ok i have a rather complex question so consider yourself warned. first off when i think, i kind of “hear” it in my head. the voice i hear in my head is in english, understandable, as this is the language i speak. but, (here comes the question) what about a bilingual (sp?) person? i mean a person who learned two languages at the same level scence birth. what language is their “inner voice” in? does it switch from on to the other? do they notice that it is in two languages? (if it is)


I always ask my bilingual friends questions like these. I have a Russian friend who just came here 4 years ago and speaks English (Accent and all) perfectly, but still speaks Russian just as well. She says the voices in her head (I don’t mean to make her sound nuts) mostly speak in English, unless she’s around Russian speakers. She sometimes dreams in Russian too. So if you’re used to speaking two languages equally, I guess you would think in whatever language is around you at the moment. Personally, the voice in my head is in English, except for the Turkish one that tells me to burn things.

Remember- If you’re angry it takes 42 muscles to frown, and only a few muscles to smack the idiot that mad you angry in the first place.

I speak English as a first language and learned French in school and have not used it for much in years, but still occasionally have a thought go through in French, so I would imagine that someone who grew up using 2 languages fairly equally would be likely to think in both languages.

I don’t know if this counts or not, but here goes:

I’ve always lived in Iowa, except for the year and a half that I lived in Colorado. Other than the mountains, no difference. I’ve never actually been anywhere outside of the States, and my foreign language training all took place in juniour high. For some weird reason, though, whenever I think, or whenever I talk to myself, I always have a British accent. Figure that one out.

Veni, Vidi, Visa … I came, I saw, I bought.

Related question: Does anyone remember thinking before they were talking? I do.
I’ve described my earliest memory to my Mom and she says that the scene I describe is in the backyard of a place we lived when I was about 1 year old. We have no pictures from that time period, so it is pure memory, not suggested recall. I remember seeing vivid color and feeling an emotion I can only describe as an intense sense of “aliveness.” It is a powerful memory for which words do not do justice, much like memories of dreaming or tripping. My point of all this is that while language is useful, descriptive, precise, and often beautiful, it can also be limiting.
After we learn language, we tend to think in words. Thought is so much more than words, so I believe we lose dimensions of awareness when we restrict it to language.

tennhippie, YES! I have quite a few memories of thought w/o language. You describe it well. Being unencumbered by words, you can see and explore all posibilities connected to a thought.
I remember feeling something like “pity” for grown-ups. It seemed to me they confined themselves to living in fewer dimensions than I.
And I remember an intense feeling of sorrow and resentment the first time I found myself thinking in words.
No one else I have spoken to has these memories, so I hesitated to post the idea here. Thank you for bringing it up.

I’ve always figured that you weren’t fluent in a languge untill you think in that language too. I mean to the point were you don’t have to do any translations to your first language to comprehend what is being said.

I don’t have memories of thinking before I learned to speak, but even today a significant portion of my thoughts do not use words. I noticed a few years ago that when I thought and “heard” it, I was actually thinking the thought and then silently speaking it to myself. This struck me as horribly inefficient (especially when the right word wouldn’t come to mind) so I made a concious effort to cut out the second step. Now a good portion of my thoughts race along without being articulated.

The only problem I’ve noticed is that I’m less comfortable with actual conversation now. I pause more often looking for the right words. Still, I think it’s worth it, in general. I just wish that when my girlfriend asks “what are you thinking?” that I could answer her.

I have heard it said by many language teachers that it can take years for you to be able to “think” in a language, but once you do, it makes speaking and writing easier. Many times there is a switch over period. For example, if one spoke spanish and english, the person would have to be in a toal imeersion environment (like living in spain or latin america) for a while to turn off the english and turn on the spanish thinking.

A funny thin I have seen is Mormon Missionarys returning from their overseas missions (i used to live in utah) will sometimes have a few days or weeks to become fluent in english, especially if they were in a very immersing country with little outside contact.

To deal with men by force is as impractical as to deal with nature by persuasion.

I’ve been bilingual my whole life (but born in America). I dream/think in either language - whatever seems more appropriate.

As I was explaining to a friend this past weekend, some words just don’t relay the point across in English, so I’ll switch to Latvian (yes, even in my head). For example, I was thinking that I needed to take the rug in my room outside and hit it against the stairs to get the dust out. In Latvian that whole action can be described in one word: izpurinat.

For some reason, when I think or dream about love or sex, it’s Latvian. When I’m angry, it’s English. Of course, when I’m thinking about someone sitting next to me on the subway, it’s Latvian. When it’s about work or school, it’s English.

Looking back at what I’ve written, I guess if something is a personal or somewhat secret of a thought, I go to the language most people don’t understand. This is subconscious, of course, but this is what works for me.

I learned how to speak both Portuguese and English as a child. Usually when I think, I think in English because that’s the language I use more often. The only time the voice in my head is Portuguese is when I’m around other people that speak Portugues.

So, answering your question, eggo, the little voice in my head does switch languages, but only in certain situations.

“Ugh, eu espero todas aquelas coisas que eu disse o sentido feito a todos”