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Linguaholic

Switching languages.


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I have a friend who was born in Bosnia but brought up in France so she grew up bilingual because her parents spoke Serbo-Croatian and she lived in France from an early age. I have listened to her when she talks with her family on the phone and she will often have a group call with her parents and sisters. What fascinates me is that she can effortlessly switch between Serbo-Croatian (when talking to her parents) to French (her younger sisters prefer to speak French) several times during one phone call and then when she is finished she will put down the phone and start talking to me in fluent English. It's incredible.

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I grew up in the Philippines, and I am also fluent in English because English is the 2nd main language over here, so I can also effortlessly switch from Tagalog to English while conversing. I think switching languages effortlessly is quite common for bilingual people.

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That's great!

I guess when you are fluent with languages, switching would not be a big deal. Particularly when you learn these languages as a child. I do switch languages between my mother tongue when speaking to my family but when my husband comes around, I have to switch to English so that he can follow with the conversation.

It's a natural process you are unaware of.

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I do this all the time, especially at home.

My mother and little sister both speak Dutch and Polish, but my little sister speaks Polish really bad (but she is trying), while my mother speaks Dutch very accented.
So each time I see them both at once, but I want to explain them something separately, I first say something in Polish to my mother and instantly switch to Dutch to say something to my little sister.
Both reply back in the same language.

Funnier is when they talk to each other, my mother asks her a question in Polish, and my little sister responds in Dutch.

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Almost everyone here is familiar with at least two languages and these days it's difficult to escape having to use English because there are so many things that have popped up recently that only have English descriptions or names so it is normal for us to use two languages at the very least. Not to mention my family is made up of mostly immigrants so that's another language we tend to work into conversations from time to time. 

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I really find it fascinating because I'm only fluent in my native English. Slightly off the subject but still interesting is that I have also heard people switch accents, I myself have done it before. I have my local accent because I grew up here but I moved to a city for a few years that had a different accent and I picked it up. When I am at home I use my normal accent but when I speak to friends from the city I switch to that accent without realising.

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I've just listened to my friend on the phone again, she switches mid sentence! I can't keep up! I can tell the difference between the two languages so I can hear when she switches but I didn't realise until today that she uses both languages at the same time, it's madness!!

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I guess this also applies to me, because i grew up speaking both English and my native language, Setswana. Well, it applies to most people in Botswana because we're all in the same boat. We all switch it up and back down again depending on the mood and company. Plus my language tends to go round the house and back to convey very simple concepts. So sometimes we get lazy and choose to converse more in English. If people think English is a difficult language, Setswana is harder LOL Even for us native speakers. So i always have sympathy for those who are new to it, and have a keen interest to learn it.

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It is the same for me. Hungarian and Romanian are two completely different languages, but I can somehow completely switch from one to the other without effort. For example, I talk to my family on the phone in Hungarian, while my Romanian friends are over for a get together, and after hanging up, I switch back to Romanian without effort. I think it is a matter of how used you are to languages that you are speaking.

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I have heard similar language switching with my gaming friends. A lot of them are from different parts of Europe and therefore speak English as their second language. When we play as a group, we all speak in English, but from time to time people who are from the same country will switch to their first language to discuss something together. And then they can just switch back to English in the most natural way. It's always impressive.

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I am able to speak Spanish, English and Chinese. Sometimes when I am in an awkward situation, I call my boyfriend (who is Chinese) and I speak to him about it in Chinese. Not only do I get support from him, but after I hang up the people around me have a new respect for me. My boyfriend is also learning Spanish. So when we are walking together sometimes I speak Spanish, he speaks Chinese, and we both intertwine English. It helps with privacy, and we both feel pretty accomplished that we can speak three languages at the same time.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Since I don't live amongst folks who speak another language, I don't often switch between languages. However, the more and more I am around German in general, I find it much easier to switch between German and English, and I even mix words between them on the rare occasion. Though, switching between German and French is an absolute nightmare. My French teacher will ask for something to be said in French and I just automatically go "Ich bin" and then a French word. Ah well, practice makes perfect as they say.

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On June 1, 2016 at 11:10 PM, lisasian86 said:

I really find it fascinating because I'm only fluent in my native English. Slightly off the subject but still interesting is that I have also heard people switch accents, I myself have done it before. I have my local accent because I grew up here but I moved to a city for a few years that had a different accent and I picked it up. When I am at home I use my normal accent but when I speak to friends from the city I switch to that accent without realising.

I agree it really is fascinating and I have to admit I even feel jealous when I see people doing this so effortlessly regardless of he at languages they use as long as they have lots of them in their arsenal that they get to use on a regular basis. Still I appreciate that I at least also know some other language other than my own but just that I don't have anyone to use it on and I have to spend more time and effort to keep it fresh in my head as I only learned it through school and not at home. 

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I have a friend that can do that and it always fascinates me how he can do that as well. His native language is Spanish, but his mother is French and his father Italian. He was mostly brought up in England, so also knows English and one of his closest friends is Polish. He speaks all of those languages and switches between them whenever he feels like it! Admittedly if he's really tired though he'll switch words sometimes. He was counting if he had enough of something the other day and he started counting in English, out loud, and finished counting in Spanish. It was sort of comical really. He's a really clever guy I think. I wish I could speak that many languages!

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On 02 June 2016 at 4:38 AM, glreese said:

I am able to speak Spanish, English and Chinese. Sometimes when I am in an awkward situation, I call my boyfriend (who is Chinese) and I speak to him about it in Chinese. Not only do I get support from him, but after I hang up the people around me have a new respect for me. My boyfriend is also learning Spanish. So when we are walking together sometimes I speak Spanish, he speaks Chinese, and we both intertwine English. It helps with privacy, and we both feel pretty accomplished that we can speak three languages at the same time.

Wow, kudos to you and your boyfriend! I have a lot of respect for you both, because you're learning so many diverse languages. I mean, I imagine Spanish, Chinese and English are as diverse as you can get. I wish I had the same kind of aptitude for languages because I wouldn't just stop at Italian and French. Way to go to the both of you, and I hope you get to where you are aiming for over time, and I'm sure you will too :)

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22 hours ago, lushlala said:

Wow, kudos to you and your boyfriend! I have a lot of respect for you both, because you're learning so many diverse languages. I mean, I imagine Spanish, Chinese and English are as diverse as you can get. I wish I had the same kind of aptitude for languages because I wouldn't just stop at Italian and French. Way to go to the both of you, and I hope you get to where you are aiming for over time, and I'm sure you will too :)

Thank you so much! It took a lot of patience to get where we are. I always wanted to learn Italian and French. I think Italian is super similar Spanish so it may be my next endeavor. If you already have three languages down, you are doing great!

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I am always amazed when people switch from language to language without any effort.  It makes me very jealous given the amount of time that I have devoted to learning new languages, but of course that is just life and how they were brought up, so good for them.  I guess necessity is the father of bilingualism and invention, so there is one that you can add to the list.  It just goes to show you how important being around the language is when you are trying to learn a new one,

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16 hours ago, glreese said:

Thank you so much! It took a lot of patience to get where we are. I always wanted to learn Italian and French. I think Italian is super similar Spanish so it may be my next endeavor. If you already have three languages down, you are doing great!

Just telling it like it is, @glreese :) You'll find many of us have nothing but respect and admiration for all your achievements and your continued hunger to learn more. And in all fairness, I wouldn't even say I speak 3 languages LOL It's more like 2.5 because my French sure leaves a lot to be desired hehe I just to be honest. And my Italian, well, that's all but gone.

 

I was also told that French is very similar to Spanish and Italian. But when I was in Italy as an au pair learning my Italian, I didn't think that was accurate at all. Then later on when I made some Spanish friends, I failed to see stark similarities. I love Spanish, but I feel I'd really struggle with the pronunciation, yet I didn't struggle at all with French and Italian. I guess it depends on who you talk to. Plus I'm just going off the few Spanish words I tried to learn. You'd probably just breeze it :)

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