Bilingual conversations

I talk to my friends here in English/Spanish/ bit of Spanglish. I talk to my friends at home in Spanish/bit of Spanglish. I talk to strangers in Spanish or English, depending the place. With non-Spanish speaking friends, I sometimes start talking in Spanish, then realize they don’t understand me and are looking at me funny. I tell them it means I feel comfortable enough with them that I change to the language I feel more comfortable using.

My best friend in high school used to speak English/Spanish, since she arrived to the island in sixth grade and her first language was English.

I’m German, but grew up in the States. I also lived in Holland as a kid and am now working there. My wife is Brazilian. This makes for a really interesting combination of German, Dutch, Portuguese and maybe a smattering of English at the dinner table.

The interesting thing is that my two sons speak German with me and their mom, even though she speaks Portuguese with them. Vovó (Grandma) from Brazil was here on vacation and they actually started speaking a little Portuguese. And more and more frequently they use Dutch with us now.

Just like Binarydrone I work in Tech Support, and we also have to log our case notes in English. Sometimes I will be on the phone speaking in German and typing in English at the same time. But it doesn’t seem to bother me. What I have noticed, is that weird code switching errors happen when speaking every once in a while. Just this week I told a German customer I had ‘sent’ an email using the germanized Dutch word ‘geschtuurt’, which my brain seems to have invented on the spot.

The correct word in Dutch is ‘gestuurt’ and in German ‘geschickt’.

A German colleague of my father’s, who had lived in the States many years, once used the great line: ‘Ich habe die Panels an die Ceiling gestapled.’

Switch in and out all the time. Chinese-English. When I’m with Japanese speakers (like I was for most of this week), I speak 95% English but remember some of my very rusty Japanese at very appropriate moments and slip in a word or even a couple of sentences.

I noticed that this occurs the most when I’m around bi-lingual people. I do not use English words when speaking Chinese to Chinese only speakers. It is just that naturally I tend to slip into what is most convenient/comfortable depending on who I’m speaking with.

In Chinese conversations there are some words/phrases so much better expressed in English or vice versa. That word just naturally comes to mind regardless of the language of the rest of the sentence.

Also, I’ve noticed that I tend to use my vocabulary fluently, which is not the same as being fluent. So my mind keeps going in Chinese until it hits a word/phrase/concept that I am unable to express or describe in Chinese and instantly the English will pop up. Then I’ve really got to either look the word up or think long and hard about how to describe it. Normally, even if I don’t know the Chinese word but do know how to describe it in Chinese, then my thought process remains in Chinese. If that makes any sense.

China Bambina switches very naturally with English, Mandarin and Shanghaiese. Although it is dependant on who she is speaking with. The English with myself and my wife. Shanghaiese with Grandma and other Shanghaiese. Mandarin at school. Depends on what her playmates speak

I am a Singaporean and we speak Singlish - a combination of Hokkien, Malay, Mandarin, Cantonese and English. If you don’t understand any of these dialects or language, you’ll be completely lost. Just so to give you an idea, click on below link. If you have difficulties when reading the articles posted there, turn to the Singlish dictionary for help!

Hope you’ll find the articles shiok to read!

Done it in French/English and witnessed Italian/English and Spanish/English. As long as the latter isn’t done too fast, I can understand it passably (despite the fact that I have never had Spanish instruction, and only a few Italian). Part of it is that whole “there isn’t a good French/English translation” and part of it is just that speaking in French … isn’t a big deal? Most of my family are fluent enough in French that we can hold our own in conversations.

I have a tendancy to do this with my mum (who also does it). We’ll be talking in English one minute, and all of a sudden we’ll switch to Kutchi (its a Gujerati dialect), and then switch back again. I don’t know why we do it, but we just do

It works really well for privacy, especially as I’m in a shared house, the accoustics of which are such that sitting in my bedroom, I can hear everything that’s going on in the kitchen downstairs.

I also tend to do the same thing with my German housemate, but switching between German and English obviously (I speak German fluently)!

I grew up speaking “franglais” (Francais/Anglais, French/English – apologies, I’m on an older computer that can’t do accents.)

It was quite common to switch mid-sentence from one language to the other and back again before you get to the end. The teachers really discouraged it in the schoolyard, but walk past the teachers’ lounge and you’d hear them do it too.

In a supermarket, I heard a Lebanese woman speaking to her kids in a combo of Arabic, French and English. Kinda cool

The son of one of the teachers at school, here, speaks four languages. His mum’s Austrian, his dad’s French, they speak English at home and he goes to a Japanese kindergarten. Though certainly, understanding four languages perfectly at the age of three is pretty cool, the problem is that he tends to speak all four at the same time.

Not quite the same thing, but it’s always rattling to me when my roommate and his friend will be going on and on for twenty minutes in Chinese, and then suddenly bust out with a web address without breaking their rhythm.

My mother’s grocery lists are interestingly sprinkled with ample parts English and Icelandic. My older brother was taught Icelandic along with English, and somehow German used to get mixed in there too occasionally in his conversation. Unfortunately, my parents decided to only teach English to the rest of us, so I have this great ability to be a cognate, but I can’t speak Icelandic worth a damn 'cause I don’t understand the Latin grammar structure it’s based upon. I’m debating whether I should attempt to get some good books on learning the grammar and supplement it with practice speaking when I’m at home… but next semester I’ll probably take French or German again now that I’m in college.

LaurAnge nailed it - that was what I was going to post. I hear it most often in the metro. Two people will get on, nattering in English, then they switch to French, then back, then each sentence is a mish-mash of both. I also hear combinations of Italian/Spanish-French-English as well as others.

However, I don’t know how common this is outside Montreal, though. I don’t think you’ll hear this kind of conversation in the Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean region. :wink:

Something interesting I often hear at work is an anglophone speaking Engligh to a francophone, who replies in French, to which the anglo replies in English, and so on.

I this it’s kinda cool, and one of the reasons I love living here. :slight_smile:

My sister did this a lot after coming back from her time as an exchange student in Argentina - mostly she’d just slip into Spanish while talking to me. I’m pretty good at Spanish, so I’d understand her, but it was kind of unnerving. Occasionally still, she’ll yell at the people on the TV news (my family’s weird like that, we yell at the tv.) and burst out in Spanish invectives.

Also my current roommate at school is a Russian exchange student, when she talks to the other Russian girls, it’s always in Russian, then she’ll turn and say something to me in English… and while she’s here she’s taking Spanish and German classes! :eek: And sometimes the other Russian girls will leave messages on her white board… all in Russian except a few words. Like “russianrussianrussianrussian Oral Communication russianrussianrussian 8 o’clock russianrussian okay?” kinda funny.

In my experience, it’s also often the opposite, the anglo speaks French and the francophone answers in English - both people carrying out the conversation in their second language.

And it is kinda cool.

Bilingual (Farsi and English) here. We grew up speaking Farsi at home and English at school. In fact, I didn’t even learn English until I went to kindergarten.

We have a very odd habit in my family. We use the base verb in Farsi, but conjugate it like an English word. It’s more for a joke, really, but it goes something like this.

Mom: Anahita, Otaghetto tameeze khon. (Clean your room. Tameeze is the verb.)

(Anahita, being a surly teenager, does not move)

Mom: Anahita, Otaghetto tameeze khon.

(no action)

Mom: Anahita, Otaghetto tameeze kardee? (Did you clean your room?)

Anahita: Ok, ok, ok, I’m tameezing it. Velamkhon! (Yes, I’m cleaning it, leave me alone.)

I’m not fluent enough to do this unconsciously but we have always given my grandmother a hard time about this. Especially funny was when her sister came to visit. They are both native Germans, but her sister prefers speaking in French (she lives in France). During a conversation, my grandmother will speak in French and German to her sister, then go back to mostly English and German with us. Her sister doesn’t speak English at all, so the entire process is really interesting to hear/watch.

On a side note, I watched an episode of Candid Camera (a new version) where two women were sitting on a bus-stop bench. They involved a stranger in their prank by asking her to translate for them. Person A was speaking Spanish and Person B was speaking English. The stranger would then translate accordingly. It was hilarious since a little into the conversation, Person A switched to English, but the stranger just kept going - listening to what Person A said in English, then telling Person B in English what had just been spoken. :smiley:

Working tech support, I have this happen a lot with clients: Francophones who switch into English for my sake, although I generally struggle through anyway. Although a few days, I had a conversation entirely in French with a client. It wasn’t until I heard him repeating my instructions to himself in English that I realized he was Anglophone as well. :slight_smile:

Anahita, I would do just the same thing when I lived at home! English and Serbo-Croat were spoken at different times and within the same conversation. We would also do the opposite thing where we would take a Serbian noun whilst speaking English but not declining it, treating it as an ordinary English word. I think sometimes some words seem more “right” in one language than another.

I am Spanish/English bilingual but English is my primary. When dealing with people who speak mostly Spanish, like on the job, in a restaurant, visiting my old home towns, etc., I tend to answer in Spanish without thinking. Until a word or phrase I need isn’t in my personal Spanish vocabulary, then I realize what I’m doing and switch back and forth deliberately. The Spanish speaking person usually helps me out too by switching to English when they know the words that I’m having difficulty with.

Sometimes, I’m thinking of something and say it out loud in Spanish, even when with all English speaking friends. They think I’m a bit loopy when doing that, but I was reared bilingual. It just happens.

The technical term for this is code-switching, and I do it in a number of contexts, from random cursing (I can curse fluently in four languages!) to little phrases that sound much better in other languages (it’s much more satisfying to call someone a “baka!” than an idiot), to things whose English word I can’t remember sometimes (like if I’m discussing the metro, I’ve read so much about it in French that not only will I always say “gabarit” or “arrière-gare”, but I can never remember “gauge” or “tail tracks” without sustained mental effort… oddly enough I can usually remember “voie-mère de faisceau” if I happen to be discussing ladder-tracks in French…!)

Er hat upgefuckt!