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Do you ever get confused between languages?


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I studied French back in high school and some in college. I decided to try learning Spanish about a year ago.  I did take some in person lessons and then tried using a software program for Spanish. I found that I found that even though I was trying to learn Spanish, the French word would come more naturally to me. It's strange because I don't speak French fluently at all and it's been years since I really studied it. It just seemed my mind immediately defaulted to French when I try to speak a language other than English.  I was thinking this might disappear as I become more fluent in one or the other language. Or maybe not? Has anyone else ever experienced this?

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Most definitely. Spanish is a language that has so many words that are similar to those in other languages especially Italian and Portuguese. It is very simple to see a word in one of these languages and mistake it for one in the language you are attempting to learn.

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I often slip into my mother tongue Visayan when I am speaking in English. It seems  that whenever I cannot find the right word in English, I fall back on my trusty home language for a substitute. And then I just continue the conversation, not aware that I was speaking two languages at the same time.

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I don't exactly get confused, but there are occasions when I mix up words. It's especially funny when this happens in the classroom. My students enjoy "correcting the teacher". :) But the interesting thing is that those incidences actually make a deep impression on my pupils, and whatever I tried to teach them during that lesson, they will remember. So, these days, on occasion, I am actually deliberately incorporating those "mistakes" when I'm planning a lesson. :)

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I think that is a natural thing that happens to most of us. I recall classmates in high school combining both languages when we studied Spanish and French. It might not be something that we can easily get away from either.

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This doesn't happen for me. I think it's because I've always seen the different languages as distinct and have always been aware of their differences. I guess the closest that it happened would be that I may have interchanged some words that sound alike but I usually am able to catch it before I speak or write it out, fortunately. I will have to pay more attention to see if this does happen to me.

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I get confused between Spanish and Italian. I am more familiar with the Spanish language and I find that it is easier to learn. I would talk to some Italian and speak something Spanish, they would tell me that what I’m speaking is Spanish and not Italian. I would often ask them what is the Italian phrase of the Spanish version because they sound alike and I really thought that was Italian, not Spanish.

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Oh yes and I found out that happens to other nationalities as well. My workplace employs different nationalities and when we talk to people from other countries, we of course talk in English. But at times, we shift right away to our language when we see our countrymen. It happens that when we go back talking to others, we use our language. And so do they. We all make fun of it sometimes. For instance, the other person will answer in her own language or will pretend that she understands what's being said. It is fun to be in a multi-cultural workplace!

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  • 11 months later...

Happens to me sometimes, especially when the languages are similar.

Spanish-Italian and German-Dutch are really difficult in this respect. I sometimes mix words, and I'm never able to switch on from speaking one to immediately speaking another. Even the most simple phrases disappear from my head. My mind goes totally blank. I need to listen to someone speaking in that language or read a piece of text to be able to switch.

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I studied French back in high school and some in college. I decided to try learning Spanish about a year ago.  I did take some in person lessons and then tried using a software program for Spanish. I found that I found that even though I was trying to learn Spanish, the French word would come more naturally to me. It's strange because I don't speak French fluently at all and it's been years since I really studied it. It just seemed my mind immediately defaulted to French when I try to speak a language other than English.  I was thinking this might disappear as I become more fluent in one or the other language. Or maybe not? Has anyone else ever experienced this?

This has happened to me; it's quite normal and will resolve itself. It's due to your level in one or more of your languages being low. After you reach B1 or so this type of interference is rare.

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I had a time when I met a Czech woman with her Dutch husband.
I was speaking Polish to her, while she was speaking Czech to me.
None of us realised we were speaking 2 different languages, until her husband asked me if I'm a Czech too.
I said "but I don't speak any Czech, it's Polish", to which we all couldn't help but laugh.

So this is how easy it can be to confuse languages.

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All the time! Last year, I was taking Chinese and Japanese at the same time and my classes were 20 minutes apart. I've been learning Chinese for much longer so I didn't struggle too much with that but every time we had to read Kanji in Japanese, I would have to register for a second that I had to read these in Japanese and not Chinese. Also, once I accidentally spoke to my Japanese teacher in Chinese. That was definitely awkward.

I'm also learning Hindi right now. Bengali is my native language and it's very, very similar to Hindi. A lot of times when I'm in class, I'll try to say a word in Hindi but it just comes out as Bengali. (Example: "Wall" in Hindi is "deevar" and in Bengali it's "deyal").

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I do! Quite a lot! Being in America with my Slovak friend (speaking Czech and Slovak with each other), hearing English everywhere and studying German (in English)..It was crazy! :D

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It is really both funny and annoying - I often forget to switch to another language when I stop talking to one person and start talking to another. In this case it's not because I lack vocabulary but for some uknown weird malfunction in my brain. Happens to me at work all the time because we have an international team and I need to switch between three different languages there depending on who I'm talking to. At times like this, I feel like I'm getting old. I wish my brain could switch effortless all the time, without these "glitches".

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This is such a funny post. I get confused probably 50% of the time and don't even know I'm doing it until I get funny looks from my Mother who only speaks English. I will go off into a deep discussion and only mix words up in another language or I will go to answer in English but come out in Bulgaria. The funniest thing is when I'm writing and suddenly I will start a sentence in English and end in Bulgaria, I don't even know I'm doing it though!!! The joys of being bi-lingual. 

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Oh this happens to me all the time with my Serbian, the native language,and my English, the second language. Sometimes, being all wrapped up in English everywhere I turn, while speaking in my mother tongue, usually some words in English pop up, and instead of saying 'decak' i say 'boy' or something similar in that respect.

I think the more you learn, the more languages you acquire, it becomes quite normal to just switch between languages, unconsciously. I suppose the brain sometimes gets confused, too. :)

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I wouldn't say I have ever got confused between languages, per se. I guess out of the languages I have dealings with, the most similar are Italian and French, but maybe because I learnt them at two different points of my life, I never did run the risk of confusing the two. Maybe it would have been totally different had I tried to learn them simultaneously. Then again, that would never happen because I much prefer to focus on just one foreign language to proper give it my all.

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I don`t really get confused between the languages that I know, but I tend to mix and match them together, in certain situations. Like, using English words when speaking Romanian, or using words from other languages when I can`t really remember how to express a certain word in the language that I am speaking in the moment.

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Yes it happens. Even though i am a student of English and i have lived in a English speaking country. Sometimes when i am tired or just angry for some reason i tend to use my own language or even to mix it. It is funny though, you cannot think in English 100 percent if you are not born in England or any other country where English is first language. I realized that trying doesn't solve a thing. You have to do it slowly and by ear.

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It's mostly cause if you learn languages with similiar words or pronunciations then any language you've learn/already know will sometimes become the default prenuncition of certain words you see/hear. I had a fellow student in my highschool class who slightly did the samething as you; we were learning the French word for "Delicious" which is "Délicieux (Adj.)", but what he said by accident was "Delicioso (Adj.)" which was the Spanish word for "Delicious", and the reason he said that was the slightly the same reason you made the same mistake, before he studied French, he studied Spanish... So no matter what you're doing you have to slow down so you can train your mind to be sesitive to those linguistic differences... Or elso you'll start speaking Spanish to the French, Chinese to the Japanese, German to the Russians, and so on and so forth...

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