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What Language Do You Think In?


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I'm supposing, quite naturally, you'll think in the language you use most [often]. If for example you're a native English speaker working in a remote out-station in the heart of Asia, unconsciously, in your bid to master the language you'll force yourself to think in that language.

In addition to that, if your friends don't speak your language and you think about them then quite definitely, you'll use the language they speak. . .it's kind of elastic.

And. . .For some people, different languages work with different emotions.

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English! If I've been in a Thai environment all day or the people I've been with are Thai then there'll be phrases and words slipped in that are Thai, but most of the time it's English. I've also noticed the same happening with Mandarin if I've been around Chinese people, certain phrases like 没有, 好吗?, and 是什么 stick in my brain.

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I always think in my native language even if I am fairly comfortable with using English daily. I've always preferred using my native language, so it's only natural for me to use it when thinking as well. I do sometimes use English in my head, but that happens rarely especially nowadays that I appreciate my own language even more.

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It is interesting to see all of these responses. This was something that I never thought about before, but a friend brought it up and asking another friend, who speaks English and Spanish both pretty much equally (English at work and with friends, and Spanish at home or when talking to other Spanish-speaking people at work), and he said he still thinks mostly in Spanish. I guess that is because it is his native language.

I'm a native English speaker. Although I'm learning Spanish, I can't say that I think in it. Only when I'm speaking it or listening to it.

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I am a native English speaker, so it is natural that I speak in English. However, I know quite a bit of Spanish as well and when I am conversing in Spanish, I do find that I tend to think in Spanish. I don't think that is always the way that it works for people though.

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You got me stuck when you asked what language do I think!  :grin:

Right now I am thinking in English probably, but usually I think in Portuguese, I think that sometimes I even think in Portuguese and write/speak in English and therefore my strange English...  :nerd:

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As a native English speaker, I think it is an interesting question.  When I am "thinking" to speak a foreign language, I would say I am thinking in both.  I guess it is how you define it but when I look at a cat and pronuounce it in the language I am studying, I am still seeing the same object but the words are in both languages in my opinion.

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For Filipino (my native language) and English, I usually think in the language I am using at the time. For example, if I were talking to a fellow Filipino, then I think in Filipino, when I am talking in English or writing online, I am thinking in English. For me, English is not a language that needs to be translated in my head, it comes to me naturally. It used to be that way for the French language too, but since I haven't used that language regularly in a long time, whenever I'm asked to speak in French, I find that I need time to translate my thoughts.

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For Filipino (my native language) and English, I usually think in the language I am using at the time. For example, if I were talking to a fellow Filipino, then I think in Filipino, when I am talking in English or writing online, I am thinking in English. For me, English is not a language that needs to be translated in my head, it comes to me naturally. It used to be that way for the French language too, but since I haven't used that language regularly in a long time, whenever I'm asked to speak in French, I find that I need time to translate my thoughts.

That's so cool that you (and others who have responded to this thread) can easily bounce back and forth from thinking in one language to thinking in another. I know it's an odd question, but I was intrigued when a friend asked another friend that. I can't really imagine "thinking" in any language other than English.

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I know this topic wasn't geared towards native English speakers, but how do you not think in your native language?

I would love to be able to think in Spanish. It would be so much easier to think what I want to say when I'm not trying to translate it from English. Also, when I hear something in Spanish, my brain tries to translate it back to English before, I can think of what to say in Spanish. By the time my brain has done all the translating, I've forgotten what was said and what I need to say.

If I could think in Spanish, I feel, I would be able to converse better. Right now, trying to converse is so slow. Especially since, not everything translates straight across the two languages.

I'm jealous of those of you who can think in their non-native language.

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I very much think in English. It's been a long time since Spanish has been part of my daily routine, so much so that I can barely construct simple sentences any more (let alone think in the language). Although, recently I've been watching a lot of Breaking Bad, and the Spanish dialogue does dredge up my ability to understand the language.

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I've never though of any language other than my mother tongue. I think this is similar more many polyglots unless they have been bilingual from a very young age. I do think with the occasional foreign words, but that's only if I use it in speech also.

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It's always a mix. Most of the time for English questions asked of me, I think in English. But when they are asking me in Tagalog, Ilocano definitely I use my native Language unless I can't think of a term in my native Language then I use English.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I'm from Norway and I usually communicate in English. And I often find myself thinking in English almost more often than Norwegian. I'm just so used to talking in English that it comes natural to think in English for me. I do it unconsciously and sometimes I notice it and think. Hey I just thought in English, oh well and then I continue thinking in English. 

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That's a really interesting question.  I would have to say that I think in English even though I may be speaking in French or Arabic.  Not sure why this is the case, but I think it has to do with the fact that thinking comes at a fast paste, thus when you think you tend to use the language that you are the most fluent in.

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Is there anybody who's learned language has taken over their native in proficiency and now thinks using the new language almost exclusively? Most here seem to have their native as their most proficient.

It's interesting to me that people who are fluent in multiple languages will also think in multiple languages depending on the situation, that's something few can relate with.

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Is there anybody who's learned language has taken over their native in proficiency and now thinks using the new language almost exclusively? Most here seem to have their native as their most proficient.

It's interesting to me that people who are fluent in multiple languages will also think in multiple languages depending on the situation, that's something few can relate with.

Well, for me, it's not so much as having a learned language taking over my native language. It's more like using a learned term because it fits the situation better. Take, for example, the Thai word 'tiau'. It can be variously translated as 'fun' or 'holiday' but that doesn't tell the whole story. When a Thai invites you to 'tiau' at his house, he means just come and visit for fun. You can't really say that in English without getting convoluted. So when I want to pay a social visit to my friends, I think of the word 'tiau' because it's more appropriate.

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Somehow I always think in English, even though I'm Portuguese. Sometimes I even get to think with fragments of Japanese, but I haven't mastered it yet so I can't build it much on my mind. But still, feels good practicing within our head! The more often we do it the better!

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