Either to you who can speak more than one language or to anyone who knows of any relevant studies in this area I address this post to.

  1. When you read, listen, or speak in a foreign language, do you first rely upon your native language and then translate from there?

  2. Assuming English is your native tongue, but you’re fluent in another language and happen to be embedded in that other culture too i.e. you no longer or very rarely use your native tongue, are your thoughts still in English? Does your internal dialogue take part in English?

  3. When learning the foreign language how dependant were you on your native tongue in the learning process; when if at all, did you stop requiring your native tongue as a bridge between the two languages and were able to converse articulately in the foreign tongue?

I’m interested to hear anyone’s experience of having learnt or is currently learning a new language.



No. I only think in English. I even dream in English. Oddly enough, some times I’ll have dreams where I’m back in Albania and hanging out with my family there, and in my dreams they all speak English in their own voices.

I’m kind of the reverse of this, in that I was born in another country and spoke a different language, but now all my thoughts are in English. I have to translate from English to my native tongue whenever I want to say something in my native tongue.

I don’t think I was dependent a lot on my native tongue. I didn’t translated things I saw into Albanian words in my mind. It was more of a picture association. I learned that some English words go with certain things, and not that some English words go with Albanian words which in turn go with certain things.

In the bilingual school I was in for the one year or so that I went there, they didn’t have an Albanian translator/teacher, although there was this nice Italian lady that helped me out a lot. She used to help me translate some abstract English words into Italian, and that’s how I understood them. Unfortunately, I’ve lost the capacity to speak or understand Italian. It all went away in a matter of 3-4 years.

Ciao! :sunglasses:

i absorb the meaning of the word and then think with it.

i can think in french and rudimentary mandarin Chinese

french immersion allowed me to stop using English, but that has not yet taken place with Chinese

I’ve been living in Turkey now for 13 years. Originally of English origin I speak Turkish everyday.

At first I did, especially in listening. But these days my Turkish has embedded itself deeply enough that I just understand. The Turkish I hear just means Turkish.

Thoughts in English, but sometimes with odd phrases and words in Turkish - especially if there is no direct English translation, and they are useful and/or shortcut concepts.

eg - Bosh-Ver. lit-trans means “empty-give” more realistically it means a cross between ‘it’s not important’ and ‘forget about it’… I use that a lot.

Internal dialogue - pretty much full English.

Toughie. It took about three years before I was comfortable with the language. Though I had a small epiphany in a cinema the second year I was here - I was 20 minutes into the film before I realised it had been dubbed into Turkish.

After a while you kind of get a feel for the internal logic of a language, after that using idiomatic variations becomes easy. Anyone that says ways of thinking are separate from the language that is thought in is obviously hopelessly monolingual.

Thinking in a foreign language is an absurdly difficult task. The reason is pretty obvious, since we have learned to express ourselves and to ‘decipher’ the world around us in our mother tongue.

You can learn to speak and write it with more or less fluency, but at bottom it always seems something forced, artificial. I only feel really comfortable when I’m speaking Portuguese (my mother language), and in the few occasions I had the opportunity of speaking other tongues (English and Spanish) I couldn’t avoid ‘translating’ everything in my head. Maybe things would be different if I lived in another country, since in this case the tongue would no longer be ‘foreign’ to me, but it would surely take years for me to get accustomed with the ‘spirit’ of the language…

That’d be odd if you were dreaming about an conversation you may have had or heard and it had been translated into English in your dream but I guess if English is your dominant language anyway then it’s not too surprising it’s your mind’s language too.