March 13, 2023 at 6:28 am

14 Bilinguals Reveal Something Only They Know

by Trisha Leigh

It’s pretty common around the world to speak two, three, four (or more) languages fairly fluently. It’s less so in the United States, so there are probably more than a few mysteries about what it’s like living with more than one vocabulary in your head.

If you’re curious what it’s like, these 14 people who speak more than one language are revealing a little bit of what they experience every day.

14. The precise expression.

When you want to say something you have the precise expression for – in another language than the one you’re just speaking in.

13. The pinnacle.

When some word only comes to mind in another language, and you just can’t remember what that word is in your native tongue.

I heard about Dutch ppl not being able to remember a word in Dutch but being able to think of it in German and then getting super frustrated, only to realize that it’s the same word in Dutch, which I think is the pinnacle of this phenomenon. I am bilingual but in two very unrelated languages, so I don’t have this issue.

12. Quite fun.

How much fun it is.

So I speak Dutch as a native language. My English is really good, my German is normal and I also speak a bit of Swiss German ( believe me that’s a big difference). So a friend of mine is from Switzerland. She also speaks all those languages. ( and even more)

When we are talking I ask something in Dutch she answers in English and I reply in German. When we have a couple of beers the language can change mid sentence.

We already had a couple of times people asking which language we were speaking. So yeah that’s quite fun

11. A brain meltdown.

I have this in all three languages, i use all three of them a lot in work. So Dutch because we are in the Netherlands. German because we are close to the border and have a lot of German customers. English for the rest of the customers (je ne parler pas français).

I sometimes have to translate a German e-mail into English and or the other way around and that causes such a meltdown in my brain when on the phone translating real time. With my coworkers talking Dutch in the background and Dutch radio on.

There are truly times i forget how to say things in Dutch but i do know them in german or English. And also, sometimes those just don’t translate like Feierabend.

10. Wrong and awkward.

I’m more comfortable explaining how I feel using my second language. It feels so wrong and awkward doing it with my native language.

9. It takes a village.

As a phd student I work in a very international environment and it’s always so funny when it happens.

You’ll have 5 people with PhDs standing trying to crowdsource the word “curtains” or something like that

8. When languages combine.

Dumb puns and dad jokes when the languages combine

Some languages have the same word but different meaning – can lead to another potential joke or confusion

7. I mean…

There was a post on here a while back about someone trying to remember the word for carousel and kept describing it as a rideable horse tornado.

6. The sheer smug joy.

The sheer smug joy of other people not realizing you speak a second language, having them speak rudely about you in that language and then the look on their face as you respond to them in that language.

I’m Canadian and come from a very English background with a very English name and no trace of an accent but can speak French and a bit of Italian. Working customer service jobs the amount of people who lip off in French is too high to count at this point.

That moment of realization when I complete a transaction in French after they have been shit talking me is great.

5. It’s a bit tough.

I’m fluent in English with Spanish being my native language.

I actually use English more during my daily life as I spend most of my time in the internet and barely interact with people IRL. As a result I think in English most of the time, which causes me to sometimes think about a sentence in English, and then have a bit of trouble translating it correctly to Spanish while communicating the correct feeling.

Honestly, it’s a bit tough since I feel like I can get my point across better in English than in Spanish.

4. Just much better.

Watching or reading something (a film, series or book) in its original language is just much better.

3. Different personalities.

You have different personalities based on the language you’re currently speaking, and your native language has emotional ties that aren’t always present in other spoken languages.

2. Languages are lazy.

That languages are lazy.

I am a polyglot from a family of polyglots.

No matter what the conversation is and whatever mishmash of words from whatever languages we are speaking we always default to the easiest way to say something in a language.

So we can be busting through a mix of French, German, and Polish. But the word for “WHY” will always be in English no matter what.

Because in the other three languages its at least 2 syllables and in Polish its 3.

If you want to see real time how languages evolve just sit at a table with polyglots as they hash out what they want to say.

Its the idea of “This is what humanity from XX region will sound like in XX years from intermingling” sort of thing.

1. No proper equivalent.

That feeling that you’re not conveying your emotions correctly when speaking. It’s like knowing a better word to describe them in your native language and not finding a proper equivalent in the one being spoken.

So fascinating.

Go out and learn another language, y’all – I doubt you’ll regret it!

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