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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
The headline is of course a bit stupid, since speaking more than one language is of course an advantage in many ways. I also didn't really know where to post this...

I am interested to hear from people who'd consider themselves true bilinguals (or multilinguals even). By that, I mean preferably those who grew up learning (at least) two languages from birth, or at least those "secondary bilinguals" who speak both languages to native level due to e.g. living in another country for a very long time.

I grew up in a bilingual household. I am equally fluent in both my native languages (maybe English is slightly weaker, because my mother was the non-English speaking one), but when I speak, I am often a victim of code-switching. I don't separate the languages in my brain. The result is that both languages can, at times, sound awkward compared to a monolingual. I mix up syntactic rules, even if I write (really crap for a writer ;)), simply because there is this mish-mash of two languages in my brain, and they blend into one weird thing. It is a bigger problem if I don't "edit" myself however, and speak/write spontaneously. For writing, I can go back, apply rules and make it work, but that's of course not the same.

Cognitive science tells us there are advantages to bilingualism of course: Better and faster problem-solving skills, being good at decoding and interpreting symbols, supposedly higher musical abilities, even higher empathy etc etc.

So what are your experiences, language nerds?
 

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Oh cool, I was thinking I was the only one. I am well versed in English and Spanish (currently learning Italian; I am thinking of blowing through all the Romance languages and picking up a few European ones). I sometimes don't notice what language I am communicating in, whether it be in speaking, writing, or reading. I tend to switch between all three, much to the dismay of my listeners. Then there are the times in which something upsetting may happen and I just yell out a a curse in all three languages. I find that I can better teach other people how to pronounce words as I have a wider range of pronouncing things.

And to anyone learning a language, do not be discouraged. While it is true that young ones may pick up on it faster than adults, know this: You can still do it regardless of age. The brain is after all, a muscle. Use it or lose it!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Then there are the times in which something upsetting may happen and I just yell out a a curse in all three languages.
Ha ha, I know the feeling!

Did you know about this theory that bilinguals supposedly curse/swear more often in their weaker language to create distance (subconsciously of course)? I found that really strange when I first heard it, you'd think: Swearing = uncontrolled emotional response. But supposedly, our brains are wired in a way that we cuss like loonies in our weaker language so we don't feel guilty about it. So essentially to have better emotional release. And I have to admit, it's probably true for me: I mostly swear in English. The angrier, the "Englisher" ;)

I love language(s). Spoken, written I don't care. Can't get enough of them. Fluent in four (English, French, Italian, German), dabbling in a few more and always annoyed the day only has 24 hours.
 
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French was my first language. I learned English by watching lots of Sesame Street and other PBS shows as a kid. By the time I started first grade, there was no need to put me in ESOL class because I understood and spoke the language fairly well. I learned Creole (Haitian) as a teenager because my parents and other family members spoke it a lot among themselves but always addressed us in French.

Now, I live several states (3,000 miles) away from my family and haven't spoken either languages in years. I'm no longer fluent in French and Creole but I'm sure I could easily get it back if I were in that environment, again.

I'm sure learning Spanish would come easy for me because most of the words in Spanish are very similar to French. But I'm just not that interested to learn it.

Both my daughters taught themselve Japanese. They know enough to get them around Japan if they should ever decide to go and visit someday.
 
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The first language I spoke was Russian, but my family moved to Israel when I was 4 and Hebrew became the language in which I am most fluent. I also picked up English over the years.

Did you know about this theory that bilinguals supposedly curse/swear more often in their weaker language to create distance (subconsciously of course)? I found that really strange when I first heard it, you'd think: Swearing = uncontrolled emotional response. But supposedly, our brains are wired in a way that we cuss like loonies in our weaker language so we don't feel guilty about it. So essentially to have better emotional release. And I have to admit, it's probably true for me: I mostly swear in English. The angrier, the "Englisher" ;)
Very true! my weakest language is Russian (even my English is better than my Russian) and when I need to let out a curse I use Russian. The idea of cursing is the same, but it doesn't feel as bad.


Cognitive science tells us there are advantages to bilingualism of course: Better and faster problem-solving skills, being good at decoding and interpreting symbols, supposedly higher musical abilities, even higher empathy etc etc.
I think that it's more accurate to say that those with higher musical abilities learn languages with less effort.
Being good at decoding and interpreting symbols seems logical because when you know more than one language you subconsciously compare the two and learn what makes a language.. well... a language.

About combining languages: I noticed that all languages have something missing in them and that a word or a phrase and its exact meaning can be in one language but not in another, usually because languages belong to different societies and developed in different ways.. so I often find myself mixing 2 or 3 languages in my head to compensate for that.
 

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I'm sort of bilingual. I was deaf when I was little. It wasn't really complicated surgery, but I was starting school by the time it was fixed. Until then, I spoke British sign language and could lip read English and German. When my hearing was fixed, for a long time, I still only used sign language outside the house. I didn't like it when people made fun of me trying to talk. I still have a soft voice, I think because I'm over conscious of the way I speak. I kept on using sign language when I'm trying to tell my parents something private in front of people. I'm still fluent in sign language.

My husband is bilingual. My kids are bilingual. I understood German as a kid, but mostly forgot... I had to learn it again as an adult some years back, but never reading/writing and I forget it faster than I picked it up. My French sucks but I need to understand it because my husband and kids often use it around the house. When my kids first picked up that I don't speak French fluently, they would speak more quickly in French around me. So I started watching shows in French on Netflix to force me to understand it spoken faster. I did learn a little French before I met my husband. I'm more confident attempting to speak German than I am French, even though I currently have higher French comprehension. My mouth forms English and German words effortlessly. Trying to speak French is like trying to talk with cotton in my mouth.

Languages are difficult for me. I don't pick them up easily. I never picked up Spanish when we lived in Spain for all of a minute. I swear my mouth can't move to those positions. It's very frustrating.
 
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
You don't have to.. People's accent is formed at a rather young age and it's there to stay. I don't see a problem with speaking Spanish with a British accent, it's not like you have control over it.
Speaking with an accent is of course not a problem, and thankfully, the times of forced RP in e.g. the News are sort of over.


Having said that: It highly depends on the individual. I take on accents like the plague when I'm around native speakers for a while and speak the language well. It might be down to being a musician, or simply being gifted with languages, I don't know. My articulators are very supple down to years of speech and singing training (but I also believe it has to do with growing up bilingually and an ability to "switch"), and more than once, people thought I come from a certain region despite it not being the case. That's not to say your articulators don't have a preference (or you will ever be 100% accent-free), but people's ability to take on accents (or not) varies massively.


I also see this every day with the young actors I train: Some are marvellous at copying accents, to the extent they really sound like natives, some absolutely suck. Sean Connery springs to mind ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I think that it's more accurate to say that those with higher musical abilities learn languages with less effort.
True, that correlation has been proven in many studies. However, there's supposedly also a correlation between bilingualism and musical aptitude (not proficiency on an instrument, that's of course down to different factors) due to the impact it has on the auditory nervous system. Bilinguals' pitch-perception is supposedly better, as is their ability to encode sounds.

About the "all languages have something missing in them": Exactly my experience. It's annoying at times ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
In what way could it possibly be a disadvantage?
That's what I tried to describe in my first post, and @mbaruh mentioned it as well:

True bilinguals don't really compartmentalise languages like someone who learns a language later in life. This leads to mixing up words, mixing up syntax, blending two languages into one. Despite our being very proficient in both languages, there are little things that distinguish our language use from monolinguals, which can sometimes make the use of both languages a bit "clumsy".

Then again, some monolinguals' use of their native tongue is more than clumsy, too, so we probably shouldn't worry ;)
I'm just very aware of it if I compare both the way I speak/write my native languages to the way pure monolinguals use them.
 

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Speaking with an accent is of course not a problem, and thankfully, the times of forced RP in e.g. the News are sort of over.


Having said that: It highly depends on the individual. I take on accents like the plague when I'm around native speakers for a while and speak the language well. It might be down to being a musician, or simply being gifted with languages, I don't know. My articulators are very supple down to years of speech and singing training (but I also believe it has to do with growing up bilingually and an ability to "switch"), and more than once, people thought I come from a certain region despite it not being the case. That's not to say your articulators don't have a preference (or you will ever be 100% accent-free), but people's ability to take on accents (or not) varies massively.


I also see this every day with the young actors I train: Some are marvellous at copying accents, to the extent they really sound like natives, some absolutely suck. Sean Connery springs to mind ;)
I have a mix of accents I picked up by the time I was 7 (moved around a lot), but never picked up new ones. I have a mix of my mother's RP, Dad's London accent, west country UK and German. When I'm angry or nervous, my speech slows down to a cold, harsh RP. Drunk, I pick up a mix of Bath and German. I'm a very happy drunk and swear a lot. Usually, the London accent is strongest.

My accent is also affected by location. If I'm visiting Somerset and Devon, that accent is thicker. London, my London accent becomes thicker. My mothers family, usually the RP picks up again. They make me nervous and that's how they speak.

I have no control over the changes in my accent.
 
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Hindi is the first language I learned to speak ,I got my education in a English medium school from where I learned about English language ,apart from that I know two of my native language ,which I can understand perfectly,but speaking them fluently is a little bit difficult as I mostly communicate in Hindi with people around me .Though my parents talk in our native languages ,me and my siblings have become habitual of talking in Hindi .English being part of formal communication language for job interviews is a must ,so I can speak that well too but I do not use it in informal situations for communicating with family or friends.
 
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I'm also bilingual, with both Cantonese and Portuguese as my main languages. Then I'm also good at English. :) I grew up in a mixed culture, so that both languages have been part of my daily life, but I lived in Macau 'till I was around 14 before moving to Portugal.

The only downside is maybe my vocabulary is not as rich, and that my Cantonese might be slightly worsened due to lack of practice besides being with my family. :p I have no problem in separating them thought, and I can think in 3 languages. But ah! When it comes to certain things, like decorating numbers for example, I do it in Cantonese and have to do a mental translation before spelling it out, which can make it slightly slow lol.
 

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I am bilingual too. I grow up talking with my mother and my father in two different languages: Italian and a Slavic language. They are completely different in grammar, syntax... everything.
When I was growing up I mixed the 2 languages all the time. It was difficult to understand what I was trying to say, and my written essays were awful. I newer had a good grade at school. I was as FallingSlowly says "clumsy".
To overcome this I started to read A LOT, and it helped, now I can use both languages simultaneously with no problem. When I write i pay extra attention to the syntax so I write slowly but on the upper side I can swear in both languages it just depends on the situation. :wink:
The problem starts when I am tired, then I start to mix them or one time I had a few drinks and started to speak in the "wrong" language.
My accents are strange to people outside my community because they are different from the accents of local monolingual people speak. But if someone with a strong accent(from a different region) talks to me I just pick it up, so sometimes it is very funny to talk to me because I can mix everything.
The positive aspect is I am talented for languages and pick them up easily, English is my third language and I can speak and read it with no problems. 10 years ago I was studying German and since then I didn't use it so I thought forgot it but this summer in Germany I could understand what people were saying and if I stayed longer I would probably start to talk in German. I often see that monolingual people have problems when they express themselves in a foreign language.
And one more thing: I noticed when talking to 2 or more people who talk in different languages, I can just jump from one language to another without thinking and hold on a conversation.
 

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I think my biggest problem with languages isn't comprehension but speaking. I wasn't talking until I was about 5-6 years old. I comprehended fine, but I couldn't hear myself speak, so I didn't speak. Speaking languages is just so hard. I'm not big on words in English and tend to fall back on body language a lot.
 
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My native language is Spanish, but, I've learned English since I was 3 years old; and, to me, it's an advantage. However, one of the downsides is when you start learning a third language; because, sometimes you can get the pronunciations all mixed up, or you mix up terms in different languages. But, otherwise; it's all advantage.
 

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My first language was English but caught up with Filipino years after preschool. It's a huuuge advantage to be bilingual, especially if you live in a multilingual country like the Philippines. I have friends who lived in the Philippines their whole life that can only speak in English, and as they grow up they find it much harder to converse with people they meet on the street. I have to constantly help them out and translate words/phrases they can't understand. It sucks having to see them struggle sometimes.

As for disadvantages, hmm... maybe the unavoidable part of mixing languages together by mistake and getting other people/yourself confused? We have a lot of people here in the PH who mixes English and Filipino a lot, which we call Taglish or Engalog. Other people hate it, other people don't mind. Sometimes being bilingual can also be discriminatory. Having English as my first language, kids at school used to think I was weird and yeah, started bullying. When I spoke in Filipino, I gave quite a shock. Despite the disadvantages though, the advantages outweigh it more.
 

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I grew up bilingual with my languages being English and Portuguese.

It's definitely a huge advantage, but I can see what you mean @FallingSlowly. I sometimes mix them up, too.
English was always my better language because I grew up and went to school in the US. When I moved to Portugal six years ago though, I used to be teased a lot for the way I said things. A friend of mine said, "It's not that what you're saying is incorrect. Technically, there's nothing incorrect with your sentence, but it just sounds off." And that was because I was mixing some English elements like syntax. Also, my vocab was not as rich. And I had to rid myself of "Porglish" (like Spanglish, get it?) vocabulary. :laughing:


Although now that I'm exposed to Portuguese every day, I've caught myself mixing some Portuguese into my English, too. Gah :angry:

What @AriesLilith said about counting happens with me, too! I can count in Portuguese, but for some reason I have trouble doing it, say, when I'm counting money. Once I was at a coffee machine and I was counting my coins like, "Dez, vinte.....trinta...qu-quarenta? Ahhh, tentwentythirtyfortyfiftyfiftyfive." Apparently everyone thought that was amusing, but counting in English comes much more naturally. My brain always stops me when I'm counting in Portuguese. I've heard this happens to a lot of bilingual people!


Also, I studied (even more!) languages at university, and for some reason I always mixed French/Russian, which is weird.
 
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