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Side Effects of Polyglotism May Include...

Let's face it; weird things happen when you begin learning multiple languages. You find yourself doing things that your perfectly rational monolingual self never dreamed of doing. Have any of these common side effects happened to you?

Carrying animated conversations with yourself in the car/shower/elevator (in your target language of course)

Temporarily forgetting terms in your native language

Sticking vocab post-it notes on every semi-stationary object in your house

Experiencing increased pulse rates when your target language is overheard in public

(Feel free to add other common signs/symptoms & professional diagnostic opinions below)

March 12, 2015



Here are a few more: - Typing gibberish because you have the wrong keyboard enabled

  • Misspelling words in your native language because of that same word's spelling in another language

  • Keeping odd hours so that you can listen to that radio broadcast in the target language

  • Forgetting what language you had a conversation in
  • Dreaming in the target language
  • You start liking reading dictionaries
  • You suddenly become a grammar expert in your native language (Oh, indirect objects? I know indirect objects...)

Edit: I couldn't help but add:

  • You start to think that gendered nouns make sense, making monolingual English speakers think you're crazy. Of course "table" is feminine (Spanish)... unless it's not (Russian).

  • You want to add grammatical concepts from the target language into English, like the inclusive "we".


"typing gibberish because you have the wrong keyboard enabled.

all. the. time.


i relate so much


Yeah, me too. Especially since I try to learn japanese XD


I always have to switch keyboards on the Duolingo app...


The app seems to switch automatically for me these days, assuming I have the relevant languages/keyboards available.


"You start liking reading..."

Seeing that made me grateful to be an English speaker. German would send a tornado and separate and push those verbs as far away as possible from one another. Thank you English, for keeping them nice and close.


Reminds me of a Dutch verb chain sample: "Ik had jou hebben willen zien durven blijven staan kijken" (7 consecutive infinitives).


What does it mean?


I would have liked to have seen you daring to stay (standing there) to watch / watching.


I never used to like reading in my native language (english), now that I am learning German, I LOVE READING!!!

<h1>The Best Side Effect ever!</h1>

Thanks so much for posting this!


Ha, that was a good one, Arktischgespenst!


Misspelling words!!!! Due to German, I type "Englisch" every time I use the word.


I even pronounce 'school' shool sometimes!


A sudden fascination with dictionaries. yes

  • Dictionaries - YES. I own rather a lot of these.

  • Tagalog has the inclusive and exclusive 'we' - a useful rule.

[deactivated user]

    Indonesia has inclusive and exclusive we! Kami and kita. I always mix them up and invite the wrong people!


    Haha, a dangerous thing to mix up! As jdfromdublin says, Tagalog has 'kami and 'tayo'.


    Bagus sekali! Kita suka Bahasa Indonesia. ;)

    (I practice with this method in the course EN/ID, first I put the inclusive Kita, and only using exclusive Kami if the sentences need it, Kami tidak tahu rumahmu, so we are some people talking to you, and it would be strange if I say Kita. Perhaps, I can say that when you have a new house or something you still do not know it. And surely, you can use Kami in many other situations too).


    Tagalog example:

    Pupunta kami sa Alemanya - We (excl.) are going to Germany.

    Pupunta tayo sa Alemanya - We (incl.) are going to Germany


    Tagalog pronouns. There's just so many. My mom can't even explain to me the difference between ka, mo, and iyo, so I'm mostly just BSing my way thorugh speaking it.


    Yes, that's a problem for me too. I just learn off lists.


    Dentista ka (You're a dentist)

    Dentista mo (Your dentist)

    (Sa) iyo ang dentista (The dentist is yours) - an odd sentence but that's the sort one would expect from duo :P

    'sa iyo' typically undergoes contraction to "sa'yo"

    Ignore the accents. No one really writes like that.



    Thank you for the pronoun chart below! I can see the inclusive/exclusive "we" would be very useful! And did you know English once had singular, dual, and plural? We see remnants of it in either, neither, and both.


    Dreaming in my target language! Lol I wondered if anyone else experienced this.


    I dream in Japanese once in a blue moon.

    Whether or not the Japanese is correct is another story however...


    Yeah! You know how everything makes sense in a dream, like how you can be speaking to someone and then they change into someone else or the location changes and you don't notice? Well that happens to me when I speak a foreign language in my dreams, either I use completely the wrong word or the grammar is wrong but I don't see anything wrong until I wake up and analyse what I said! And usually I'm quite meticulous with accuracy when speaking foreign languages (to the detriment of my fluency in speaking)!


    From what I've gathered, that's a really good sign of progress! I dream in French on a regular basis, and just dreamed in Portuguese for the first time over the weekend. It's the little victories, you know? :)


    I seriously have to stop and think how to spell tea now in any language. Te/the/cha in the Romance languages is bad enough but I can't even keep tea/Tee between german and English straight any more!


    Don't forget Thee in Dutch :/


    Oh, indirect objects? I know indirect objects...)

    Haha true that!
    I be like "You used the indirect pronoun here. You needed the reflexive pronoun."


    Somehow I've managed to learn Japanese exclusive grammar inside out and backwards... but still know virtually nothing about English Grammar. ;A; I have no idea what indirect and reflexive pronouns even are!!


    I don't know why, but these grammar terms just stick to my head! I think also because we have two parts of learning English in India. One is normal literature and the other is grammar where we learn everything about these clauses (adjective, adverb, noun, main, subordinate clause etc.), phrases, nouns, pronouns and everything.

    PS indirect pronoun is something like him, here, me, you (ie to him/her etc. For eg. Give it to him) and reflexive is myself, yourself, himself, herself. (ie that returns the consequence of the verb to the subject.). And then these are the perks of language learning! ;)


    Holy, WOW! You're from India?! @_@ You know more about my native language's grammar than I do, and trust me... they tried to teach us.

    I think most of my problem is just the Jargon really. I tend to just blank out on special words to categorize things. As a result, I tend to teach with as little actual grammar terminology as possible, even though it means longer explanations. Even if I actually know the proper terms I'll leave them out just in case someone like me is reading my lessons.


    Yup! I'm from India! ₹ Grammar teachin is rather strict here. Those who can't cope up, well better luck next life ;) as we teachers try to teach in a very good way, it's the students that don't like to learn. And then I've learnt many languages through English and Hindi (native!! ^_^). I had to learn these terms! :P


    Gendered nouns will never make sense. I've learned them, I accept they exist, but I refuse to accept that they make sense.

    Turnips are not she's and girls are not its.


    I am a native speaker of German, we have gendered nouns and I completely agree with you. Gendered nouns do not make any sense at all.


    Although I agree that I don't see objects and imagine them in frilly skirts builders' apparel, often when a word is on the tip of my tongue I know what gender it is before I know what the word is, but arguably that is just an artefact of how the brain stores each word, like how you sometimes know the first letter of a word but none of the other letters.

    [deactivated user]

      So I can't say I like its t....

      Oh nevermind...


      Well I really like buying dictionaries and grammar books. :D And now, I understand my native language more than I had..


      I have 11 dictionaries... it's becoming a bad habit O_o


      I only have nine dictionaries in five languages. I think it's not a bad habit because it helps you understand the real meaning of a borrowed word in English from another language. :)


      Dictionaries, I agree! I would never read English dictionaries but suddenly, if I see a French dictionary, my heart skips a beat! :D


      Yes!--to the inclusive and exclusive "we." They would solve so many misunderstandings!


      Adding grammatical concepts? How about the whole sentence structure? 'Cause yesterday, after few hours of learning Irish, I started to speak Polish that way, and I swear - even I could not make any sense out of what I was saying :D


      I've got a mania to read installation guides, instructions and notes on products in all languages known to me. Gadgets, cat's food, washing powder, toothpaste, shampoo, etc.


      I do that all the time:D


      Although they're short, the washing instructions on most of H&M's clothing is in about 20 different languages.


      We got a toaster recently. It came with a 100 page manual in two languages English and French! Awesome! :D


      I've been doing that all my life lol! I thought I was the only one!


      That's a subject with no end! I totally agree with forgetting terms. At this point it's often easier for me to express something in English and I have a hard time translating it into my native language.

      Some others:

      • answering questions in a completely different language than the questions were asked in (!) and not realising it until everyone in the room is staring weirdly (usually happens while reading in other language 'cause I get too focused on the one I'm reading in)

      • laughing at sentences no one finds funny just because they would be funny in the other language,

      • obsessively looking for books in other languages,

      • forgetting that the keyboard settings were changes, so I write with the wrong letters,

      • writing notes in a different languages than the class in being taught (it really did happen!)

      • talking to my dog in the other languages 'cause that's the only living creature in the house that doesn't look weirdly at me for doing it (;D)

      Those are the basic ones I guess ;)


      lol the dog one was hilarious. However your second point happens to me all the time :)


      My cat approved this statement. ^^


      I've just remembered another one!

      • ridiculous typos! like the last time, when I wrote 'schocked' instead of 'shocked' ;)


      I've been known to forget after doing too much German that I don't need to capitalize generic nouns in English. I also forget that in French I don't need to capitalize days, months, or languages.


      Same here, I've capitalized days in Polish in the post which was supposed to teach Polish, and that's the essence of ridiculousness ;)


      guilty of this more than anything else.


      I've started ending words with "ão" instead of "ion", "ain", etc. since I started learning Portuguese, although thank goodness that's only with handwritten things.


      I do that one all the time!


      I experience all but the sticky-note syndrome. Yes, when I'm by myself I do have these really funny conversations. Also, whenever there is a French word in a book, movie, or on the radio I make sure everyone knows that I am learning French by saying what it means. One of the other side effects I have is a terrible disease called LWS (Lazy writing syndrome) in which if there is a word that is shorter in French than in English I will write it in French. Example: Hello! ca va? I'm good! What's new? Rien...


      LWS was my go-to for college notetaking. Between that and a shorthand system I developed for myself, it meant that nobody ever asked to borrow my notes!


      Haha, I know about the funny little conversations :D It's fun to try to have a conversation with myself, in all the different languages I know. I think my family thinks I'm crazy...


      My family is used to it. No one notices when I start throwing out random Dutch or German. On the other hand, I said some Dutch in Spanish, and my friend was like, "Oookay." :)


      I do that, too, try to see how long I can go talking about something or having a fake conversation before I have no recourse but English.


      Yep, I do this all the time. I also abbreviate a lot of the French (and English) words I write in my notes - making reviewing my notes an absolute puzzle


      LWS -- I do that too. Sometimes when taking notes I use Spanish words because they're shorter than in English.


      Has anyone else had their native language syntax slip? Like, you start questioning if your native language sentences actually make any sense. Especially the longer ones?


      Sometimes I find myself wording things like I would in my target language. For example, "I want that you eat an apple."

      Usually my friends just laugh at me, but it's started happening at work and I see a bunch of people every day that will never see me again. It's fun.


      I have started using the verb "have" to talk about people knowing a language. Just makes more sense to me :-)


      Forgetting what life was like before you learned your second language


      Weird mash-up language mirages: there is big freeway sign in my town for CPAP supplies (a type of medical supplies). My Russian student brain translates the first "P" to the Russian "P" (sounds like R) and leaves the rest, mysteriously, in English. So to me it now reads "Crap Supplies".

      Can't get that out of my head. Every freaking time that's how it reads. I'm Anglo-Russian dyslexic now.


      Ай фил ю, мен. Фор шур ;)


      It happens to me on regular basis.


      Haha seriously! Cyrillic letter get me all the time.


      Or accidentally inserting Cyrillic letters into your English words when writing... I'm definitely Anglo-Russian dyslexic too. Good to know we're not alone! ;)


      I studied Russian in college before learning Spanish through Duolingo. When I see the Costa Rica "Ministerio de Obras Publicas y Transitas" (I think that's the full name) abbreviated as MOPT, I keep reading it as MORT because that's pronounceable and MOPT is not. Since MOPT is on all sorts of signs, it's a frequent moment of confusion.

      Yo estudiaba el idioma de Rusia en la universidad antes de aprendiendo el español por Duolingo. Cuando veo "Ministerio de Obras Publicas y Transitas" (creo que ese es su nombre) lo que se escribe como MOPT, lo leo como MORT porque eso se puede hablar y MOPT no se puede. Porque MOPT está en muchos signos, es un momento de confusión frecuentamente.


      I have noticed myself expressing thoughts in English using Spanish word order. It sounds incredibly awkward! Hopefully that all straightens itself out as we keep learning.


      I can imagine how awkward it would be...


      For me it only got worse...

      [deactivated user]

        Like Yoda!


        Some other ones:

        • Changing the language of your phone to your target language! A few weeks ago my phone was in Spanish. Recently it became French!

        • Trying to pronounce something in your target language and then you realize you're saying weird things sub consciously like you're crazy.


        Good one! I set my digital camera to French quite a while ago and now I don't even think about it.


        Well, the problem with French is that you read it real good, but when you hear a native, you have no idea what he/she says.


        French is real deal here. French does need a separate training for hearing natives.


        Yup. It's sooo difficult to understand!


        "Experiencing increased pulse rates when your target language is overheard in public"

        Yup, I remember when I was in Las Vegas the people behind us in line were speaking in French and I was trying to listen in without seeming creepy. :P


        Haha this happens to me every time, but I just can't control myself, I don't feel confident enough to talk but can't avoid listening.


        The truths hurt.

        Here's another one:

        Subconsciously talking to your friends and family (sometimes even your teachers...oops) in your target language/s and them looking at you like you're crazy.


        Accidentally responding to people in the wrong language.... its embarrassing.


        Agree a lot! My sister is a tri-linguist. She is extremely awesome! After she got back from visiting Korea she was so tired, so she would not speak English. She was so immersed in Korean and she was tired from Jetlag and kept saying the wrong things in English.


        Can definitely relate to the increased pulse rate when overhearing my target language. This summer it was Polish and every time I heard anything that sounded remotely Slavic I instantly had my head on a swivel.


        Hahaha oh yeah. Actually in my house I speak languages (spanish and french mainly) so often I am banned from saying anything other than english to my mom or at the dinner table XD also I when anyone in my family is arguing with another then I start translating the argument back and forth, which tends to make the fight center around me and I end up the one hurt ;) and the thing I probably do the most is listen to songs in english and attempt to translate them back to spanish or french and if I get stuck on a word I look it up and end up singing that part of the song in the target language several dozen times more, thus not forgetting it! It is very helpful and sometimes I cannot stop (which again annoys my mother XD)


        Is "polyglotism" the correct form of the word? Would it be "polyglossy" or something else?

        I went to Las Vegas, NV a few years ago for a Star Trek convention and we crossed one particular casino floor that was particularly disorienting for me because we passed several groups of tourists speaking languages with which I was familiar and each time I kept getting caught up in what I was overhearing. Several groups in rapid succession was dizzying.


        Perhaps we need a new word describe ourselves here.
        The "polygluttony" - The over-indulgences in taste of many language.


        Good observation Deodwyn! Actually there are a couple different ways we can name this condition...

        Polyglotism- A condition of multilingualism (i.e. Hyperthyroidism)

        Polyglotitis- An inflammation of the polyglot (i.e. Glossitis)

        Polyglotoma- A cancer of the polyglot (i.e. Carcinoma)

        Hope this clarifies things a little. And yes, walking though several groups of target-language speakers makes me dizzy too!


        I've been a room with three other people, where someone else could speak and understand every.single.language I knew. And we used the majority of them. And yes, it's dizzying.


        I go with "polyglotery."


        When I first learned Spanish I labeled everything in the kitchen with post-it notes. And I taught my dog, "¿Dónde está el gato?" When typing I often exchange v for b. Sometimes I can't remember how to spell things in English, opting for the Spanish spelling instead. More recently I added Italian and everything's become even more of a total mess! In public when hearing the target language being spoken by someone else I often repeat out loud what they are saying like a child might do.


        I'm willing to read poetry in French and German, while I've never cared for it in English.

        Ha... forgetting a word in one's native language... one day I couldn't remember the word "weathervane" to save my own life, but the word "girouette" was coming through loud and clear! I almost had to look it up in my Larousse to find the English word.


        I've got to say just how pervasive this is! During a prior job I was working, I needed to use the washroom, so I asked my supervisor if I could go to the washroom in French some eight years after I had last spoken a single lick of the language. I got the strangest look for that. Took me a few moments to realize what had happened!

        Most embarrassing? Forgetting what orange was in English, when I was still learning French in school (6th - 12th grade). I really, really felt like a moron when I clued in. >_<

        Another side-effect? Markedly decreased fondness for music in your native language. I generally despise listening to the local radio stations nowadays, but boy do I love anything else, whether I can understand it or not!

        [deactivated user]

          GET OUT OF MY HEAD! Haha so many of those ring true I thought I was being followed or something!


          I've definitely done everything previously mentioned, except dreamed, I've never dreamed in a second language.

          I think I speak to myself in french constantly, just inventing well one day I might have to ask someone how to find this and they might answer this so I'd say this.

          My dad was once talking about this vegetable he wanted to grow and how my brother had brought him seeds but he couldn't think of the name and all I could come up with was that in Catalan it's called carxofa (artichoke)


          Learning a new language actually taught me a lot about grammar for my native English! Although, as a consequence of learning a new set of rules, my English grammar (when speaking) has gotten worse.. :p


          Working at Barnes and Noble I always stop and look at the Italian language section, now I dont feel as weird about it. :p Adding: Talking to your pet in your target language. I've started talking to my dog in Italian. I sit on the metro and use google translate in Italian to English to try and make sure the conversations I have with myself make sense. I know google translate isn't the best resource, but I figure if I am using it from Italian to English and typing that way instead of the other way around it works.


          I have frequent chats with my cat in both French and German. "As-tu faim? Möchtest du etwas essen?" Food is her favorite topic.


          Sometime trying to get the right word In native language in mind and recalling it's equivalent in every other language.

          • Being absolutely certain that a word in your target language is from your native language and having to have a look at a dictionary to see that in fact, it's not...
          • Watching a movie in your target language, and the characters switch to your native language for a few lines and you don't notice at first.


          You don't notice? I usually notice their terrible accents!


          It only happened once, but it amused me. I don't remember if the actor had a terrible accent or not XD Last time I did notice, though.


          "Any language but English goes" Scrabble games!


          You find yourself doing things that your perfectly rational monolingual self never dreamed of doing.

          Haha I totally loved that part. Yes it is something interesting. I've experienced most of all that I forget how to say things in my own language and I can only think about the concept in a different one. Also noun gender confuses even your first language sometimes, but I guess it's ok =)


          I was once writing notes in a class and when I wrote a number my hand moved backwards... then I realised I'd been writing in Hebrew which is right to left, without even realising!

          I also think in Hebrew when I'm tired... which I find very strange... but at that point I'm too tired to ponder it deeply :)

          [deactivated user]

            I actively try to make sense of the Hindi I hear while reading subtitles in bollywood movies. On a movie I hadn't seen I happened to turn away when the main character yells, "Sach bolo!" I thought rather absent-mindedly "oh, tell the truth..." Then I looked up and was like OMG did I just understand that?!


            Addressing random people in the wrong language when you get tired.


            I'll occasionally capitilise nouns in the middle of a English sentence due to my German studies. I often don't bother to rectify my mistakes either, because I love that aspect about German!


            Once I stuck a post-it on my pet crab... :P


            Constantly trying to translate out loud, quietly, or in my mind what people are saying into my target language.

            Playing a game on how many languages I can say a particular word or phrase.


            I know I might be a bit early to have input, but something I found I love is sending people insults in Spanish. Not even bad insults, just ones to make them think 'what the...?' it's entertaining and gives me an excuse to bring up that I am learning spanish.

            • Getting so excited about understanding a single solitary sentence on a TV show or movie in your L2 that you rewind that part over and over and over again.

            • Not really actively listening to something in your L2 and finding yourself understanding and catching more than if you were actively listening.

            • Catching a subtle L2 pun.

            EG: Death's phone number from Soul Eater: 42-42-564 ... 4 is "shi" 2 is "ni" together they make "shini", Shini means death. ... I don't know the significance of 564 (go, roku, shi) but man you should have seen my face when that "shini" pun finally clicked.

            EDIT: I guess "go roku shi" is shortened to "Goroshi" which is close to "Koroshi" which is "kill"... welp, there you go. ^_^; sorry for the geeking out there...


            I tend to excitedly repeat a line that I understand in German when I hear it in a movie... I'm better at French so it's not unusual for me to be able to follow dialogue pretty well. Nobody would want to watch a German film with me, ever! When I watched "Das Boot" and learned the word for "deep", every time I heard it in dialogue I chanted "tief! tief! tief!" like I'd discovered something truly remarkable.


            That happens to me too... but not in a movie. Well, I got crazy and made Steam German (If anybody here even know it). When playing tf2 in Steam, I heard someone saying "Steh. Auf. Die. Punkt. Du Idiot!". And this was pretty much the first sentence I actually understood that time. And nowadays, I find myself repeating that line. To be honest though, English isn't my native language either (Hi, if there's any Turkish here :D) and same sort of thing happened in English as well. But right now, German lines are more tempting :D


            Another one: understanding conversations in target languages so well that you forget you're not speaking English.


            Something like that happened to me once when I was watching a movie. I can't remember what it was, but the actor was Herbert Lom, and all of a sudden his dialogue was subtitled when it hadn't been before. I thought I had accidentally hit the closed-caption key on the remote or something, then I realized Lom's character had begun speaking French instead of English. I understood him so well I hadn't noticed the switch!


            I don't really do many things in this list. But I was at work recently in a customer facing role and I momentarily forgot the English word for "What?", when a customer asked me something. Without even thinking I quickly responded to what ever it was she said with a loud "Quoi?". Thankfully it was quite loud in the shop and "quoi" sounds enough like "what" for her to have thought I said "what". I often use simple words like that around my family so I often say that to them instead of the English.


            I've noticed that I've started unconsciously imposing a Germanic pronunciation on cognates in English conversations. It's rather entertaining to be mid conversation with an English speaker, and then a word like "cool" comes out as "kühl."


            Talking to yourself in sentences that are freakish combinations of words and syntax from several of your target languages.


            Haha ya seriously!!


            Another side effect that I have:

            I forget to put my headphones in and the Hebrew radio starts playing out loud and people look at me like I'm crazy for listening to Gibberish


            Reading stuff in Hebrew is also confusing - it's an alphabet (or should I say aleph bet?) that many people don't recognise. And you read it backwards... :)


            איזה רשתות אתה שומע?


            אני שומע לרדיו בטלפון שלי.


            אבל איזה ערוצים? המועדף עליי הוא כנראה קול רמת השרון ואני גם שומע לפעמים קול ישראל א' כשאני רוצה רק דיבור או ג' כשאני רוצה רק מוזיקה. גל"צ ורדיו תל אביב הם גם טובים, אבל את האמת אני לא אוהב כשהם משדרים מוזיקה אנגלית, זה נראה לי בזבוז של הזמן שלי חח (ג' אך ורק משדר מוזיקה ישראלית לידיעתך) אם אתה רוצה עזרה אל תתבייש לשאול, אני גם לומד, אבל כבר כמה שנים, אז יש לי די הרבה נסיון :)


            "Experiencing increased pulse rates when your target language is overheard in public" Spot on! And based how much I talk to myself in Spanish you could think I'm Schizophrenic :P


            Getting way too excited when seeing words in your target language that you understand...


            Getting way too excited when you speak in your target language, and someone understands you!


            Switching between languages while talking. Definitely.


            I'm not sure if it is a side effect, but sometimes I misread some words at a first glance. I suppose my mind try to complete the word with something that makes sense, but it's been mixing the languages.

            I'm also more aware of some relation between words in my own native language that I've never noticed. Like 'to collect' and 'collection' (it seems clear in English, but 'colecionar' and 'coleção' in Portuguse may not be noticed when they are just too familiar to you).


            I have experienced everything but the post it notes


            OMG, this is exactly me! :O


            If you're learning multiple languages, the problems can magnify into each other as well. For example, since I have Hispanic relatives and friends, I speak Spanish a lot. However, every so often a French or Portuguese word may slip off my tongue. This is even more common when I address something that is originally French.
            Ex: yo estaba comiendo une croissant et ensuite...

            Another problem: when you are about to say a word that is a loanword, you say it in that language, sometimes putting too much emphasis on it. Ex: I was eating a CROISSANT, or AU CONTRAIRE, my friend. Sometimes, even 'Are coming to my SOIRÉE?'


            I once thought "damit" was a misspelling of "damn it" during a quick read.

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