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Language switching among bilinguals
Thread poster: Kevin Kaland

Kevin Kaland  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:55
Spanish to English
+ ...
Aug 20, 2007

(Here I'm using bilingual to just mean someone who speaks another language, even if not natively.)

Do you guys think that it's bad to switch languages when speaking with someone who speaks another language, and you also speak that language? For example, my wife speaks Norwegian, so sometimes she responds in English when I ask a question in Norwegian, or vice-versa for both of us (usually depending on what's quicker). I also have a Mexican friend, and sometimes the conversation suddenly switches languages.

I think that what happens is that either way when we talk to someone like this, we understand each other, so either language is comfortable, and we tend to speak the one that expresses the point better.

I don't really think it's a bad habit, but I've noticed I have to watch out for starting to use patterns or rules from other languages in English.

One fun thing I run into if I switch languages mid-sentence with English and Norwegian is that you put the definite article at the end of the word in Norwegian...so if I say it in English, then I don't know if I should still put it there in Norwegian! It sounds wrong either way. I'll probably just stop saying it in English

Anyway, thought this would be an interesting topic and interested in what you think!

Kevin


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Taylor Kirk  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:55
Portuguese to English
+ ...
It's natural Aug 31, 2007

I think that languages have developed this way over centuries. Also, in places where two languages are so widely spoken, like my native Texas, it's practically impossible to avoid the development of something like Spanglish...On the other hand it may be "bad" in the sense that a language learner may have a hard time gaining the proper skills in one of the languages.

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Soledad Azcona  Identity Verified
Brazil
English to Spanish
+ ...
Languages evolve, but are we pushing it? Aug 31, 2007

Hi guys!

In my country (Argentina) it happens that it is kind of "cool" to use English words mingled with your Spanish phrases, and people that actually don't know much English are generally the ones that do this more often (more often than not they use the words or expressions wrongly). As a result, it is incredible how many Spanish words have been lost in every day speech, or how young people's vocabulary is overpopulated by English words.

I try to avoid it, I think that this kind of unconscious use of the language may not be completely positive for such a rich and beautiful language like Spanish. Anyway, as I said I try, so very often I find myself using English words an expressions, or switching back and forth. At work I have to do it all the time, but it is also a custom with friends that speak English.

One thing that I usually do, when I have an interlocutor that speaks good English, is use English words to save time, for example using "realize" instead of "darse cuenta de algo", or use words like "undervalued" that in Spanish would take more words. But what's very funny is that sometimes I use English verbs with a Spanish derivation. (eg. something like " Sí, me realizé" meaning "ya me dí cuenta" or "ya submitee el texto"). And like you Kevin I unconsciously use English structures for Spanish, like when I put prepositions at the end of questions!

As you say Taylor, I guess it's natural, but still I sometimes feel that there is no conscience of what we are doing with languages. I personally feel a bit uncomfortable when I see overuse of English in the media, specially advertisements.

Something maybe linked to this: I read in Newsweek that since two out of three English speakers in the world are not natives of English, in some years time new forms of English shaped by the pronunciation and grammar structures of the language of the not natives will be accepted, since for example at the moment someone from China and someone from Italy, just to pick two, can understand each other perfectly in English but will not probably be able to follow a native speaker that easily. What do you think?


Well, I think this whole thing is very interesting...and probably everyone has something to say and share about this.

See you around,
Sole.

PS: Taylor: Welcome to our forum!


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Kevin Kaland  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:55
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Language purism Aug 31, 2007

Yeah, I guess that I have sometimes been a bit of a "language purist" in the past...I've relaxed a bit lately, though. But it does seem cool in many languages nowadays to use English. If you look at Norwegian media, even advertising, there's a lot of English used. It's popular. They even often use the English abbreviation for things - at least if they originated in an English-speaking country. This seems to be the case 50/50 for Spanish.

I guess it has to do with how many people speak it. I think having a working knowledge of English is quite common, especially among the younger people, in Norway, so there's no problem with understanding.

Though ironically, if you put two Norwegians together (and likely this is the case with anyone) they'll speak Norwegian to each other, even if they reply in English to you

Developing the topic more...how do you get someone to reply in the language you speak to them in? Anyone ever run into them replying in your language? Sometimes it is fun for practice on their part I guess.


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Soledad Azcona  Identity Verified
Brazil
English to Spanish
+ ...
Tested it out, and no results! Sep 3, 2007

Well, this weekend I tried your theory out. There was a party at home and a friend from France invited a bunch of friends from other countries that are studying here. So, there were a lot of people from France, some from the USA, some from Japan, also Brazil and other from Spanish speaking countries like Colombia, Venezuela and of course my friends from Argentina.
So, imagine that we were like fifty people talking in different languages and when things got confusing we always resorted to English. Still, everyone wanted to practise their second languages, so no matter if I started a conversation in my best French (which is not so good) I got a Spanish answer.
But, anyway it was very funny, specially when after a few beers people were uttering sentences mixing three languages at the time! Not me !
So, I really don't know how you can do it, but you'll surely have a good time trying!

Later!
S.


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Kevin Kaland  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:55
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Guess it depends on the culture Sep 3, 2007

And also whether the person you are talking to speaks your language or not! And perhaps how much practice they feel they need.

My wife's (she's Norwegian) brothers reply to me in Norwegian if I write to them in Norwegian. But maybe they don't really feel like practicing English. Who knows. Some other friends reply in English, but not always...and even I do that. I usually reply in English if I feel I have to get an idea out quickly...it's fastest.

Interesting to hear about the experiment!

Kevin


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Taylor Kirk  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:55
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Germanglish Sep 5, 2007

I learned German by starting off with ridiculous sentences like 'Eisbar Knut ist so cute!', 'Why do you always lachen mich aus?' and 'Stop beschwerdenning!'. Over time the English words were just filled in until I didn't use them anymore. IWe started in a joking way but I ended up learning the language, so I can't complain.

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Soledad Azcona  Identity Verified
Brazil
English to Spanish
+ ...
Diplomats get lost in translation... Sep 6, 2007

A translator from Italy, Alessandro (thanks ale ), sent me an article about a new book by Richard Woolcott Undiplomatic Activities that narrates some of the pitfalls of interpreters and funny mistakes diplomants have made when addressing their audiences in a foreign language.

One situation: The envoy tried to tell his French audience that as he looked back on his career, it was divided in two parts. But his French sparked unintended laughter: "When I look at my backside, I find it is divided into two parts.".

for more: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/08/30/wdiplomat130.xml


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Taylor Kirk  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:55
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Awesome! I love stuff like that. Sep 6, 2007

SoleProz wrote:

A translator from Italy, Alessandro (thanks ale ), sent me an article about a new book by Richard Woolcott Undiplomatic Activities that narrates some of the pitfalls of interpreters and funny mistakes diplomants have made when addressing their audiences in a foreign language.

One situation: The envoy tried to tell his French audience that as he looked back on his career, it was divided in two parts. But his French sparked unintended laughter: "When I look at my backside, I find it is divided into two parts.".

for more: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/08/30/wdiplomat130.xml


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Manuela Mariño Beltrán  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:55
French to Spanish
+ ...
Nice topic Sep 7, 2007

Hello everyone,

Based on my own experience:

My mother tongue is spanish, but I have lived in a "french" environment for years (I have been living in Paris for the past 8 years and I have been surrounded by french people since I was little), so I can switch (and I do it often) from french to spanish very easily. The problem is that my brothers and friends have the same "bad habit"... We speak in "fragnol" (mixture between "francés" and "espagnol") because we are "lazy".

It is much easier for me to speak in both languages (and there are no rules for this, my brain picks up the closest word it has "in mind") because I know that the person I am talking to will understand what I said.

For example, if I am speaking in spanish and I suddenly forget how to say a word, I do not make the effort to find it in spanish. I just use the french word. It is something I do not do when I know that the person I am talking to does not speak french (or spanish). Then I make the effort to find the word or I try to express the idea with other words .

I think it is not a good habit because it is the law of the less effort... Although, I confess that I do it all the time!


Cheers,

Manuela


[Editado a las 2007-09-07 03:41]

[Editado a las 2007-09-07 03:43]


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Kevin Kaland  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:55
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I do the same thing Sep 7, 2007

It's fun sometimes...but yeah, like you say, it is the easy thing to do as well.

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Pierret Adrien  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 10:55
Chinese to French
+ ...
No trouble on my side Sep 11, 2007

I'm French, my girlfriend is chinese, we both use english for everyday life while we currently study in university each other's language.
About this experience, I didn't see any problem of mixing english with our native languages.
As long as we are both in a phase of learning, I'd even say it is a good point for what we lack most is vocabulary.

Indeed, the problem might be different out of the "training" particular context.


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Anna Martinez  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:55
English to Spanish
+ ...
Por aquí también somos mandrosos :) Sep 13, 2007

The problem is that my brothers and friends have the same "bad habit"... We speak in "fragnol" (mixture between "francés" and "espagnol") because we are "lazy".


Same with 'catañol' over here

Gosh, it's even got its own Wikipedia entry!!

http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catañol


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Soledad Azcona  Identity Verified
Brazil
English to Spanish
+ ...
and what about dreams? Sep 27, 2007

Do you switch languages when you dream?
That happens to me all the time...maybe I'm going a bit cuckoo -which is highly probable also-, but I dream in two languages sometimes. I even speak languages in which I'm not very fluent, being so...I only speak good German in my dreams!

Sometimes I speak in English to people I know can't understand it, and they answer in Spanish very naturally, of course.

Do I need a doctor? or does this happen to you as well???

Cheers!

Sole.


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Kevin Kaland  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:55
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I think it's normal Sep 27, 2007

There's no language barriers in dreams, right?

I think I spoke German in a dream once too! Haha.

All the best,
Kevin


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