Lola’s Ramblings: How I experience being fluent in two languages

September 15, 2016 Lola's Ramblings 46

LolaRamblings

Lola’s Ramblings is a feature on my blog Lola’s Reviews where I ramble on about a book related or a non-book related topic. These are discussion type of posts where I talk about a topic and readers can weigh in on the topic in the comments. Usually these posts are everything that doesn’t fall under any standard header, like tours, cover reveals, memes, challenges, recaps or reviews. Lola’s Ramblings posts are discussions of a certain topic and my point of view on them. The banner for this feature is designed by Michelle from Limabean Designs.

Strangely enough the fact that I speak two language rarely is something I consciously think about, but I thought it would make a fun topic for a Lola’s Ramblings post. Many people here in the Netherlands can speak english to a certain degree, so it’s pretty normal to encounter people who speak both dutch and english. Although it does vary from person to person. I thought it would be fun to talk about how it is being fluent in two languages at least for me and how it impacts my life.

Some random facts about how I experience being fluent in two languages

  • I mostly use english. While dutch is my mother language I think in total I use english a higher percentage of the time. My work is in english, my blog is in english, I comment on other blogs in english, most of social media is in english, I read in english and if we watch movies they often are in english as well. So the only moments I use dutch is when talking to other people and I don’t do that as much. And when talking to my boyfriend we use a lot of english in between our speech as well. I can’t say how much of our language is english or dutch actually. Which brings me to the next point.
  • I am not consciously aware which language I am speaking/ reading. This might sound weird, but in my head something is either a language I understand or a language I don’t understand. I am usually not consciously aware of which language I am reading or speaking at any given time. ofcourse if I think of it I know, but I am not aware of it. I know when I just started learning english I was very aware of it, but now english is as natural as dutch to me and I no longer am aware of what language I read or speak. I remember how for my university study we got almost all of your books for classes in english and for a new course I only realized halfway through the first chapter it was dutch. It was so weird to realize I no longer made that distinction. I am still grateful for my university study for teaching me english so well. If I had to name one thing I am use most nowadays that I learned during my study it would be english. My english sucked before then and it was only when I was forced to read all of my study books in english that I suddenly got english and also switched to reading english fiction books.
  • I have to focus if I want to speak only dutch, but speaking/writing only english is not a problem. My mom doesn’t speak english as well, she knows some words and can hold a simple conversation, but if I speak with her I try my best to speak dutch only. And it’s hard. Sometimes I just don’t know the dutch word or I always use a word in english and have to consciously think of how to say it dutch. I happens quite regularly that I finish a sentence and then translate the english word I used in the middle of the sentence. I don’t think my mom minds though, usually the meaning is clear and else I explain. But it is a bit unhandy, I think this is something only I have trouble with as most people around me seem to deal better with this. Also writing and speaking in only english goes a lot better than only dutch, not sure why.
  • I switch a lot between the two languages. When I am talking to someone who knows both languages our speech is a weird combination of english and dutch. Sometimes it’s a sentence in dutch with one english word thrown in. Other times I switch languages in the middle of a sentence or one sentence one language and the next in another. I am not even sure how I determine which language I speak, I just go for what’s easiest and which word pops into my mind first. I think this is because I am not consciously aware of which language I speak so I just go for the first word to pop in my mind.
  • I suck at grammar in both languages. One thing were you might notice that I am not a native english speaker/ writer is my grammar and spelling. I suck at both. On the other hand this is nothing exclusive to english as I am just as bad with grammar and spelling in dutch. It just doesn’t make sense to me, I can remember the rules, but not apply them intuitively.
  • I prefer reading in english. I can’t stand reading in dutch, unless it’s non-fictions, letters etc, but books nope. It sounds awkward and weird and even reading a blurb for a book in dutch has me cringing at how wrong it sounds. I actually did a whole post on this topic last year: Does it matter in which language you read a book?
  • I have trouble with pronunciation in english. I mostly read and write english and rarely hear or speak english. My boyfriend and I have been watching Star Trek Voyager, Star Trek Deep Space 9 and now Star Trek Enterprise without subtitles and it did wonders for my ability to understand spoken english better, although I still have trouble with heavily accented english. But I almost never get the chance to speak english and am quite self conscious about how I sound. For many words I am not 100% how to pronounce them and ofcourse I think I have a horrible dutchie accent.
  • I still have trouble with some words. There are some words which are still difficult for me, like dessert and desert. I know what they mean, but I have to consciously think of how to write or pronounce it. I just keep confusing the two as they look so similar. Same with chance and change, I know they mean something different, but the words look so similar I have to consciously think of which one to use. Or words like sent and send, I have to keep reminding myself that sent is for the past and send for the future or have send. It just never gets intuitive for me.
  • Some words don’t exist in the other language. One thing that can be difficult about speaking two languages is that both languages are very different and some words in one language don’t exist in the other. For example the word “Gezellig” is a dutch word for which no good english alternative exist. It means something like being happy/ satisfied while spending time in the presence of others and having a good time. But there’s no word for it, I need sentences to explain the concept in english and even then it’s just wrong. Same goes for some english words that don’t have a good dutch variant or they have, but it feels different. Like the word anxiety which doesn’t have a good translation in dutch or not one that has the same feel. Sometimes you can translate a word, but it has a different connotation. Things like that can be really difficult sometimes if you’re unable to find a right word in the other language for something you do have a word for in one language.

How many languages do you speak? How do you experience other languages?

46 Responses to “Lola’s Ramblings: How I experience being fluent in two languages”

  1. Caroline Cairn

    I’m bilingual too, in French (mother tongue) and English. Since I live in Scotland, I use English 98% of the time, the other 2% is when I speak to my French husband or to our families over the phone. I also speak a little Spanish, though I admit that due to lack of practice, I’ve lost a lot of vocabulary! Which is a shame, because I’ve studied the language for 6 years.
    People do notice my accent even after 16 years in the country, though they can never quite place it.

    I noticed similar things to you. I switch between English and French without paying attention (especially when I speak with my husband), some words just don’t fit in one or the other language without the need of a long sentence, and I prefer reading in English. Same for movies, I prefer watching them in English. I remember when I used to live in France: all foreign programmes are dubbed. They make me cringe and laugh now lol.

    I’ve also realized that strangers who speak French (as their native language), whether on telly or in real life, sound weird to me! I can’t explain it.

    • Lola

      Oh that’s interesting to hear you also notice a lot of these things. It’s fun to hear from someone else who is bilingual as well and how they experience it.

      And that’s interesting how after 16 years you still have an accent. Although it’s probably more subtle now that you live in England for so long.

      And yes I know exactly what you mean about some words just don’t work well in the other language without a whole sentence to explain it. And dutch fiction books just make me cringe so I stick to english books.

      Here in Netherlands you see quite a lot of english, all our tv programs are subbed instead of dubbed unless they are dutch to begin with.

  2. Berls

    This is so fascinating for me. My husband speaks English and Spanish fluently – he prefers to speak in Spanish and probably uses both equally. He struggles to write in English though. I don’t know how he thinks (in general, not just linguistically lol)!

    I am sort of multi-lingual in reading and writing, but not speaking and listening. I think that it’s too quick and too varied by accents for me to grasp as easily – and I definitely don’t think in any language but English. But I can read Spanish, French, Old English (which is a very different language), and Latin. The only one I come close to speaking and hearing well is Spanish, because of my husband and communication with his family.
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    • Lola

      That’s interesting your husbands can speak english and Spanish and uses both equally. And that you know quite some languages as well, I never knew that!

      I find reading and writing easier than talking and listening in general. If someone in english talks with a heavy accent I find it hard to follow at times. Reading and writing is no problem, but listening is a bit trickier. Although I am getting better at it.

  3. Kristen @ Metaphors and Moonlight

    Whoa, that is so weird to not even be aware of which language you’re using. I just can’t imagine being that comfortable with another language! I have tried, like, my whole life to learn Spanish, but I guess I never tried hard enough. All through elementary school (like ages 6-10) it was taught to us. I took it for two semesters in college. For a while after that I was using Duolingo (a website), but eventually I just kinda gave up. Me and Spanish are not meant to be, though my accent is actually not terrible lol. But back to you, I’m curious now, what language do you *think* in? Or are you not really aware of that either?

    “I suck at grammar in both languages” cracked me up lol. But honestly I don’t think your grammar is bad. It’s a lot better than most native English speakers lol.

    It’s so weird/cool how languages sometimes have words that there are no translations for. I see a lot of those on Pinterest.

    The only other language I’m *somewhat* fluent in is American Sign Language. So it’s as language, but not the same as a spoken/written language. And I say *somewhat* because I’m capable of communicating or having conversations, but there’s still a lot of words that I never learned since I mostly learned general stuff, and now I’m super out of practice and have probably forgotten most. But I do like when characters use ASL in books because I always put the effort to actually do the correct signs in my head, it’s good practice lol.
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    • Lola

      I know it sounds weird, maybe it just me, but it just kinda blends together and it just both feel like a language I know and I don’t really consciously differentiate them.

      I think for me the reason why I eventually learned english was because I had to. All my classes were in english, all my study books were in english. It was like total immersion in that language. And then I started fiction reading in english too and even then it took months before I really started feeling comfortable with the language, maybe even longer. I had an english to dutch dictionary next to my study books all the time at first.

      I never got to that point with any other language, we got french and german in school. But I was so bad at those language. Even though I would like to learn german one day. I know of Duolingo, but never used it myself.

      My first thought when I read your question about in which language I think was I don’t know. I guess that answers it that I am not consciously aware of that either. I think I think the same as I speak with english and dutch blended, although when I am working or blogging it’s fully english. Until I encounter a word I don’t know. Last sunday post I was writing the post and didn’t know the word for cavities. Then that word is dutch in my head.

      Thanks! I am glad to hear that. I guess it’s because I read a lot I got a bit better at grammar. But I never can remember the rules for anything, I just go with what feels natural.

      I also want to learn sign language one day. But then should I learn American sign language or dutch sign language. I actually have a sign language for dummies book, I think it’s english? So it’s ASL probably then. I like the idea of being able to communicate with your hands. I once saw two people signing with each other while I was waiting on the train and it just looked neat. And it’s quiet.

  4. Melanie Simmons @mlsimmons

    This is really interesting. I’ve know several people who’ve spoken more than one language, but I’ve never been one of them. I took 2.5 years of German in high school. I really loved it, but since I haven’t used it since then, I barely remember any of it. I’m not a great speller either. Spellcheck is the best invention ever made. Sometimes, it takes me multiple tries before spellcheck even knows that I’m talking about.

    Since you mentioned dessert and desert, I’ll tell you the trick I learned to know which is which. You want more dessert and desert is known as barren land, so, there are more “s” in dessert and fewer in desert.
    Melanie Simmons @mlsimmons recently posted…Review: Lonen’s War by Jeffe Kennedy (@mlsimmons, @jeffekennedy)My Profile

    • Lola

      I took German and french in high school, but never mastered it. I would love to learn german one day even though I couldn’t wrap my head around the grammar of that language.

      I know that feeling! I have a spellcheck plugin on my browser nowadays to help me, but sometimes it has no clue what I am trying to write.

      Why did I never knew these tricks! That’s really helpful! Thanks :). Hopefully from now on I’ll be able to remember it 🙂

  5. sjhigbee

    What an interesting post! I can only speak English with any fluency, though I can muddle along in French and Spanish if I have to. Sadly I’ll admit to sometimes resorting to the age-old English trick of speaking English very slowly with a raised voice… For what it’s worth, I’m a Creative Writing tutor and I haven’t particularly noticed any major grammar bloopers in your posts (and I ALWAYS notice – the curse of also having being an editor) so congratulations. As for homophones like dessert and desert – they completely fox the English, too!

    • Lola

      Speaking very slowly can be helpful for people who don’t know that language well. For example I know a little bit german, but can only understand people when they speak slowly.

      Thanks! I am glad to hear you haven’t noticed any major grammar bloopers. I got a plugin on my browser to help me with typo’s and spelling and it’s a big help, I really feel like it helped me improve my posts and comments. Good to know words like dessert and desert also confuse the english sometimes! For some reason I keep having a bit of trouble with those.

  6. Ani

    This is a great topic!

    I’m Chinese and speak Cantonese and English fluently. Although being born in the United States, English is actually my more dominantly used language, even though I actually learned Cantonese first. I can also understand enough conversational Mandarin to get the gist of what people are saying, but I have a hard time speaking it myself. Which is strange, because my father swears that if you know Cantonese, you should also be able to understand Mandarin, because the languages are only slightly different; although to me, they are different enough that I can speak one and not the other.

    Anyway, I’ve always been fascinated with languages and dialect. I’ve taken courses in Spanish throughout high school, and recently I self-taught some basic Japanese and Korean… but then I stopped learning them after life got busy, so I don’t even know enough to string together proper sentences.

    I’ve experienced a lot of the same things you have. I never used to noticed how readily I switch between Cantonese and English until I had my best friend over for dinner and carried on small talk between my parents and my best friend. My parents used to make a lot of effort in only speaking English around my friends, but lately they’ve grown so used her being around so much that they often forget that she doesn’t understand what we’re saying half the time. And I do the same as well, though I try really hard to remember to translate.

    Like you, English is the easier language for me to speak. I don’t really know how to read and write in Chinese, though, which makes English TRULY my dominant language. When I have conversations when my parents, it’s an effort to use more Cantonese and only slipping in English whenever I can’t think of how to say something in Cantonese. When I’m having a conversation with my brothers though, it’s mainly in English and we slip in a word in Cantonese when it feels more appropriate or when there’s no proper English counterpart to use.

    Such things as family relationships are culturally different in Chinese and American, so the way we express or identify certain cousins, uncles, aunts, etcetera, have no English counterpart without actually describing as “my father’s sister’s children” as opposed to “my father’s brother’s children” have different designations that all mean cousin, but not quite. If that makes any sense. Then there’s Cantonese slang that, even translated, makes no sense whatsoever in English, but have their appropriate uses in Cantonese (sometimes they don’t even have proper translations into Mandarin either).

    Yeesh! I got long-winded. O.o
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    • Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews

      I love that you have differences in cousins names in Chinese, Ani! In Norwegian, we have that when it comes to grand-parents… it’s mother-mother (my mother’s mother, hehe) or father-mother for instance. And that way, everybody knows straight away which set of grand-parents we are talking about 🙂
      In Swedish, they have this for aunts and uncles as well, mother’s sister = moster, and father’s sister = faster, and then mother’s brother = morbror. I find it very interesting to learn about the way family relationships are explained through language in some languages, and not so much in others.
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      • Lola

        Oh that’s interesting you have a way in Norwegian to differentiate between your grandparents on your mother or father’s side. That is handy. In english or dutch you would need an extra sentence to say that.

        In Dutch we only differentiate between male and female cousins, but I think besides that it’s mostly similar to english. It is interesting to hear how in other languages that’s different.

        • Ani

          Oh yeah. We have a different ways of referring to pretty much all relatives, with the addition of one more character, or a different character sometimes. To me, I find it much easier to say “Po Po” (婆婆) in Chinese, rather than “My grandma on my mom’s side” or follow-up “grandma” with “my Mom’s mom.” Or “Ye Ye” (爺爺) for my father’s father.

          Which set of uncles and aunts, on which side of the family can also be differentiated. My cousin’s wife on my dad’s side of the family also has her identifying title. It’s very extensive. It’s just so much easier sometimes! At work, when I’m talking to co-workers about my family, I often have to clarify with an extra sentence.
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          • Lola

            I agree Po Po is a lot shorter and easier than using a whole sentence to explain which family member you mean. It seems weird they don’t have words for that in other languages.

    • Lola

      This is so interesting! Thanks for talking about your experience with multiple languages. And I really appreciate your long comment and I enjoyed learning a bit about how you experience being fluent in multiple languages.

      I know a little bit of german, if people speak slowly I can get an idea of what they mean, but talking is a lot harder. Languages are very interesting, although they aren’t my strong suit. I struggles a lot with the language classes during high school and never would’ve guessed by then I would become fluent in english. I still hope to teach myself more german one day. There just isn’t enough time in a day to do all things.

      I feel really bad when I use a language the people I am talking to don’t understand, but sometimes it’s so hard to speak only one of them. I especially have this with dutch, luckily my mom is usually the one I talk with and she doesn’t mind too much. I often remember to translate, but not always.

      And it’s interesting to hear you experience a lot of the same things as me and with how when talking to people who know both languages you switch sometimes between the two as well.

      And yes there are some things that are very different in dutch and english and then it’s hard to find a way to explain it in the other language. It’s actually quite weird how english uses cousins for everything now that you mention that, because you are right that it’s not all the same. In Dutch we only differentiate between female cousins and male cousins. Some specific things like that really different between languages.

  7. Bookworm Brandee

    This is fascinating to me, Lola. I’d love to be fluent in more than one language. I can speak Spanish but not fluently. I read and write it with more fluency than I can speak it. And I really have no practice unless I’m speaking with my children, who are studying Spanish in school. That you flip back and forth, that you don’t even realize which language you’re speaking in…that’s kinda neat! One reason my fluency is lacking is because to speak in Spanish, I have to think…*hard*…and it’s translating what I want to say from English to Spanish. I’ve not learned to think in Spanish. I do like the idea of watching t.v. or movies in a different language to help with speaking fluency. Maybe I’ll make time for that some day. 😉 Thanks for sharing your experiences with speaking two languages.
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    • Lola

      It does take a long time and a lot of using the language to get fluent in it. And it’s interesting you also find reading and writing easier than speaking. It is nice you get a bit of practice with your kids. But it’s difficult to keep up with a language when you don’t have as much opportunity to use it.

      What you explain what you have with Spanish, that’s how I started when learning english as well. And with german I still do that. I translate it in my head. But with english I don’t translate it to dutch I just keep it in english. Watching tv shows really helped me get a bit of a better grasp on listening to english. Maybe you can find some Spanish shows to watch or maybe a tv show or movie you watched in english already and then watch it with Spanish dubs?

  8. Paula

    What an interesting post, Lola! You have inspired me to go back to my Italian. I haven’t kept it up because there isn’t anyone to speak it with, but from your experience it seems that it doesn’t matter. Thank you!

    BTW, I took Latin in school so no help there. I’ve taken classes in other languages too–Spanish and German–but I’m not fluent. Since I live in an area where lots of people speak Spanish, though, I can kind of get by if I don’t have to actually say anything. 🙂

    • Lola

      I think not having anyone to speak or communicate with can make it harder to keep up with it, but it’s not impossible. You just have to find a different way to use that language, like watch Italian tv/ movies? Or read in Italian? Maybe you can find an Italian pen pal? We learned some french and german at school, but most of that I forgot by now as I never use it.

      That’s how my german is, it’s pretty similar to dutch so I can usually sort of get what someone is saying if they speak slowly. But my knowledge is very limited. And listening is easier than talking.

    • Lola

      I figured that sometimes it shows that English isn’t my native language, but I am glad to hear that’s infrequently 🙂

  9. Angela @Simply Angela

    Besides English, I can speak Scots Gaelic, Irish Gaelic, and French but I’m really rusty with it. I can read Welsh but I’m horrible as speaking it.

    I remember when I was at uni studying Renaissance studies and I would be reading through historic documents and taking notes and without realizing it I had been writing in both English and Gaelic.

    • Lola

      Oh you know a lot of languages! I once visited Scotland and I liked the way how all the cities were written in both Gaelic and english. The Gaelic names always sounded so pretty. I didn’t realize Irish and Scots Gaelic was different.

      It really is interesting when you realize you know two languages so well you sue the intermingled.

  10. Anna

    This was a really iteresting topic, Lola. You do a great job writing in English! Dutch seems like such a hard language to learn and to pronounce. I’ve attempted to learn Spanish and French in the past, but I’m not very good at either. LOL

    • Lola

      Thanks! I have heard dutch is a difficult language to learn as a second language. I grew up learning dutch, so it comes natural. Learning a new language takes a lot of practice, I hope to learn german once, but I am pretty bad at it right now.

  11. S. J. Pajonas

    I love it when you blog about language! I was at a social event this past week where I was seated at a table with people from the US, Luxembourg, Bulgaria, the UK, and Japan. The dominant language at the table was English, but I made a point to speak Japanese with the Japanese woman at the table, and I totally blew away the other English speakers. Which was funny considering several people at the table spoke other languages as their mother tongue. I think it’s cool that you can switch back and forth so easily. What language do you dream in? That’s usually a good indicator that you are truly bilingual if you switch between languages in your dreams.

    Also, the difference between desert and dessert is that dessert has two S’s because with dessert, you always want to go back for a second helping. 🙂
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    • Lola

      I can’t believe it never occurred to me before this, to write this post about language and being bilingual. I am really glad I did though as it’s been a fun post to write and I love reading all the comments.

      It is impressive when you realize how english connect all those people from different countries and gives them a common way to communicate. And that’s fun you got to speak Japanese with that women and then that’s still weird to the other event hough they all speak two languages as well.
      Also on the topic of Japanese, this is something I wondered about, how good is your Japanese? Just curious. I assume you know quite some words because you use it in your books as well and now that you mention you had a conversation with a Japanese women.

      I read your comment two days ago and only am now replying in the meantime I’ve tried to pay attention to what language I dream in, but I simply can’t remember or maybe it’s like my speech that I don’t consciously pay attention to it.
      I do remember a few dreams where I talked in english with a blogger or author I never met in real life (I’ve met you twice or so in my dreams!) and then suddenly switch to dutch and they have no idea what I am saying. It’s quite embarrassing and it’s one of my fears that I will do that in real life. So that’s the only time I am consciously aware of the language I think. So I assume I dream both in english depending on with who I talk.

      Oh that’s a neat way to remember dessert! Thanks! I’ll have to remember that. Once I have a rule or way to remember I can at least recall that instead of using google translate. I just need something to help me remember the difference. Also the two words are so different in dutch, woestijn (desert) and toetje (dessert).

  12. Let's Get Beyond Tolerance

    I find this so fascinating! I’ve studied French and Spanish in the past, but I don’t really know it anymore. I wish I’d learned at a younger age. I just couldn’t remember things well enough. I like hearing about other people that speak more than one language though. It’s interesting that you don’t always think about what language you are using and that you mix the two. It makes me think of “spanglish” – when people mix Spanish and English together when they talk.

    As for desert and dessert, I always think of it this way “You always want more dessert (so there you use S twice, but you don’t want the desert, so there is only one S.” Hopefully that makes sense!
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    • Lola

      It’s easy to forget what you learned when you don’t use it. I have this with german, forgot so much already. Although when I do use it, a lot does come back. English I use so much that I don’t think I will forget it anymore.

      It’s interesting to hear how where you live english and Spanish combination is most common.

      Thanks for mentioning that way to remember dessert and desert, that makes it so much easier to remember 🙂

  13. Sophia Rose

    Actually being able to speak another language fluently enough so I don’t even realize I’m speaking it has been a goal of mine. I understand Spanish (Mexican accent) when I hear it b/c I grew up in California and was surrounded by Mexicans including my dad’s best friend. I speak it and read it a little and got by okay in Mexico. But, I really have to concentrate and I want to do better.

    I also understand a bit of Sicilian Italian since that is what many of the older generation in my family speak, but I only speak it a little, sadly.

    Enjoyed your post and am utterly impressed by your command of a foreign language.

    • Lola

      I hope you’ll achieve that goal one day! It definitely took a lot of time and using the language before I got to be at this point.

      It’s neat you picked up some Spanish and Italian. It’s always handy to know a bit of a language. And maybe one day you can learn more.

      I am glad you enjoyed my post :). I thought it would make for a fun topic to write about and I’ve loved seeing everyone comments about languages they know!

  14. Greg

    I think it’s amazing how you’re not even aware most of the time which language you’re using. I wish I was bilingual and that comfortable with it. I think that seems tobe more of a focus in Europe, I know there are more countries closer together but here in the States even though we have to take a foreign language in high school I don’t think it’s as focused as it is there. I may be generalizing, but my friends and people I know… none of us are bilingual. I think it’s interesting too how you read and write English a lot but maybe don’t hear it in conversation so much.

    Fascinating topic and thanks for sharing it. I wish in school they had made us learn a second language in a more comprehensive way.
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    • Lola

      The first time I realized I wasn’t consciously aware of which language I was using was a bit of a weird experience. And yes I do think it’s more common here in Europe as the countries are closer together. We got 3 different languages in high school standard for at least 3 years: german, french and english. Which are the languages of our neighboring countries.

      And for everything international you need to know english, so a lot of people here know at least a bit of english. Although it does vary a lot how much they do know.

      Listening to english a more difficult for me than writing and reading as I less often hear spoken english. We’ve been watching start trek without subtitles as they speak clearly there and that does help me a bit get better at understanding spoken english, but when someone has an accent it can be tricky.

  15. Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews

    I love this post, Lola! I speak / read / write three languages fluently (Norwegian, French and English), and like you, I’m not always aware of which language I’m speaking. Until I need to maybe speak English to someone with whom I usually speak French… that feels quite weird in the beginning – even if we both speak English.
    I speak French and English more than I speak Norwegian (my native language) because I live in Switzerland, and I don’t know many Norwegians here. I speak to my mom and my sister quite often, but it’s not the same as with French with my husband and kids, or English for a lot of other things.
    Both English and French have a wider vocabulary than Norwegian, which sometimes makes it easier to express myself. And I prefer reading in English, too! However, if I want to read a book by a Norwegian or French author, I prefer to read in the original language rather than a translation.
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    • Lola

      It’s interesting to hear from someone else who speaks multiple languages. I imagine knowing three languages makes it even harder to speak only one. Do you mix all 3 languages sometimes?

      I can understand you don’t have as much use for Norwegian when living in Switzerland and it’s interesting you sue your native language the least then and you have a wider vocabulary in english and french.

      I don’t think I have read an english translation of a dutch book so far, so I can’t really say what I prefer. But reading dutch just feel so awkward for some reason, specially fiction. It just doesn’t seem to flow right.

      Thanks for sharing your experience with knowing multiple languages!

  16. Lorna

    Very interesting post! The part of the brain that allows you to learn languages doesn’t work for me.Seriously! I just have never gotten it. I took a year of French in high school and hated it. I remember a word here or there, but that’s about it.I also wished to know Spanish my whole life-wasn’t available in high school due to packed classes. I think in America, people really will need to know Spanish in the future as a second language. I am too old now to do that! I love that you aren’t aware that you are changing languages while speaking and I am a bit jealous that you know two languages, although I doubt I would ever need to know Dutch 🙂

    • Lola

      I always thought the same, I struggled so much with german, french and english in high school. I just didn’t get it. I had to do a special exam to get a good enough mark for french to go to the next class and studied the whole summer for it. And then in university all my textbooks were in english and I had to learn it and gradually I did.

      I always hope to learn german as well, but not sure if I will. And yes I think Spanish is probably a good choice for second language for those in the US. I don’t think you ever would need to know dutch. Even if you were to visit the Netherlands, most people understand english well enough that you shouldn’t have much trouble communicating.

  17. Paula

    Hey, Lola. I’ve been thinking about what you said about having trouble understanding spoken English if the person has an accent, but what do you consider an accent?

  18. Heather @ Random Redheaded Ramblings

    I recently was a wedding where I met two sixteen year olds from Holland and their English was better than mine!

    I think learning another language is such a good thing and I wished I had stuck at languages when I was at school where we were taught Gaelic, French and German.

    My kids are like sponges and they are currently learning French. I’d love to learn Japanese!
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    • Lola

      It’s quite common here to learn english. I definitely think learning another language is a good thing and I wish I could learn even more. It’s amazing to realize how much knowing english has influenced my life. I didn’t realize you got german at school there too. we got german, french and english. I’ve visited Scotland once and always thought Gaelic sounded like a pretty language. And who knows maybe one day you can learn Japanese! There are a lot of resources out there to help with learning languages.

  19. Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight

    This is such an awesome post! So eye opening! I can’t speak any language other than English fluently. I was a Spanish major in college for the first 2.5 years, so I was able to read and write in Spanish, but I was awful at conversation and it stressed me out wayyyy too much and I knew I couldn’t do it forever. I do remember sometimes thinking things in Spanish when I was like, deep into something for class, and it would scare me hahah. But then when I stopped studying/using it, I mostly lost it, sadly. Now I can read it a bit (not full novels or anything!), but that’s about it. I wish I had at least been able to learn it fluently before I stopped. Maybe some day! Love this, thanks for sharing, Lola!!
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    • Lola

      Thanks! I am glad to hear you found it interesting :). We got german and french at high school as well, but I mostly forgot those. It does seem reading and writing is usually easier than talking. And you can always pick it up again, as you learned so much Spanish earlier it’s probably easier to pick it up again and a lot will probably come back when you do.
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  20. Laura @ trips down imagination road

    Firstly, you would never know you think your English grammar is bad Lola! In fact if I didn’t know English wasn’t your first langauge then I don’t think I’d have picked it up.

    I went down your list relating to quite a lot of it actually! I’m a high level of fluency in French as well as natively speaking English (though nowhere near your level of bilingualness!) and I find that there are words and concepts I still think about in French (e.g. Syndicats…which are trade unions in English, but I actually have to work hard to translate it into the English in my head. Weirdly one of the other ones I can think of is canacule – heatwave, which is a little bizarre!)

    French is harder for me now cause I haven’t used it as much recently, but I know when I moved back from France to England I really struggled with hearing English every day instead of French!
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    • Lola

      Thanks so much! It’s always great to hear that people don’t notice english isn’t my native language. I have gotten better at grammar and spelling, especially now that I use a plugin on my browser that helps with spelling but I still struggle with some things.

      I was wondering if other people who were fluent in two languages noticed the same things, so that is fun to hear you could relate to most of these. Some words or concept just seem to be better in one language. There are some words I almost always think in one language because of that.

      I can imagine that if you live in France that it’s strange when you get back to England and everyone suddenly speak a different language. Thanks for stopping by and telling me about your experiences 🙂

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