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When you start thinking in another language

I've been writing a daily journal about my thoughts, ideas, etc. for 3-4 months now. Since I didn't want anyone to understand it (nobody in my family knows more than the basics of English), I wrote it in English. I wrote 2-3 pages every day. Sooner or later I started to think in English. At first I was a little bit frustrated, because my brain sort of did what it want and I couldn't go back to think in German xD Every time I would force it to think in German, it went straight back to English after like 5 minutes. I stopped bothering it and now it's just switching back and forth, I do not even notice it anymore.

Another ''pet peeve'' is ( I hear about it a lot) this phenomen of where you want to say a certain word, but only know it in a different language. This happens very often ^^;

I wonder how it is, when you think in like 5 languages. Do people even do that?

November 26, 2017



im a native english speaker but sometimes i can only remember a word in german for a minute or two and it really bugs me


Ikr, I usually end up frustrated and facepalming myself, after Google Translator told me what it is. xD


It is so refreshing reading all that, it's like the feeling I used to have when I started doing kind of the same but writing dreams I had. Every time I had a dream in English I would harness the state of "trance" and "confusion" after waking up to recall the dream and type it in my computer before it vanished... this is one of the most recent:

I also experience the same lapses of completely forgetting words in my own native language, that come with the urge to ask my relatives what it would be, but they don't speak any second language either (and I know how frustrating that can be)... even so, it is still a beautiful feeling getting to that point, a feeling I would like others to feel too.


lol believe me people do think in 5 languages and even more xD (talking by personal experience x) I think in 5, and sometimes 7 languages :D )

I'm Georgian native speaker, but my mind, whenever I'm upset, goes in Russian. When I'm in my dreams, I speak English and French. When I develop new ideas for my books, my mind thinks in Italian. When I have some thoughts about stuff, like if it is good or bad, I think in Chinese, and when I think about Germany, I do it in German xD

So yeah, when you immerse yourself with the language, you start thinking in that language. :) It's normal. Just try not to start forgetting your native one! :D


Woah, that would drive me crazy xD


lol it certainly does xD


My goodness... that's so cool thinking in different languages for different moods and situations!


I know 3 languages fluently, and most people in my country do as well. We talk mixing all 3 of them. Nobody understands us.


lmao, I'll give you a lingot rn


wait, did you actually write all that from what you learned in Duolingo? if so, that's freaking amazing!! your native language is German too? if so im eager to talk to you since I am learning German and would love to understand the language much more! Also im attempting to think in German, but I always miss out or forget the needed words xD, also I currently think in 2 languages, English and Russian, sometimes Arabic, so yes it probably is possible to think in 5 languages xD


Heh, that would've been impressive I guess, but nop. My English skills come from being addicted to Youtube for 3 years now (according to my playlist, I watched around 5000 videos in English) and also playing games. This daily-journal-writing-thing spiced them a little bit up though c: And I'd be happy to help ya, got Skype/Discord/whatever or something ?


lol, actually what I had in mind was by talking on Duoling xD, so you learned English from youtube? I think im gonna give that a try rn lmao, thanks for wanting to help me tho, you can add me as friend on Duo, and we could chat there (now that im thinking about it it seems really awkward lol)


Not five but lately the thinking in other languages has happened to me in a fairly close number. English it's been p much happening all my life, and since I'm studying Danish and Italian I think more on them nowadays. And funnily enough some thoughts in German end up slipping while I study Danish (to the point that I end up more often than not, slipping words in German while I try to speak in Danish)


I think it takes time for a language to truly acclimate inside your brain. I had that issue with English as my second language, but now (it's been some 9 years) it just coexists with my native language.


My native language is Swedish. But my main language when I think is English. It's not uncommon that I dream in Swedish, English, Spanish and Esperanto. I have experienced dreaming in all these languages in the same dream, but that is not common.


nice I only dream about anime ^W^


Happens to me in Spanish a lot. The other day I was trying to think of the word for "straw" (like with drinks) but it came out in Spanish by accident and I didn't even notice. I said, "I need a popote..." and even once I realized I said it, I still couldn't produce the English word, so I just said other versions of it in Spanish (there's a multitude of different ways to say straw) like sorbete and pajita until I finally grumbled something along the lines of, "that thing that you use to drink, the little plastic tube thingy..." My family thought I was nuts.


I've only just begun to add French to my set of thought languages. English is still dominant. Occasionally, I'll have a string of thoughts in Esperanto. I would assume I'll always have one dominant language in my head, sort of aided by the others.

I do note that sometimes I feel like I could explain myself better in Esperanto - comparisons, for example, are clearer with an accusative case. And I would assume that the same will be true for French. My brain will probably have some sort of compatability layer of English available for speaking, as that is the language I use in the world, but I know what I want to say in the other language.

And I notice that, when I'm typing, I'll look for edits only applicable to the other languages, like considering verb forms when changing the subject or checking for adjective agreement, even though the latter isn't ever applicable to English.

Basically, while English still has a strong hold over my mind, the other two languages are there now.

C'est bizarre. Estas strange. It's weird.


I am a native English speaker, and I can think in Italian an Esperanto. Spanish, not so much. I also find that I mess up when talking in English, but I can speak Esperanto and Italian fine.


Depending on how many languages they use consistently, thinking in five languages could very well be possible. I have about five I interact with on a weekly basis, and though I usually only think in three most times, there will be words that I simply can't remember in one, but in another, or I have a phrase to use that wouldn't be understood because I'm speaking in another language entirely!

I love conversing with my multilingual friends, we often switch between three languages at a time, no trouble at all.


I'm a native English speaker but for some odd reason, a similar thing happens to me with German, Haha. That's good though, take it as a good sign, I hope that this would happen with my Hebrew soon. :)


Don't be frustrated about that, you are practicing a foreign language. :) It is always better to remember a word in at least one language than in neither. :D I consider thinking in foreign languages as a amazing experience and adventure.

But if you have a problem to switching back to a language that you need, then I can suggest you this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PPveTB9Iik


I'm kinda jealous, but I'm really impressed too! I want to get to the level one day when I just find myself thinking in another language. I haven't really been practicing as of late, and that's a real mistake on my part, but as soon as I'm pretty comfortable with the Korean alphabet I'll be back on Duolingo practicing everyday like I used to!


wow you deserve a lingo. ^W^


To have another language is to possess a second soul.



Yes. It is very common. I am sorry that you keep switching between languages. Even though it is your native language, consider learning more German so it gets implanted back into your head. You may continue to learn English at the same time so you can be fluent in both languages at the same time (without the switching back and forth thing). Hope this helps! :)


[deactivated user]

    wow, I'm trying to read my book and translate it as I go....unfortunately......I don't know enough Portuguese to do that well...the most I got in a row was 3 words or something...I'll have to get a learn to read book and transtate that!


    I thought my mind would "compartmentalize" the languages, but it just seems to be new words and phrases all in one language group, if that makes sense.

    One thing I have noticed, I have began thinking English phrases in a different order and cadence so my answers will match Duolingo. A good example of what I'm talking about is Joubert (Max Von Sydow) talking to Robert Redford in Three Days of the Condor. He is warning him that the CIA will take him out, and says of New York, "You have not much future there.", he goes on to warn him a car will pull up and someone will get out "but he will leave open the door of the car". His heritage is filtering through into English.

    So when I have to translate "Can't I decide myself?", I first think to myself, "Can I not myself decide?" to come up with... "Kann ich nicht selbst entscheiden?"


    That's the reason why I started using duolingo in the first place.

    Learn a language in just 5 minutes a day. For free.