar. This happens because we are thinking in more than one language and, sometimes, we try to think the same in several languages at once, even unconsciously.

Personally, I experience this very often. Sometimes when I’m speaking Spanish some weird word slips out and people give me the “what did you just say?” look. A few days ago I told a friend “Espero cumplir con las expectaciones!” and she corrected me: “expectativas”… I had mixed the English “expectations” with the Spanish “expectativas”. But this doesn’t happen only when I mix English and Spanish. One day, after spending some hours studying Finnish I was speaking in English and wanted to say that something was in the fridge, but instead I said: “It’s in the cup”. I immidiately realized that it was a mistake influenced by the Finnish word for “fridge”: “jääkaappi”.

Another phenomenon of this kind is the spontaneous mixing of more than one language in the same sentence. When I speak in Spanish with some friends who also speak English regularly, sometimes we naturally slip some words or expressions in English because the English word comes to us before the Spanish version, or because we are more used to saying certain things in English than in Spanish… An example could be: “Don’t worry, no voy a ir”. [Don’t worry, I’m not going there].

 I don’t think that these mistakes are a problem, nor that they suppose a bad command of any of the languages involved. In an informal conversation these slips of the tongue only cause a funny moment and some laughs between friends. Actually, the fact of being thinking in more than one language only implies that we do have a good command of those languages. So… all in a day’s work !

 Have you ever experienced this mixing of languages? Feel free to share with us your multilingual experiences!

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3 thoughts on “Multilingual thinking

  1. You’re definitely not alone in this… And it’s also a relief to me to know that I’m not either! It happened a lot to me when I first started studying Spanish at university. After a while I realised that my English sentences were either awkward or it’s simply Spanglish. And now that I’m Finland, I’m making a potpourri of Finnish-English-Spanish. Sometimes it sounds very lovely, though:)

    • Yes, I think that everybody goes through this at some point. During my first year in university I was studying a degree on English, I had a course on Portuguese, I studied Chinese and Japanese… And in one week I had exams of all of these languages! I don’t even know if my brain was thinking at all during those days! 🙂

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