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What is the term for when you don't distinguish the languages you speak?

asked 2015-03-20 11:13:04 -0400

bitmaid gravatar image

I speak three languages (Chinese, English and Japanese) and something has been bothering me for years. I finally decided to ask and I hope you guys can shed some light on this.

It seems I no longer discriminate the languages in my long term memory anymore. Meaning when I remember something I read, I cannot be sure if the source (and sometimes the original statement) was in Chinese, English or Japanese. Also, when a notion pops up in my head, it takes a conscious "awakening" to know it's inscribed in one of the languages, other times I am just not aware.

Is there a term for this?

Maybe this is commonplace. In that case let me know anyways. Thanks!

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answered 2015-03-21 04:01:10 -0400

anon1 gravatar image

What you report would be simply called ‘being multilingual’. The information that we acquire and store, and our ways of processing it into knowledge are independent of the languages that we use. This is is why we can transfer both information and knowledge across our languages.

These two blog posts of mine at Being Multilingual have some more on this topic:

Brains and fears

Thinking in tongues

Madalena Cruz-Ferreira

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answered 2015-03-22 19:51:04 -0400

Loro gravatar image

I call it the "spatula effect". I wish I remember who wrote in his memoirs (Moss Hart?) that he was embarrassed in school as a young boy to use the word "spatula" because he thought it was Yiddish which was spoken at home. Also, in my case, my younger brother for show- and- tell took a flower into school with the bulb showing and proceeded to explain that our mother planted "onions" to get flowers much to the teacher's surprise. (The word for "bulb" in Hungarian is "hagyma" which is the same word for "onion." Enjoy your polyglotism. The areas of the brain for language are separated for visual, sound and writing. Also, Freud in - Psychopathology of Everyday Life explains why a word gets blocked. ("The Freudian block)Your Chinese word may bring up an unpleasant association by sound or picture and the brain goes fishing for a more pleasant choice.

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Asked: 2015-03-20 11:13:04 -0400

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Last updated: Mar 22 '15