Ayesha Sayed

Student, UAEU

This conversation is closed.

As a trilingual or bilingual, what role does language play in the creation of your identity? Which language do you think in?

I've grown up speaking 3 very diverse languages, I feel that they've created three distinct worlds in me. I find myself moving in and out of not only languages but cultures as well.
What role do languages play in your life? Do you find yourself thinking in more than one language?

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    Jan 27 2012: Language is the first wonder of human kind.

    In little Belgium, there are 3 national languages: Flemish (Dutch), French and German. I speak the first 2 and my mother tongue is French, even though my father was Flemish. I then studied English and Russian translation, lived a year in the US, studied in the Netherlands and in Russia, then met and married an Italian girl.

    So, as you can imagine, your question triggers many thoughts, but for me the most important thing would be this:
    It begets curiosity, openness, respect for "different" people.
    It is a never-ending journey of pleasure and delight, you never fully master a language, but the more you learn, the more you enjoy it.

    To communicate comes from Latin (communicatio), which means: to s-h-a-r-e .

    Being happy for me is not having 6 zeros on my bank account, it is about sharing: passions, love, ideas (hello, TED), friendship.

    I'm fortunate enough to live in Belgium, a place where, historically, socially, economically, there is no other choice than being open to what surrounds us, which starts with knowing several languages (even though Belgian politicians beg to differ).

    So, every language you know gives you an opportunity to have, or rather, to e-n-j-o-y several cultural identities, which means you can easily share many more meaningful things in life with people.

    In a nutshell: a true wonder of human kind.

    :)
  • Jan 29 2012: Language and culture are interwined and play a large role of a person's identity. Take me for example:
    Born to Dutch and German parents, raised in Senegal West Africa, and now living in the United States.
    So when I speak Wolof, the tribal language I learnt while in Senegal, my mood automatically shifts to that of a typical African speaking Wolof. My hands start flying, my emotions start soaring and I feel happier. When I speak English, my mood becomes more subtle and not as emotional. I feel different. When I speak to my relatives in Holland or my Mother in Dutch, I start thinking more about my European ways of life. Languages create different moods and worlds that we as multi lingual people can travel in and out of. Many of us never even experience learning two languages. I consider myself very fortunate as to learning 5 languages and understanding the culture behind each one. I can travel to 5 different worlds all in one day~ How fortunate!
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    Jan 12 2012: I am a multilingual (English, Spanish, Korean, and Russian) and I think in different languages depending on the subject. Also, I have a bad habit of mixing the languages when I speak to someone who knows those languages. More often than not, I find certain expressions or words in one language that exactly express what I want to say that I cannot find in some others.
    Learning a language (and mastering it) is not only linguistic experience but also cultural one. It broadens your horizons, expands your world and enriches your life.
    My little daughters speak three languages fluently and I will definitely encourage them to learn more when they are ready.
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    Jan 10 2012: Language is a very determining point of one's culture. For instance in my native language "Mandingo", you can find so many words borowed from arabic. this language has been constructed over a thousand years and so, from the old empire of Ghana to our days. Today, according to the african country you hear it, it sounds different always adapting to the environnement. Only in the ivory coast, you have more than ten variants of the same language.

    The reason for that is that our population has been for centuries merchants, travelling up to the sub-asian continent. Plus We had a big influence from the arabic surroundings in north Africa, that influenced even the primary religious belief. Most of our people are muslim since a thousand years. As the only language that have been taught and written until the colonisation was arabic, it has taken a central place in the body of this language.
    Besides, you have the ancient egyptian languages influences, that you can find in tens of subsaharian african languages.

    Having learned french at school and using it everyday as a national language opens our attention to anything french, especially when we travel in countries speaking other languages. We feel somewhat belonging to that culture, so we tend to address easily a person speaking french as someone we can trust rather than anyone else. We feel less stranger to each other; the same thing works for people speaking our native language. I remember some kind of warmth going up from my heart when I would hear someone speaking Mandigo in the subway on my way up to the bronx when I lived in NYC.

    But as you get accomodated with different languages, I do not think you choose anymore in what language you think. i believe that I think in something that give sens in all the languages I speak today, therefor the finding of words apply to the language that is called for one coversation.

    Being trilingual does affect our identity as we feel that we belong more to the world than a tribe.
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      Jan 10 2012: Sir, if I may, your closing statement is beautifully said: "We feel that we belong more to the world than a tribe."

      Studies have shown that learning different languages create new neural pathways in the brain, which explains why some multilinguals with brain injuries sometimes lose one language and not another. Further health studies have linked learning languages with an increased resistance to dementia. But I must say, nothing science shows us compares to the emotional connection that we get from the sense of belonging when we hear others speaking our native language, especially when in a land that is foreign (if not openly hostile).

      Again, for your entire comment - well said!
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    Jan 29 2012: Language is tightly interwoven with culture, so it is inevitable that the culture will have an effect upon the manner of speaking. I am a native English speaker, but perfectly fluent in Italian, and have been living in Italy for over a decade. Some of my bilingual friends have told me that they "prefer" me when I speak in one language as opposed to the other, and I am also aware that I am quite different when I change language.

    I have noticed that INTERNATIONAL English is a unique language in and of itself, because in becoming international it has been stripped of a lot of the regional nuances that give a language its unique flair and generational/geographical/cultural context. Since I've been living abroad I speak primarily Italian and "international" English (with non-native English speakers), and I have to admit that when I do have the rare opportunity to speak with friends from my childhood in the U.S., I feel transported back in time and happily dust off some of the old slang that I haven't used in ages.

    If I had to try to classify it, I feel like I am closest to my "real" self when I am speaking either regional conversational English or Italian, because in both cases I am enriching my word choice with pieces of myself and the cultures that have helped forge me. When I speak in "international" English I feel more limited and formal, because it means I am speaking with someone who may or may not be able to understand some of the more place-specific slang or cultural references.
  • Jan 24 2012: I've grown up speaking 7 different languages (and the count is increasing).
    I feel connected wherever I go and it doesn't take me a long while before I start thinking in the language of the place.

    Thinking in different languages is an act that transpires inner beauty and lets your mind capture the underlying essence of all differing opinions and cultures, while at the same time letting you explore the iridescence of the mind space! It simply makes you a better person! I feel that thinking in different languages has imparted a certain 'flexibility' to my mind.
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    Jan 18 2012: I spoke Hungarian until the age of 5, then learned English. At around age 10-12 I started to think in English, before then I thought in Hungarian. It is something if you say that your background is from a certain country/culture, but I believe speaking the language creates that real connection to that culture. Without the language I do not believe you feel entirely like you are part of that culture.
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    Jan 18 2012: I speak English as a primary language, and Korean as a second fluently. I definitely think in English except where Korean concepts that do not translate intrude. I instinctively call Korean things Korean names, and have to translate them awkwardly into English.

    These two languages have helped me to understand the difference in process of thought between these two cultures, and to be keenly aware of the assumptions our formative experiences predispose us to.

    Language is victim to, and perpetuates a way of thought within a culture. As such, those who speak the language are predisposed to that particular way of thought. Koreans tend to associate objects by color/texture, while an English speaker will associate them by shape. These minor differences play out in every aspect of who we are as a human being, and our very understanding of the universe around us.

    Learning these differences has assisted in my ability to converse with those of diverse backgrounds, to first try to appreciate their way of thought, and then to identify any potential roadblocks to our agreement on a point so that I may circumvent them.

    These are very important ideas for a society that will soon be seeking total globalization.
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    Jan 17 2012: I speak three languages fluently: Spanish, English and German. Spanish is my native language. I enjoy learning and teaching languages. So far, My brain works with Spanish better than English or German. Yet I am constantly challenging myself to learn more. Sometimes I feel baffled by all the information I find in one single language. I wish I could master more languages. I normally think and speak in my own native language (Spanish), but most of the information I read is in English. I can read English just as well as Spanish; though my German is not that good, but good enough to carry an intelligent conversation. Indeed, each language I have learned in my life has made quite an impression on my psyche. I usually make myself read in the three languages I use and I force myself to learn a little bit of French, Russian, Italian, Portuguese and Chinese. I think each language has its own charm, and beauty. When I was a little kid I used to stutter, and when I started learning English, I was able to overcome that problem in both languages. Sometimes I have dreamed in English and German.
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    Jan 15 2012: I am bilingual and think dream and speak in my adopted language (Italian). I have trouble writing in Italian however, and am often blocked (like today), unable to get the stuff out of my head and on to the page or screen. Probably I am afraid of the permanence of the written word, of the idea that I may be making simple grammatical mistakes. When I speak in Italian it is like singing, I can adapt and move and express myself freely.

    I hosted an event with the Italian philosopher, Carlo Sini, this summer and he made an excellent comparison of language and culture to machines, to automata that exist outside of ourselves, we learn how to use them, some with mastery, but they are prosthetic devices to transfer our ideas from our brains to others' brains. I think I have mastered only the "real-time" version of my adopted language.
    • Jan 17 2012: Thomas
      Interesting post. Does he have any papers on the web?

      I am not sure I totally agree. I think we can place ourselves into another language-culture. It is just hard.
  • Jan 12 2012: Korean^O^
    English :D

    Korean -_-
    English :(

    Korean :해가 뉘엿뉘엿 저물었다,
    English :The sun slowly set.

    English: Blue, bluish
    Korean: 파란, 파아란, 푸르스름한, 푸르딩딩한, 퍼런, 시퍼런, etc.

    I'm a bilingual and I've been fascinated by finding out the difference between Korean and English.
    Depends on the language I choose, my attitude and mind are a bit different.
    And of course, the way I express and describe something are also dissimilar.

    But the thing is..languages always have something in common.

    And that connects the world and give a considerable meaning to translators.


    (By the way, nowadays, I'm getting proud of my mother tongue as a Korean.
    A bilingual could love both of the languages he knows, but there's always a preferable and familiar one.)
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    Jan 12 2012: Nice question Ayesha,

    I am able to think in 3 languages as well, and try to do so with the languages I'm still not so good at.
    Though I do see differences between the languages, I live in an environment that mixes them up (at least I do...), so I can't put a big distinction between them.

    For me, knowing languages is most useful to increase conversation with other people. As my mother tongue is spoken by at most 30 million people (I guess), and only by 60% of the people living in my country... it does matter.

    There are certainly cultural differences that really become apparent when you learn other languages... For example, I was really baffled that English has no proper word to start a meal, while most other languages do.

    As for identity: like any skill you acquire, it becomes part of your identity.
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    Jan 11 2012: Language is a core component of self, and a means of communication with the outer world, although not necessarily conforming to all of its manifestations, cultural and ideological; then you discover that language begins to make you a citizen of the world, in dialogue with others, no matter how differently they may think: dialogue is the word, multilingual is the platform, accepting diversity is the attitude.
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      Jan 12 2012: ¡Bien dicho! A thought about tolerance and the acceptance of diversity: My personal experience is that those who are multilingual are more likely to have these traits than monolinguals. Did their exposure to multiple languages make them so?
      • Jan 12 2012: Carl
        I think the exposure to languages, where one really begins to communicate in another does have that effect. Living in another culture is also important. You make cultural blunders, you learn from other people, you learn how to be in a totally "other" world.
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    Jan 9 2012: Remember, our outer voice mostly relies on the same neural circuitry as our inner voice. We are bilingual either way. I do think that with each language comes a different identity, slightly removed from the other. In each language, we have a different way of expressing ourselves, different recipients (not all our friends are bilingual) and different cultures we're more likely to be interacting with while we speak one language or the other.
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    Jan 9 2012: I think primarily in English, and my study of other languages has shown that languages frame the passing show is far different ways. So language does help create my cultural identity. This leads to two observations: 1. We must enter into the language world of another culture before we have any grounds for judging its worldview or values. 2. There are parts of human experience which no language can encompass, and it is perhaps here where we can find a common basis for unity--Karen Armstrong's "Charter for Compassion" is an attempt to move beyond the parameters of language to our common humanity. Language always divides, that is its function. Our humanity transcends our language and culture; that is our hope.
    • Jan 9 2012: I hope so too Bob. I so agree with you about worldview and values. Language learning is indispensable.
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    Jan 7 2012: As a multilingual speaker, I realized that I've learned not only languages and cultures, but also the beauty of each language and culture. It opened up another world to look at life with different perspectives. When I think, I think in all languages I speak and switch languages from one to the other when needed. It usually depends on the task I am doing, i.e. if I am working on something in English or reading something in English, then I think in English, and so forth, otherwise, in my personal life I think in my native language.
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      Jan 7 2012: Hi Gulnoza, your knowledge of multiple languages fascinates me. I always felt that I too should speak and understand multiple languages but still am not able to get hang of it. Can you share how you developed this habit which may be of help to me.
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        Jan 7 2012: I don't think there is any habit except love for learning languages and curiosity. When I learned languages I always compared one language to the other languages, found some similarities, differences, tried to associate to each other which made it easier and more interesting to learn.
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        Jan 9 2012: I don't think we have to change to become someone else. If you want to get hang of it, TED Translation will be a good option to try. Find your language to know other ideas and change the subtitle to learn their languages. You will find it very interesting.
  • Jan 6 2012: I have lived in the United States my entire life, but speak Chinese fluently - my parents speak it to me at home, and I have a lot of family in China, whom I occasionally visit. I know what you mean when you say moving in and out of cultures; when I'm in China, things are so different. Customs, mentality, everything. I value the flexibility I have though.

    Since I live in America and am constantly surrounded by English-speakers, I think in English. My Chinese will get worse, if I don't use it. Sometimes, if I've been indulging in Chinese tv shows, for example, my thinking will be in both Chinese and English.

    For me, my Chinese heritage has helped keep me aware, accepting, and appreciative of other cultures. I love travelling and learning about other cultures. I believe being culturally aware is a responsibility and an obligation. It's really helped me get along with people who are different than I am, culturally as well as other things.

    I also studied French for five years. It's a beautiful language, and when I visited France I felt like less of an outsider because I understood its people.

    Diversity and world cultures are things to be celebrated.
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      Jan 6 2012: I can identify with missing languages! I find myself trying to think in all three at times.
      Cultures must be celebrated, also identities. no matter how difference we THINK we are, we all have an inherent need to communicate which is why we learn languages.
      Thank you for your reply.
  • Feb 3 2012: Ayesha
    Thanks for a great question and a great conversation. I loved reading people's ideas on this.
  • Feb 3 2012: I speak English and Spanish. I find myself thinking in English.....BUT, when I get emotional, I react in Spanish.

    This is especially so when lecturing, or correcting my children. Spanish pops out. I'll start lecturing in English first, but I'll finish in Spanish for emphasis.

    I find that I make myself understood better in English when writing. But, in speaking, I do well in both languages.

    Great question Ayesha.
  • Jan 30 2012: I'm fluent in Ducth and english, reasonable at German (I was born there), know a bit of French and Spanish from having lived their, portugese from working there, a bit of italian from having done some business there and a little greek from the classics. Although language can really serve as a sort of identity, if you get into it, I prefer to be more flexible.
    Sometimes language as a whole is much easier if you look at all of them at once. I can read most of what I see around me on when I travel in Europe because most words will have a similar word in one of the languages that I know. I also find that I've learned to mix them up when I think,.. or even when I talk, depending on the language skill of the people I'm talking to. Some words or expressions just work better in certain langauges, so, at least in my head, I mix them constantly, even langauges that I don't really speak very wel.
    When I take notes its worse. Anything that holds an idea will do, from cartoons to hierglyphs that I picked up studing history or some foreign word for a very complicated idea that just doesn't exist in any other language. Sometimes math, which is really just a language, as well.

    It seems to me that if young children where taught 'language' at school, rather than one or two particular languages, they'd have a much easier time picking up functional knowledge of the ones they need when they need them later in life.

    Basically, I play with words and language in my head all the time.
  • Jan 30 2012: Languages and living these particular languages, are two very strong identity factors.
    Bilingual since I was a kid, and having learned 3 more languages and studying a fourth right now, languages give you the freedom of being a global citizen, willing to travel and knowing new cultures. And if you get to really travel around the world, if you really get to live the language, you feel self confident, become open minded.
    Languages create strong identities and approach people from all around the world.
    In www.universoprofesional.com we try to give this message to young professionals, to inform them about the importance of being not only bilingual but also trilingual or more.
  • Jan 30 2012: I've grown up with 2 languages and have since learned a few more. Language is more than communication, it is a code which reveals the culture of a people. What are the curse words, these will tell me what is sacred or taboo; how are common sayings expressed in one language versus the other; how does humour work in a language in a particular place etc...I agree with Ayesha that different languages do tend to bring out different aspects of my personality. I think in whatever language best renders the concept or addresses the situation with which I'm dealing at the time. It is not a conscious decision of which I am aware. I have always believed that understanding the code of many languages heps me better conceptualize, think on several levels at once and relate to different perspectives and points of view.
  • Jan 29 2012: There was a time when I was perfectly trilingual, even as an adult. I have now lost my competence with one of the languages. I had given this question some thought when I was trilingual.
    Quite often, when I'm thinking about things, it is virtually spoken out inside my head. And again, quite often, there is an imaginary audience for this, and this audience is usually based on people I had related conversations with in real life. Let's say I'm a banker who likes to watch football with friends. (I'm neither.) When thinking of banking issues, I would "converse" with my colleagues, in the language that I use at work. And when I'm thinking of the game, I would converse with my drinking buddies with whom I watch the game, and I would "converse" in the language I normally use with them.

    There were times when I caught myself in idle thought when driving or riding a bus, about things I have saw then and there. And I suddenly stopped and asked myself what language that was. I tried to "speak out" the thought in each of the languages I spoke fluently, and I could make none of them fit the thought.

    So, for myself, there are times when I think, that I think in no language at all. (When I was thinking this note out, I thought in English.)
    • Jan 29 2012: This is a very interesting point and I quite agree with it. I also notice that sometimes I think concepts that I can't find words for in any language I know.
      And I agree that when I speak or think in a language, the people I spoke to most in my life in that language are present in my mind as an imaginary audience. I believe I speak the languages in relationship to them, because I learned it and practised it by speaking to them.
      It does feel a bit like I'm a different person in every language I speak, but I notice that most when I switch languages with the same person - if I'd been speaking to them in English and we switch to French or vice versa. When this happens it clearly feels like we step into a different context a bit, as if we suddenly look at the world from a different perspective - as if suddenly France is the center of the globe. And the same goes with any other language.
      • Jan 30 2012: It is interesting for me to note that many here, including you, seem to switch perspectives or culture when you switch languages. I tend to not use language in a very colloquial manner, and other multilinguals around me have told me that I speak all three languages in exactly the same manner: MY manner. I don't "get" them! Not that I have an accent in any of these. People assume I'm a native speaker unless I tell them.

        A part of my brain is probably defective ;-).
  • Jan 28 2012: I'm a flemish Belgian. Now, anyone who's ever heard of my country will propably have heard of our difficulties concerning our communities. There are 3 official languages (flemish Dutch, French, German) in Belgium and The Flemish (Dutch speakers) and the Walloons (French speakers) have been in a fight with eachother ever since the beginning of our nation. The key concern of this fight was the way our languages were used; if they were treated equally, wether the speaker of the French language was superiour to the Flemish. This hasn't changed through history, this argument is stil going on. If you have followed political news last year you might have noticed it took Belgium over a year to form a government after the last one fell over communotair questions. I think it is thus fair to say that language forms a great part of our identity. In fact, here it is the key part of your identity. It is was defines you or it is by which you are defined by others.

    Personally, language is an important part of my identity, because of what I just explained. In my own language I can express myself in a way I can not when speaking another language. This is even so where the difference is concerned between the Flemish and the Dutch (Netherlands). When I speak to a Dutchman I can hear the cultural differences between us in every word we utter, even though we are supposed to speak the same language. We use the words differently, both in meaning as in sound.
    That doesn't mean I dislike other languages. In fact, I think that the more languages you speak the 'richer' you become in mind and understanding. I speak Dutch, French, English and I understand German. These languages have given me access to knowledge I would not have had access to if I did not understand these languages. Multilinguism is something desirable. In most cases it leads to a greater understanding of eachother (except in Belgium, doesn't help at all).
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    Jan 28 2012: I see Languages like art ..use correctly it is an expresion of our inner self.. I only speak Spanish,German and English..
    everytime I try to express some deep emotions i dont have to think wich one I will use ..each language has words and their definitions are so accurate on delivering the message.
    I like to add italian and arab to languages I´d like to be able to speak.
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    Jan 27 2012: What a fascinating question to consider! One of the areas I am currently studying is the construction of identity through communication, and as we consider the institution of language as a part of articulating elements of one's identity, this question becomes central to the notion of communicative identity construction. When we socially construct meaning, identity being a form of meaning, with other communicators, we do so within the confines of the language that we speak. Our language gives us access to common or shared conceptualizations about ourselves and the world, opening up some possibilities and closing off others. Someone with access to various language systems can co-construct meaning from within very different public discourses, and therefore has increased resources from which to construct their sense of self. These various discursive resources enable this individual to create space to challenge their identity as constructed in any one discursive formation--in other words, your access to diverse contexts enables you to define your own identity in more distinct, nuanced ways within the more dominant narrative. Very interesting--thanks for posing this question!
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      Jan 27 2012: The basic purpose of language is to communicate. So its gives you the leverage of knowing and communicating with more people . But the best part i like is you can enjoy more literature , music . isnt it the best part of it .
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      Jan 28 2012: I LOVE the subject you are studying and I'd like to know more about it! Is it a graduate degree? Thank you for your reply :)
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        Jan 28 2012: Hi Ayesha,
        I am working toward my doctorate in Organizational Communication. Essentially, I study the processes by which we create meaning within and around organizations and society. I am early in the process-working on it part time as I teach full time-so still sorting through narrowing down my specific research interests, but the central premise is the ways in which organizational and public discourses intersect to inhibit dialogue. Dialogue is a unique form of communication in which each communicator comes to the interaction fully cognizent of his or her positionality---this entails understanding the power inherent within their social positioning and how that impacts their ability to influence the creation of meaning. These communicators then go the extra step of attempting to understand the other person's positionality in the interaction as well. The goal is to create new meaning rather than impose a pre-existing meaning held by either communicator. In my view, dialogue understood in this way is necessary for us to come together to address issues as a society and as a global community.

        One essential element of this process is recognizing the ways in which our identity construction impacts our positionality--and how our understanding of ourselves is both limited by and enabled by the social structures we create through our communication.

        If you're interested in this area of study, you can certainly get a better feel for the way this perspective plays out in considering everyday experience by visiting my blog--it's a personal commentary from my standpoint as a developing academic--a place where I sort through various academic concepts as they play out in my everyday experience. My posts range from purely academic to how these concepts inform my role as a mother raising three young children. It might give a more clear understanding of the way I view and study communicative processes. Feel free to check it out! http://www.kathy-momphd.blogspot.com
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    Jan 27 2012: Hi AyeshiIm a ducth person now living n the uk speaking English / thinking english my dad is in France so I speak French, I studied in Spain so I had to learn Spanish. I can also speak German. Although these are European languages and maybe similar in culture.I feel like Im blessed that I speak these languages and wouldn't like it any other way. Isn't it just great that you can follow these cultures and speak the language? I don't think in more than one language english now. I used to get frustrated and blame the culture but I think that I was just blaming the culture when something didn't really go my way so in the Uk i would say' So english and so on. I At the end of the day I think we are all aiming for the same thing but all in a diffrent way .
  • Jan 27 2012: Hi Ayesha, sorry I do not. I grew up, a blonde in a Mexican hood. I do know, a slang Mexican language. I took Spanish in school. I had class mates, that were Mexican. They knew less, than I did. I do admire language! It is not language, that keeps us apart. It is cultures and bigotry. One can speak a language, one is a dork, for not understanding, the culture! You nailed it! :)
  • Jan 24 2012: I speak 3 languages, only one natively, the others fluently. Language is a intrinsic part of one's culture and vice-versa, so it's perfectly natural to feel different if you're speaking a language that "belongs" to a different culture. If i spend more time in a specific environment of one of "my" 3 languages (like a week-long Esperanto congress), i'll start thinking in that language - but i always count in Portuguese.

    Ever heard of the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis? I wouldn't mind learning Lojban next if i had the time (or Russian, or Polish, or Japanese, or...).
  • Jan 23 2012: I am trilingual, and I lived in several countries, once you emerge yourself in the local culture, you start acquiring their customs, and their ways, you even start thinking and even dreaming in their language, but as soon as I change languages,I noticed that my customs change accordingly.
  • Jan 23 2012: I live in a country of ethnically related but linguistically heterogeneous peoples, and majority of the people here speak at least 4 languages (usually including English). Though we call ourselves 'Filipinos' in general, the diversity of languages, hence cultures, somehow complicates the way we identify ourselves as a nation. An average Filipino may be able to give you a list of characteristics 'distinct' to us, but if asked to just give one, I don't believe he/she can provide one (unlike Koreans, who would probably give the word 'jeong' (정), roughly translated as 'affection', yet still defined/understood differently by Koreans). The disadvantage of such national ambiguity, I think, only falls on how we, as a people, see ourselves as a separate, distinct group. But its merit is that it keeps us open to change, which could lead to progress.
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    Jan 22 2012: I think language is essential to adopt a culture. I moved to London a year ago to improve my English and sometimes I still thinking in French which is my native language. I think the better you get in the learning process, the more confident you are. As a result ,you get involved in the culture easily. TED a way for me to practice my listening and develop some vocabulary by watching a few conferences every single day.
  • Jan 21 2012: I grew up bilingual Slovak / English, living in Slovakia and watching loads of British / American channels and speaking English with my mum when I was younger. I later had English problems because of having learnt some English in Australia, then from a Canadian teacher, and then living in Brussels in a multinational school (which resulted in an ever-changing accent). I personally can't associate myself with any particular culture, partly due to language and partly due to having lived in different environments. I usually think in English, unless I speak Slovak, but nevertheless I find that often I don't fully understand the thoughts of native speakers, and in general I feel less confident in making spontaneous jokes, uttering large sophisticated sentences, etc. I see what you mean by moving in and out of cultures as you change languages, since that language is associated with a particular experiences or areas of interest. A trilinguar friend of mine completely changes his speech and attitude depending on whether he's speaking Italian, English or French, which I find very interesting.
  • Jan 21 2012: I don't know what role does language play in the creation of my identity but I have to say that the ways I express myself in Romanian and in English are completely different. I surprise myself talking like a punk in Romanian like i was conditioned by the environment in which i live and using a more elevated, academic language in English. I think it has a lot to do with how you get that language and how are you conditioned in using it. I also talk 99.9% of the time in Romanian, but i do a lot of thinking (imagining would be a more proper term) in English!
    • Jan 23 2012: Interesting. So, if I understand correctly, you primarily speak Romanian, but do most of your analytical thinking in English? Why do you think that is?
      • Jan 24 2012: I think it is because the time i spend on the Interner, the music I listen, the movies I watch and the books I read are in a proportion of 90% in English. Anyway, when i speak in English i can't find the words very easily, altough when I write it comes natural. Also because a lack of exercise in speaking English. But I imagine a lot of conversations or dialogues in English. Yesterday for example i heard George Carlin saying in a video: "If you scratch the cynic, you'll find an disappointed idealist underneath". And I thought that is a very wise line, I have to remember this. And I was trying to translate it in Romanian in my mind. It wasn't too easy tough. I get messages easily in both languages, but when I try to translate from one language to another in my mind it's not really easy. Maybe a linguist or a neuro-scientist could explain that! :)
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    Jan 21 2012: in my opinion language and the origin of a thought are independent, rather language is the medium through which a thought can be conveyed.A thought could be conveyed verbally or through action,(body language) if you say you think in a language how would you explain that in the case of dumb people ?
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    Jan 19 2012: Same here. Learned three very different languages, in this order: Hungarian, Romanian and English. Using all three on a daily basis, sometimes two of them in the same sentence - very bad habit. Working in multillingual environment and automatically switching between languages, as needed. Thinking in more than one language? I'm not sure about this, I usually think in that single language I just use. And I also recall of using Romanian or English while dreaming.
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    Jan 19 2012: I was born in pure Punjabi family, went to school learned Urdu and English. Its all for me is like shifting gears. We can correlate this theory if the languages effect your thoughts and behaviors, at one point. That if you have to know any culture you got to learn the language first to act like their natives. Or with out language you're out in the dark.
  • Jan 18 2012: A study suggests that by switching the language you speak you unconsciously alter your personality.

    This is why I think that happens------>Say you interact with two social groups and behave differently around each of them. You also switch your language when you change your social group. Over time you become habituated to changing your behavior every time you switch the language you speak in........
  • Jan 17 2012: I speak two languages fluently: Portuguese and English. I am also currently learning Spanish. My native language is Portuguese so I use this language more often but constantly find myself thinking in English for absolutely no reason.
    I enjoy hearing and learning different languages and I think the spoken/written word is one ofthe greatest accomplishments of humanity.
  • Jan 17 2012: I speak 3 languages fluently, Dutch English and French. I think in French when I speak French Dutch when I speak Dutch ect. When I can't find a word I start thinking in another language but when I count I prefer to count in Dutch, but when I have to give my telephone number it is easier in French. I don't have a mother language as far as I am concerned. I can switch from one language to another without thinking about the language, like somebody said it just is there. When I want to speak German or Afrikaans I have to translate, so that is when you know that your are not fluent in that language. I don't even pay attention to the language I dream in because they all come naturally
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    Jan 16 2012: What a beautiful question. I know French Canadian - I grew up taking classes in French for half the day, every day, in Ontario, Canada. I feel proud of having the language, but I also love that I learned the quirky accent and sayings that make Quebec French so unique.

    I also know a bit of German, and Swiss German. There are all sorts of sayings my Mother will use; she'll say "there's a word for that in German and it's (something 23 syllables long that I don't understand) - but there is really no translation for it in English!" That German has such fascinating terms makes me want to learn the language even more, and perhaps in spite of the fact that it isn't so much a practical langauge for travel or business...it would really be for the sheer enjoyment of 23 syllable words and how they feel on my tongue.
  • Jan 16 2012: Ehmm, an honest question. Why do you think in language?
    I am fairly good in english yet I'm a native dutch speaker... can also talk a bit of german and french but not that great. Meanwhile I'm dyslectic so theres a lot of stuff going on there. ;)

    However I never "think" in a language. I come up with an idea which is more like a feeling or sometimes an image-like thing (not that I 'see an image' but I often transform stuff people say into an "image" to "see what's going on" and then my reply will be based on "what's missing in the image".
    Then my quests for the right words begins in which I first must think up "what it is I'm gonna try to say" and then in which language. And only at the very end I come up with the words for it.

    It's only when I have to 'remember' something that I first phrase it into words and then 'say it to myself' in which case it's dependant on the language I just spoke (aka in england I "think" english and in the netherlands it's dutch.)
  • Jan 15 2012: I'm bilingual (English/Spanish). English is my first language and I 98% of the time think, dream and process in English. I started learning Spanish when I was three. I speak it fluently, but get rusty when I don't use it in a while. Although at the strangest times a phrase will come to me in Spanish for what I want to say in English and there is no English equivalent. Occasionally I dream in Spanish. I work at the airport and find that being able to communicate better with Spanish speakers eases their stress and forms an instant connection.

    I don't necessarily think that teaching kids more than one language makes them more adaptable or smarter, but I do think it better prepares them to live in the world today. We are increasingly becoming a global community and the ability to communicate with others is priceless.
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    Jan 15 2012: I am bilingual at present (English/Bulgarian).
    I daresay I have the same story (growing up speaking more than one language) as many of the participants in this topic. I think that it is a great advantage as it gives access to more info and enables to broaden your horizons in many ways and I consider that the more languages the better ...

    I like the idea that fluency in any language is like an extra University educational course. But I wish to propose another topic here from the point of view of parents:

    Do you agree that teaching your kids more than one language when they are little makes them smarter and more adaptable hence prepared for the challenges ahead of them?
    • Jan 17 2012: Silivia
      I am not sure about smarter, but certainly wiser. I do feel language and worldview are so tied to one another that teaching a child early does help them adapt more to our world. I mean by that the real world we live in, the one that is multi-lingual, multi-cultural.
  • Jan 14 2012: I'm trilungual. And is weird that I think in a language that I never really speak much.

    Sometimes, the idea/word(s) you're looking for is in the other language and you can't relate it to someone who doesn't understand that language. But it already helps to have that idea in your mind.
    In essence you are ahead by one idea compared to one that does not understand the language.

    Long story short. Language is power.
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    Jan 13 2012: I am bilingual and find that I will switch language in brain function (thinking, dreaming) after about 1 month in a social setting where that is the primary language. It usually takes 4 weeks after I have changed countries for this switch to occur.

    And absolutely, the language I am thinking in influences the world view I am operating under. If you are not aware of it, it can get a little shaky. I like how you put it, moving in and out of cultures. I call it 'sliding' between cultures. This is a skill set that not many people have. It gives you the opportunity to have different world views and expands your understanding of the human experience.
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    Jan 13 2012: I truly think in two languages depending on the context. I can also spontaneously be thinking on either one of two languages. When I speak my third or fourth language, I think, more slowly, but still think in the new language. By being truly bilingual I am bicultural and also realize that I do not quite express myself as well as a native speaker, well as a very good native speaker. By having learned a third and a fourth language I notice they get easier to learn than the first foreign language.
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    Jan 12 2012: I grew up learning Cantonese, Mandarin, and Taiwanese. Although English was learned fourth, it's become my dominant language for communicating as well as thinking. I learned Spanish and school and used it for most of my career so incidentally, I know Spanish better than any of these Chinese dialects now. However, I still identifiy myself as an Asian American and most of my advocacy work revolves around Asian American communities.

    Odd how life takes you through all of this!
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    Jan 12 2012: I'm trilingual and I find myself thinking in all three languages. It can get interesting and also sometimes it can get annoying when I speak, because sometimes I tend to mix all three. But I believe each language makes us express ourselves in a totally different manner. However, I don't like myself to be identified with a certain language or languages, because for me identity is something to do with my morals and values not the languages I speak.
  • Jan 12 2012: I've now lived in France for almost 20 years, and think more easily in French than in English! I agree that different languages open our minds to other points of view and possibilities, and want to now learn Spanish also. I would advise anyone who can to learn another language and if possible spend some time living in another country.
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    Jan 10 2012: Great topic. I have two mother languages, Turkish and this very-little-known language, Laz. When I was a kid, I also learned French because my brother was studying French in high school and I was hearing it all the time at home. (Boy I wish I could learn languages as fast as we could when we were a baby.) Now as an adult, I can speak four languages (Turkish, French, Laz, English) and learning one more (Spanish). Best thing for me about knowing a language, even more than being able to communicate with more people, is that I can enjoy books, movies, TV shows, political debates in their own original language. It's still annoying to me that I'm probably missing a lot in translation when I'm reading a translated book. My brain works in a way that when I'm speaking a language, say English, my brain ONLY works in English. I'm fluent in English, Turkish is my first language, still, I am absolutely horrible at translating anything from one language to another instantly when I'm asked to. (Exactly why I admire translators.) When I'm talking to someone in English, I think in English. When talking in French, I think in French. The only time the Turk in me pops out without a warning is when I get surprised/get scared of something. Doesn't happen often, but I remember a few times I threw an, "Evet!" (means "Yes," in English) when I heard something exciting, even though the person I'm talking to was American and we were speaking in English. Not complaining though, as it's amusing and a tad confusing to everyone around me and also to myself. :-)
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    Jan 10 2012: The best thing about more languages is obvious, it is to have access to more information.
    Most of the time I'm listening to German sometimes French, write in English and speaking Dutch.
    Reading I do in any of those languages. Often I notice the limited scope by people that use one language.
  • Jan 10 2012: What a great question and there are some super comments. Especially like the term "voice" and also the comments about understanding/experiencing cultures (in addition to speaking the language).

    Believe there are different bilinguals/trilinguals and consequently they have different perspectives. For example, we have lived/worked in three different counties as adults, while our children are in a different stage. We have all integrated in different ways.

    From our experience, we have learned to take the best of all the cultures so identify with three different societies. We like frank/open German conversations and factual German TV. Love the beauty, culture, cuisine, and generosity of Italy/Italians and the lack of bureaucracy/easygoingness, education, chance to advance of the USA.

    When we were younger our ties were stronger to one country or another. Now we believe appreciating different cultures is like a dual-sided sword. We are home to three countries and then again none as talians are Italian, Germans are German and Americans are American.

    What we have learned about being "multis" is that it's not about being right or wrong in a society, but that we are different for many reasons. As picasso has said it take a long time to grow young.
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    Jan 10 2012: I grew up bilingual as the son of Americans living in Mexico City. I have spent much of my life in marketing communications, helping U.S. marketers communicate with Spanish-speaking consumers. I have always been intrigued by the way language is an expression of and a source of cultural identity. One example: English is gender-neutral while in Spanish every noun has a male or female gender. It's clear to me that this reflects (and is probably causal to) different world-views. I know that I "function" differently in the U.S. and in Latin America and I feel strongly that my ability to do so is a central part of my identity -- so, yes, growing up bilingual is an integral part of who I am.

    To add a little texture to another thread above, my dad learned Spanish as an adult and acquired his second language fluently (albeit with a slight Boston accent). In his 70s he had a stroke and lost his Spanish, although his ability to speak English was untouched. It was explained to us that languages acquired after childhood "live" in a different part of the brain than do languages acquired in infancy. Makes me wonder, then, if languages acquired as a baby are influential in building identity while languages learned as an adult are simply additional "knowledge"...
    • Jan 10 2012: Carl
      Very interesting question about learning the language. And yes, I think the gender/non-gender of nouns, the subjunctive and its use in Spanish all point to different worldview issues. My children are very much like you.
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    Jan 10 2012: I think place and experience actually is a greater factor in the creation of a personal identity, and language is a marker of the places and experiences. For example, my wife is completely bilingual and has lived half her life in one place and half her life here in the States - she both thinks and dreams in both languages, but neither language "created" who she is - she is completely of her native land and also completely American. When she speaks to another hispanohablante of her native country, she does not feel completely at home. Neither speaking English here. Her family in her native country note her Americanness, and unilingual (i.e. English-speaking) Americans focus solely on her foreignness. Ergo, she is this beautiful anomoly, traversing two cultures and defined by each - her languages are simply the "marker" that distinguishes be between the two.

    I have learned Spanish late in life, and while not completely fluent I have learned enough to assist hispanohablantes in several previous jobs I have held. Limited-English native-Spanish speakers came to see me as that "gringo who at least TRIES to help," and I took some pride in that identity, but again, that stemmed from the work I was trying to do and the people I was trying to assist.

    I am an ARDENT supporter of multilingual studies. Personally, I believe that each person should learn at least three languages (for me - AS GAELGE!). And I completely agree with all these posts how language breaks down barriers and opens doors to other cultures and allows a person access to a deeper insight into other human beings. However, I still feel strongly that it is our experiences (places and people) that create our "identity"

    Language, for me, seems to be key that opens doors to other peoples' homes.


    However, if you find in these comments I am naught but an ignorant American, I will not dispute your charge.
  • Jan 10 2012: I'm a bilingual and because of the differences of the two languages that I speak (one is Slav, the other is English) I have accumulated a weird accent. It mostly comes out when I'm nervous, but it's bugging the hell out of me. It's a twang that borders between Croatian (which has a hard accent) and American English (which is much softer).

    Also, because I have this background and I have musical tendencies, I pick up other languages fairly easily. I've taken up Russian and I've noticed that it's softer and faster (when pronounciating) than the other two languages.
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      Jan 9 2012: I'm intrigued by your reply!
      So if you were born mute, what u be the person u are now?
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          Jan 10 2012: Not a vow of silence persay but I do meditate and have had 'days' of silence :D
          So you're saying that communicating with others doesn't contribute to your identy?
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      Jan 11 2012: Hi Pierre, A fascinating response but I assume that you employ logic as well as intuition. I know that I do.

      Your comment got me thinking about everyday mathematics: For example, it's difficult to shop and make change on intuition alone... And that led me to another realization -- While I am fully bilingual, I always do math in English, the language in which I was taught the subject. Could this mean that my logical facility is greater in English while my intuitive facility is language-agnostic? Is this a core component of my being?
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    Jan 9 2012: Knowing more than 2 languages helped me to know about cultures and different people. I became global thinker than thinking based on tribal and local situations. I have now a better eye to the world than ever before and created a more international identity in me.
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    Jan 9 2012: I'm trilingual and I find it pretty fascinating, and 'annoying' too. My skills in my primary language, Arabic. are deteriorating day by day as I speak other languages more frequently. It also takes me a long time to translate words and expressions from one language to another (because I can't remember some things). The majority of the world now speaks English. This is a good thing since it unifies us but as we do that we lose our cultural identities.
    • Jan 9 2012: we lose our cultural ..............arabic is agreat language its the language of quran of allah words and people who enter paradise will talk arabic isa
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          Jan 10 2012: This response is perhaps the most compelling evidence of the cause for language creating identity . . . most enlightening. When one believes that a creator God will only speak to a person in only one single specifc human-created language, then that language not only defines one's culture but one's specific "place" in the whole of existence.

          If I have misunderstood, please forgive me.
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        Jan 11 2012: Yes, Arabic is awesome. There are some problems with it though, mainly concerned with today's technology and globalization. Website URLs are in English only, so are programming languages and stuff like that. So, the majority learns English, which is on the verge of being a universal language. English just makes it easier to communicate. It is way easier to learn than Arabic (you know what I mean... the grammar etc.)
        • Jan 12 2012: yes ia gree with you english is the most popular languageand very important nowadays but i mean as u said we shouldnt losse our culture
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        Jan 11 2012: @Verble Gherulous

        Muslims are required to recite passages from the Quran in Arabic while praying, but that doesn't necessarily mean they need to learn the language. But they are highly encouraged to learn it to better understand the holy book. They can obviously 'wish' for anything in their mother tongue.

        I once tried reading a translated version of the Quran (just out of curiosity) and when I did, there was less meaning and 'effect'. I don't know how to explain it. The Quran is absolutely magical in its original form. Every word in it "fits" in, and if removed, the meaning is lost. Thankfully, it has not been edited at all throughout history.

        I definitely agree with your response though! Such a spectacular point of view. :-)
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          Jan 28 2012: Omar, my apologies for not replying until now, I had not looked at this discussion in awhile. Thank you so much for your explanation of the linguistic aspect, that is very helpful. It is a poetic description you hace given, and makes me see the Quran almost like a computer code, in which every word, or symbol, (andthe meaning converted within) connects to the greater idea through context.
      • Jan 23 2012: Hi Kareem,

        I understand what you mean. I'm a muslim too. Assigning greatness to one's mother tongue might distance us from others. Arabic is a system of symbols, like other languages, primarily employed to convey meaningful messages. The fact that Quran is in Arabic should not blind us from the fact the multiplicity of languages is a sign of a Great Creator not a great language. Language is out there to connect people not disconnect them.

        Thank you.
        • Feb 3 2012: "Language is out there to connect people not disconnect them."

          Beautiful thought, thank you.
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      Jan 9 2012: I can identify with the deterioration, here @ UAEU we are encouraged to 'revive' the Arabic language but I find that amusing as most of the Arabic taught in schools isn't very enlightening. I enjoy English more than Arabic because I feel it gives me more freedom to express myself!
      Thank you for your reply.
    • Jan 23 2012: I'm in a similar situation here - grew up Romanian/ German bilingual, living in Romania but attending a German school from Kindergarten through College, watching German television, working during college for a German company - and on the same time learned English as a second language, as pretty much everyone else was influenced by the Anglo-Saxon culture and way-of-life. Although, I'm grateful for being thought at a German school, and influenced by their culture, and later by the Amercian one, I have to agree with you that my Romanian has become worse over time. I can tell you, this is not something I'm proud about!
  • Jan 9 2012: The ability to converse in two different languages provides the key to relating more congenially and meaningfully with those from two different cultures. Even my pitch, facial expressions and hand gestures change to blend with the unique verbal communication customs and nuances of each culture. I think mostly in English but would welcome the change to thinking mostly in Cantonese one day, especially if I get the opportunity to reside in Asia for a few months at a time. In the near future, I really hope to get a good grasp of Mandarin (which I find extremely different from Cantonese) and also give myself a refresher en francais. Most of my friends and colleagues are at least bilingual; if only we had the luxury of taking a few minutes of each work day to exchange foreign language lessons. Imagine the priceless, collaborative exposure and immersion opportunities for acquiring foreign language skills!
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    Jan 8 2012: Language open doors. With language you understand culture, you understand people and where people come from, from their perspective. So language plays and has played a great role in my life. I sometimes don't know how I would get around without them.
    It really brings you closer to the people you know and especially to those you would like to know. I have no idea in what language I think as often words in different languages come out depending on the topic. Some words have a stronger meaning in one language than the other. I grew with parent's as diplomats (mother Italian and father Swedish), have gone to French schools and travelled across the Americas and Europe. It comes all natural to me. I probably think in different languages. When I cannot find a word in a particular language I invented words making associations (it often works). You speak about 3 distinct worlds but actually I believe that you've created your own out of the three.
  • Jan 8 2012: I've been bilingual most of my life. I speak, read, write and translate from English to Spanish and vice-versa with equal ability. This is a very interesting topic, and one that requires a great deal more writing, but let me say this: both languages have enriched my life, but I have kept them separate. When I arrived in this country from South America in 1977, I realized very early on that full cultural and linguistic immersion in the American way of life was going to be necessary. Early on English defined my identity. All of my friends were American, and only spoke Spanish at home with my family. A few short years after my arrival I considered myself American. I became American. To this day I consider myself as such. Both languages, however, have been extremely important professionally for me over the years. There's a great deal more to write about languages, their use and cultural assimilation. This short paragraph might bring up some interesting questions and controversy. I welcome a discussion.
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    Jan 6 2012: I'm bilingual, but have become better in English than in any of me native tongues.
    What I find is that the language I use binds itself with the task I am interacting with.
    When I am in Greece I think in Greek and am more prone to physical actions and studying history.
    When I'm in Denmark I think in Danish and am much better at focusing or going in depth in discussions. I'm more prone to be thought-provoking and dismissive as well.
    Japanese makes me more playful and openminded. I also get much more prone to express myself poetically.

    I could mention more, but the point remains the same:
    The language I use affects the way I am thinking and my behaviour.
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      Jan 9 2012: "The language I use affects the way I am thinking and my behaviour"

      That's great! But I think you should try to become a TED Translator in your language. It will bring new feeling to you.
  • Jan 6 2012: If you live in a continent where there are many languages you have no choice but to learn and speak other languages as well. Sometimes it is easy to learn the second language which is close to your native language, and then it opens the doors to another language and so on. My native language is Armenian, no one speaks in that language but Armenians, and it isn't close to any other language. After studying two or so languages at the same time, helps me to learn another two or so language very easy, all in all today I can speak six languages, some well and some not so well. But no matter how well you study, you will always have an accent. As a total outsider, wherever I go, I get involved with mixed cultures and languages. Thinking only in one language always doesn’t work, as it doesn’t work to jump from one language to another in an instance. Brain isn’t a machine. Knowing the local language always helps you to integrate yourself in their community very fast and you become one of them, then you create your identity there.
    Think Global - Talk Local - can we create a glocal language?
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      Jan 6 2012: Wow! I'm fascinated by the idea of learning two languages together! how do you do it? And which two languages are easier to learn together?

      I would love to have a more global language, but I've always felt that it won't be a spoken language but instead maybe body language can become the tool with which we communicate globally?
      • Jan 7 2012: Ayesha, As you know how many language groups there are in Europe, then it can be easy to find out how your can learn them together. Germanic languages - used in North Europe, Romano languages used in South Europe and Slavic languages in East Europe. the two languages I learnt together were Dutch and English. then a year later I started to learn French and Italian - at that time I was living in Belgium, where they have three official languages (Dutch - French - German).
        After my studies I moved to Spain - Well, another language.
        anyone can learn two or more languages at the same time, it requires time, passion and ambition. After all, I could find out that best language teachers are the women.
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        Jan 9 2012: May be I have the answer for you. Watching TED with subtitle in your own language to know idea, what speaker want to inspire other through the tone, style, personality. Copy that then change the subtitle into speaker's language and learn it, try to master it. Imagine that you are the speaker will help you to over come your fearsome. Try that!
    • Jan 6 2012: Edwin
      Thanks for the comments. It is so true about what you. Learning the language is so important. Forget about all the people who say "You don't have to...they will understand you." The key is integration into the culture, not just "being there."

      I do not believe a global language is either possible or desirable. It is much better to stretch ourselves and learn another language.
      • Jan 6 2012: Indeed Michael, I agree with you. We don't even need a global language. There is already one. Esperanto was invented, but it didn't really work. I think they would better give another life to Latin which is the mother of all European languages. (I wish I could speak Latin). I believe that learning other language has something to do with our willingness to know other culture. that is the beauty of living and learning. If you have paid attention on my comment you might have noticed that I had mixed two words. Global and Local . GLObal + loCAL = GLOCAL . You all know the saying. "When in Rome do like Romans do" correct, they might mean acting like locals, but hey, When in Rome Talk like Romans talk. Above all, we cannot not communicate. We communicare more non-verbally than verbally. Our communication is devided in three parts. 55 % budy language, 38 % vocal and 7 % verbal. now you see how less we need to use words? so when I go to a country where I don't speak their language I model their body language. First walk like them, then talk like them.
        • Jan 7 2012: Esperanto may work in ways that are presently not obvious. I heard that for Chinese people, it is much easier to learn than English. Therefore, it could become a bridge language as once intentioned?
          A really international language is symbols and signs. Although, cultural contexts will always play a role in a worldwide understanding, as advertising reveals.
        • Jan 9 2012: Great ideas Edwin. It isn't just learning words, just like you say. In a sense it is learning to BE.
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    Jan 5 2012: My native language is German, but I daresay I am close to being trilingual with English and French, although I started to learn English at the age of nine and French at the age of thirteen. Although I am currently living in France, I mostly think in German, but certain expressions in my head are French, as others are English. I sometimes confuse French and English sentence structures, but curiously, this does not happen when I translate from or into German. I recently translated an excerpt from one of my theses from French to English, but I used a French-German, German-English dictionary to make sure I used the "right" words. I feel that my German roots are constantly present, including values and behavior, but since Germany does not have a strong national identity, I find it easy to switch from German to French to American culture -- and I am thankful for this.

    I also studied Latin at school, then one year of Spanish, one year of Italian, and I want to work on my Spanish in the second half of the year, as I am curious to find out more about the different cultural environments in which it is spoken.
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      Jan 5 2012: I can identify with the languages in your head bit, for me it also depends on the person I'm speaking to, some people just communicate better in their native language.

      Thank you for the insight!
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    Jan 4 2012: Learning foreign languages made me rediscover my native language, think about it, explore it and actually be happy that my native language is exactly Lithuanian.
    Roles that languages play in my life are hobby, passion, door to understand various mentalities and my own, great task for my brain, window to understand how languages frame us, mislead, maybe even fool a little at times and, of course, a skylight to know this world better =]
  • Jan 4 2012: I am bilingual. English is my first and predominant language. I am not sure it totally identifies me though. There are some things, some phrases, some ways of thinking that just come out better in Spanish.

    I love being bilingual.
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      Jan 4 2012: I love Spanish :)
      You're right in saying that some phrases just cannot be translated. Which language is your inner dialogue in?
      • Jan 4 2012: Ayesha
        I will take a guess it is English. Sin embargo....Spanish sometimes jumps in, especially as I pronounce certain words. It is a mango (mahngo) as opposed to a mango (mayngo).

        I will occasionally dream in Spanish, but not often.
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    Jan 4 2012: Nice discussion!
    For me two of the languages I speak - Romanian, my mother language, and German have been connected to separate periods of my life. I moved to Germany 6 years ago and went from speaking 80% of the time Romanian and 10% German to 80% German and 10% Romanian. Especially since these languages don't have very much in common I can tell you it was quite a difficult transition period but it worked out quite well. In case you're wondering where the other 10% have gone that is reserved to English which until now has not had any deeper meaning for me, it was always the language with which I could communicate internationally (as I am doing right now :D) and has stayed that way.

    After moving to Germany I still thought and dreamt for a while in Romanian but after some time (couple of months to almost a year, no sure) I switched to doing these things in German. All in all, language influences thought and through this your own identity. As I moved to Germany I would have answered the question of my nationality without a doubt - I'm a Romanian. But in the meantime I see how the German culture and language have influenced me and have to admit the question above is no longer easy to answer.

    Lastly, I've picked up Spanish in school and am looking forward to improving my skills abroad, hopefully in a similar process to moving to Germany.
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      Jan 4 2012: Wow! That's fascinating.
      I know what you mean by meaning, I find myself thinking in all three languages together sometimes!
      But what would you say language represents in you as a person?
  • Feb 2 2012: I grew up speaking patois and now it has become a necessity for me to speak english for people to understand me. But in the process of all this I am learning spanish. I think in patois and spanish in turn I am force to talk in English. I have nothing against the language but most times when I forget where I am I speak the wrong language and express the wrong ideas. I most say it is hard at times but it is interesting to know that you can be in three different worlds and have no idea which language to speak.
  • Feb 2 2012: My experience is slightly different. I deal more in culture than language. I have adopted, as Manue has, other cultural gestures and habits. It makes me who I am, the more I add, the more of myself I add. I believe our identities are not concrete but everchanging within a certain outline. In other words, we always have a solid structure of who we are, but we are constantly adding or changing the flesh upon the skeleton.
  • Feb 1 2012: I use French and English daily. I Learned enough Arabic and German to hold a conversation but I am loosing those languages as I don't use them enough anymore. I am currently learning Chinese.
    I am "half this, half That, with Those origins", married to a "half this, half that" wonderful man. All members of our small family were born in a different country. I have been an expat for more than ten years, changing countries at least every two years.I think and dream mainly in Two languages at the moment, plus in pictures.
    I love words you cannot really translate. "Mabrouk" is just so Lebanese. A Thai who wants to be polite and affirmative will say "na ka" no matter if he speaks Thai or in English. How about invented words like " bonjourain"! when you are polite in Lebanon you multiply the word by two by adding "ayn" at the end, like in "saartayn" (cheers twice!), some Lebanon in regions where French used to be widely spoken, people will say "bonjour twice" so they say " bonjouray".
    At home in a conversation with my husband, we tend to use words from several different languages. For example, We use the Egyptian "Malesh" to insist that that is ok, it does not matter. We will say the German "ja" to give an extra connotation to "yes". We sometimes use whole expressions in another language if it expresses our feelings or thoughts better.
    We use different body languages depending on what the situation is. I sometimes lift my eye browns to say "no" instead of shaking my head even when I speak English or French.
    Also, I am very careful not to make someone loose his face in asia. And now, I am naturally adopting this same attitude when I speak with non Asians.
    I have always taken other people s gestures and accents while talking to them. My husband knows who I have seen during the day from my accent and gestures at the end of the day!
    I try to take the best from all cultures I come across with. You could think I am loosing my identity, actually, I am finding myself.
    • Feb 3 2012: You said: "I have always taken other people s gestures and accents while talking to them. My husband knows who I have seen during the day from my accent and gestures at the end of the day!"

      This is exactly what happens to me. My sister, and later my husband accused me of making fun of the people I'm talking to, but that is just not true.

      My entire life, I have switched the way I talk depending on whom I'm speaking with. When speaking to Argentenians I switch to voz and che and dale....when speaking to Asians who speak poor English, I will imitate their way of speech....I mean, I stop using proper English, and totally mimic them.....something happens, and I become one with the person I am talking with. It's as if I don't speak like them, they will not understand me.....is it like that with you?

      I am good at picking up foreign languages. Including sign language. Wow, you are only the second person that I have known to be like me in this respect.

      Interesting.
      • Feb 3 2012: Absolutely! This is exactly how I am! I shake my head and imitate the grammar and accent my Indian friends tend to have for example. The most embarrassing thing that happened to me is the day I imitated a gay I was talking to. I think he felt I was making fun of him and at that time I was very young and did not know how to explain what was actually going on...
        I spent 8 months in south USA. I came back with a very strong us accent when speaking French, the language I was raised in!! My sisters made fun of me! My grandparents were shocked by my american accent, no offense to Americans, but I used to have a very British accent!
        Like you said, I tend to make one with people. It does not mean I agree with they ideas at all thus. But it probably does help me understand them. I am also someone who can have two opposite ideas at the same time in my head and find valid arguments for both of them. Would this have a link with the ability we both share? What do you think? I find this discussion very interesting and would like to know more about your experience!
      • Feb 3 2012: I Just started to learn Chinese with my chinese neighbor ( I moved to china recently). She says that I have an I credible ability to hear and reproduce sounds. That is very good for my self estime! ;) haha!
        • Feb 3 2012: "I have an I credible ability to hear and reproduce sounds"

          This is the KEY.....I hear and reproduce sounds almost to perfection the first time I hear them. It is like my ear is fine tuned. I still remember a Greek phrase taught to me by a friend over 20 years ago.

          Oh, I am so envious of the fact you are learning Chinese, how exciting neh? (Japanese little word I throw behind some sentences, after being exposed to Japanese language a while back).

          Time does not allow me to learn new languages fully at the present. But I am very much interested in Indian languages.....Hindi or Urdu......or even the Chinese language.

          I do believe that the next best thing to speaking someone's language, is trying to empathize with them, and making them feel understood. Something kicks in, I cannot explain it, when I speak to foreigners. I just cannot help myself.....and because of it I have had the most wonderful experiences.....I don't for one minute regret this gift I have. I use it all the time.

          It comes very handy when helping the elderly, and young children as well.

          I will think upon some experiences and come back to share. Thanks for your reply.
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    Jan 17 2012: The question, "In which language do you think?" was already asked in TED.com.

    In the beginning, at its very onset, an idea is pure essence -it doesn't come in any language. It just IS.
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    Jan 16 2012: Language plays an important role
    More language you know better you can express yourself
  • Jan 16 2012: I'm bilingual - I'm a native German speaker, but speak English as well.

    I made an interesting experience about the language of thought - not sure, how many others have had a similar experience:

    When I started learning English at school, my thought language was German - I would think of what I wanted to say iin German, and translate it in my head before saying or writing it.

    A few years later, on my first trip to the UK - staying there for a few days, I noticed that my thought process switched to English -- going back home a few days later, for the first few days, English words would start stream into my German speech (I found it hard to go back to 'consciously' speaking my own language - while my language of thought was still English). 2/3 days later, my thought process was purely German again.

    Over time, the switching of my thought process became faster - so much so, that my thought process after a while would automatically shift between languages depending on who I was interacting with.

    A few years later, I went for an intensive exam prep course to do the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) -- and during the preparation, something happened - my thought process switched to German permanently; but I wasn't translating in my head either.

    Nowadays, most of the time, I still think in German - no matter whether writing or speaking in German or English - but I'm distinctly not back at the beginning stage of thinking of what to say in German first and translating it in my head before saying it.

    Though - I have _nooo_ explanation on why it should be like that...

    Did anyone else have a similar experience?
    • Jan 17 2012: Benedikt
      Interesting response. I think you do get to a point as someone bilingual where there is no "translation" going on. You hear ti and you not trying to convert it into anything. It is just communication. That is an incredible feeling to get to that point. I had the same experience with Spanish. There was a point at which I wasn't doing anything, just listening. Nice comment.
  • Jan 15 2012: I am trilingual (French, English, Italian), can somewhat get by in Spanish, learned German in high school but can't speak it... I live in a multi-cultural, but mainly very bilingual (French-English) city! Often we speak 'franglais', and can't always remember in which language I spoke with some of my bilingual friends!
    I think in which ever language I am speaking (dreaming, probably depends what/who I'm dreaming of), but some thoughts/feelings are better said in one language vs another. It depends on the situation... and fortunately, in Montréal you can 'insert' a word in the 'other' language and be understood!
    Would love to learn Arabic, Greek (already know the alphabet), Russian...
    I've spoken Italian to my 3 sons from birth, until they started school (my 3rd language, but the language of my cultural origin, and of most of my extended family members who live in Europe). They don't really speak it anymore, but understand it. My eldest (12), is fully bilingual (French-English), and is in his 2nd year of high school learning Spanish! His brothers are following his footsteps, always watching movies in the original language (except Tintin and Les Schtroumpfs!) helps a lot!
    I find knowing several languages helps understanding people who don't speak yours as a first language but have to... Since syntax is different (in German the past-participate is the last word in the sentence, so you must listen until the end, otherwise you won't know what that person did with that apple she picked in the morning: peeled it? cooked it? through it?), and words that are similar in 2 languages may b used in a different way...
    It gives you a real advantage when dealing with people, especially in the medical field, where when in pain or distress, feelings come out more easily in our mother-tongue.
    Languages are so linked to cultures, that knowing several helps get a better understanding of the different worlds that make up the World!
    The more you learn, the easier it gets!
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    Jan 15 2012: I am bilingual, English and Spanish, but I want to learn more languages, Italian and Turkish, can not be my limits. I dream in the ever flowing rivers and words of English, Spanish and at times the bits of Turkish I am learning. I talk Spanish to my family that cannot learn English because their memory is wavering, English at school to make sure my voice is heard, but when all else fails, I speak, think and dream in both. After all, if you cannot say it in one language why not try another? I live by the dichos (sayings) of my family, the quotes I find to fit my dreams, and an ever flowing river of languages that I learned as an infant, trying to make sense of what the adults said around me, and I still try to make sense when I come across a gap, because my Spanish fades and I have to ask for help or get it translated into a simpler form of words in Spanish or English.
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    Jan 14 2012: I'm trilingual & generally think in my mother tongue, English. When I am in French or Spanish speaking places for extended periods of time, I find myself reverting to those languages.

    Edwin, I thought quite a while ago that I had created the word glocal. Finding that there are dozens of my name on Facebook, it points to a ripening of an idea may be born from many different places and fledge in multiple arenas to produce an evolutionary impulse. To apply this idea to language as 1,000,000,000 will be connected on Facebook by next year. What might be being seeded now for language as China has a population 5 times that of the United States.

    I am curious how population density and political power will influence the dominant business language in the early phase of the 21st Century. As southern nations become more integrated into the global economy, how will our language student numbers shift. I notice that many of my son's friend are learning Spanish as Mexico continues to suffer their citizens leaving for the US.
  • Jan 13 2012: It's a central role in my life. Has given me an edge and I think in the language I am working on. Spanish and English for me.
  • Jan 13 2012: I believe that language is a means of communication and different cultures communicate differently, for myself at least, I find that I adjust my behaviour with the language I speak. I also find that I think in the language I am using most. As for the role that languages play in my life, it is a means to expand my world. I only know two languages, but I would love to learn at least one more, to expand my world even further.
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    Jan 12 2012: i can speak 3 different languages as well. one is my local dialect, second one is chinese, the third one is english. i agree with you that those 3 languages bring me 3 different perspectivesas they are pronounced totally different. and but i do not supportthey put me into any deeper thinking.because they play diffrents roles towards whom i speak
  • Jan 11 2012: i started to think about a this problem too...and i agree! sometimes i felt like i'm a different person if i spoke in one language than another. One of my friends said to me that when i spoke in italian I seem more serious than i speak in chinese. I think the language changes your approach of people, maybe you seem a shy people using one language and friendly using another one. I don't think the language changes your identity as a person. the personal identity is more complex and u couldn't only link your identity to the language you think or u use. the language you think it could be the language you feel more confortable to use.
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    Jan 11 2012: English. I write most of my essays in this language, it is widely used here in the Philippines from Billboards to newspapers. I actually volunteered as a TED translator so that I can remind myself that although you already learned English, You still have to love your own language. I appreciated it more.
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    Jan 9 2012: There are two kinds of people who intends to study new language

    1. Language is just a tool for them to go abroad, study higher, chance to find a good job with huge income, open a business. With them, language does play a simple role: money maker.

    2. Language is not only a tool for them to go abroad, study higher, chance to find a good job but also to know new cultures, to make new friends, to absorb new knowledge. Sharing their ideas to inspire others to do good things for this world. With them, language does play a multiple roles: hope, belief, grateful.

    But saying that doesn't mean (1) is bad and (2) is better. Whether you agree or not, they are still one part of your life.
  • Jan 9 2012: I am fluent in both English and French and have been from a young age. My family was bilingual, grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts for the most part were all bilingual. So it came naturally and easily. As I grew older and applied my language skills in profession and business I realized that I would think in the language I was speaking in at the time. But I met others who spoke more than one language but did not think in both. I believe the thinking part of a language depends on how the thought processes were embedded in your brain. Because it happened for me at such an early age it was natural to think in both languages. What I find fascinating is that my personality changes in different languages based on the cultural influences. When I'm speaking French I use my hands more and I tend to be louder and more exuberant. While in English I seem to tone it down. Same personality, different styles, different cultures.
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    Jan 9 2012: I always think about this! I speak Greek, English, some Romanian and some Spanish. The language that I think it depends on my environment and which language is dominantly used at the time. When I was younger I would think in Greek, this was my first language but I also knew a lot of Romanian and I spoke it fluently, but because at the time I was in Greece, I thought in that. When I came here the transition was hard but eventually by the age of 10-12 I was thinking in English. Also, I took Spanish, around the time of exams or during class I would think in Spanish (not on purpose). And now that my cousin and Grandmother are here from Greece, I think in Greek. It honestly depends on the environment.

    I think language is definitely connected to culture, but I don't really know how to describe it. I have different expectations when thinking in another language, strange as it sounds. Each culture has a different character.
  • Jan 8 2012: I have grown speaking three languages - mother Russian and father Latvian/English. It was hard for me to distinguish between the three languages and It has left big mark on my personality. It was very bad at school in first grades, just as my two other brothers. It was real struggle to keep up with other kids, because it was hard to understand what the teacher wants from you. I haven't even been to kindergarten, so communicating with other people was really awkward. I haven't contacted another children until school.

    Now I perfectly understand and can speak Latvian, English and Russian, but I have accents in all the languages. Also I understand many other Slavic languages, thanks for commercials, Ukraine, Serbia, Bulgaria, understand Lithuanian quite well and German. Now studying Arabic and speaking German.

    I think in Latvian (native language) and if can't remember, then English, thanks to internet. It is really awesome to be able to understand so many languages. But at what cost? It is really hard even now, when there is no language I can speak very well that would fit me. They all seems strange. I forget basic words very often. It takes a while to make up my sentence and tell it, so communication is quite awkward. Sentences are made up by laws of all languages I have grown with (Latvian is difficult language with a lot of laws).

    Usually I don't even notice,. when somebody speaks any of my three languages. I can remember the voice, theme and everything else, but not the language the person spoke. It is strange strange world, for me and I am glad, that not everybody has same problems as I am facing in my daily life.
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      Jan 9 2012: Knowing 3 or more languages are good but we should better choose 1 and study it deeply with all of our ability. We know a lot but we don't master anything is just to make us more confuse, undecided.
  • Jan 8 2012: We Indians study 3 languages as our curriculum, English, our national language Hindi and our state language.And I like large number of other Indians, read English, watch Hindi TV and speak Kannada and listen to old Hindi songs. English is completely different where as Hindi and Kannada are also not at all similar.
    I many a times think in English. For some ideas, I get appropriate words in English without thinking about them. May be because my vocabulary in English is much better than other 2 languages. And for many other ideas, I find Hindi words for which there are no equivalent English words.
  • Jan 8 2012: As a bilingual speaker (French/English), I find my thoughts and ideas are influenced by either where I lve and in which language or context these were brought forth. Living in an English culture and influenced by european upbringing and education is often a challenge when relating your thoughts as an individual, to others who have not travelled or experienced other cultures.
  • Jan 7 2012: Worth watching this. a part of it is about the topic we discuss here.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-QS7Fo6FTk

    this comes from TEDxSinCity
    Dr Wyatt Woodsmall talks about the education system in our societies

    I like it I believe you would like it too as we share a common interest
  • Jan 7 2012: I am glad I was born in Switzerland. My native language is Swiss German. From first grade, I learned German (which is quite different and much more complicated). There is almost nothing written in Swiss German, apart from advertising and occasional books and of course now websites. The problem is that there are numerous dialects, not commonly understood. Moreover, the 7 million Swiss have four official languages, German, French, Italian, and Raetoroman. So from 6th grade, we were required to learn French. The following year, I could choose extra languages, and I was fortunate to have an excellent English teacher.
    From then on, I started to think (and maybe dream) in English. Sometimes I even got confused as to in which language to speak or think...
    With 28, I happened to move to the Netherlands. I learned Dutch in mere weeks, because I intentionally (and happily) was confronted with only Dutch conversations. The Dutch language is somewhat similar to Swiss German, so here was a conflicting area. Alas, because of the similarity, I still did not arrive to speak Dutch without an accent.
    I tend to learn languages visually, therefore the distinction between male/female (de) and neutral (het) remains a source for mistakes.
    By the way, learning multiple languages are a rewarding investment.
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    Jan 7 2012: I didn't start learning a second language until I was 25. It has been such a rewarding experience that I feel as though a part of me that was missing all my life has finally been found. It's been just over 2 years since I quit my previous career ambitions entirely so that I could go to school and study language every day. Right now language is my life and I've never been happier. I also hope that a third language is in my future.

    I think and dream in both languages!
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    Jan 7 2012: Language does play a very important role in my life. When I was young I didn't like learning English and always has bad mark because of grammar. But then when I got a chance to meet an English foreign teacher, I changed. Study English is not just to know its words, sentences, grammar but also its culture. With some people, it's a chance to change their life (go abroad, higher education, better job) or just simple, to know deeply about the world itself.

    Now, with TED, a huge open source for everybody to come, to study not only English but also a variety of languages with subtitles, to share ideas ....
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    Jan 7 2012: I started to Learn english Because my parents told that it was an investment for my future. but after a month i was there to learn because i loved the classes.

    Thanks to God i always had good teachers . especially my last teacher she was an incredible person . not only she taugh me english but also ways to keep me in touch with this language that i learned to love ...

    here in south america only Brazil speaks portuguese and all others spanish.

    if i haven't learned english i could not be here writing , i'd feel like an illiterate. It was my teacher from my course that told me about this website , which is very interesting

    My first video watched was about public transport in Curitiba/ Brazil. I live in RIO de JANEIRO and we suffer with transports. And we discussed it in class .

    i may have t escaped from the theme , it's my first time

    http://image.forumfree.it/6/8/9/6/3/5/8/1301607882.gif
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    Jan 6 2012: Knowing different languages and cultures in my opinion, helps us to understand things from different points of view, gives us perspective and we learn a lot from it. I think and dream in my mother tongue Spanish but sometimes I talk to myself in English. Great confusion..
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      Jan 9 2012: Threre is nothing to be confuse. Just study it with love, change the way you study it, searching for various topics to learn will help you to go over your great confusion.
      In fact your language or other languages is just "Old Wine, New Bottle". The more you know deeply about your language, the easier for you to learn new language.
  • Jan 6 2012: After i read the topic, I started wondering in what language does a infant thinks. The last known memory which I could recall of myself, contains words in Hindi (Aged 3 or 4 years). But that was obviously not the first memory my brain created, I must had obviously seen many things and heard many voices before, which i did not comprehended at that time, so my mind do not have those voicesmemory. Slowly my mind started to understand the pattern of the voices been heard. It mapped those sounds with the appropriate meanings and actions. So that is how I learn hindi. After some year I started hearing new words.That was english. First I used to map english words to hindi and then they would used to be interpreted by my mind. But now I speak english without any mapping to hindi. I could directly speak in english. For me it all depends on the culture of the civilization. Some civilizations are aggressive in nature, some are moderate. Now I call a moderate civi language as moderate and if i call a aggressive civi lang as aggressive lang. Now If I give a so called moderate language to aggressive civi, the moderate language would no longer be moderate lang, it would then be spoken in a aggressive way. I am from a land where hindi is not spoken in a soft way(there are other lands as well in India where hindi is soft spoken). Now when I learned English, I am again speaking the language in the same tone with the same harshness. SO as NAfe ChanZA said, I do not agree with that. Because for me the language is changing the personality not me.
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    Jan 6 2012: Being a person who's grown up speaking 2 different languages, lived in 3 different continents, I'd have to say that all of the languages I speak (now bordering on 5) have helped shape me as a person. Sometimes, I find myself switching personalities for example I appear more aggressive when speaking Chichewa than when speaking English. I mix languages quite often and end up speaking 3 in one sentence. Or speaking English in a southern african accent makes me sound completely different. Languages play a huge role in my life and i love being able to express myself in different ways, especially when one language has a specific word describing a specific action that no other language i speak has.
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    Jan 6 2012: maybe the question is what role does the creation of your identity take without the influence of any language?
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      Jan 6 2012: That's another fascinating angle to it, what do you think? Who would we be without language?
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        Jan 6 2012: my identity, as it pertains to myself, isn't dependant on language at all and has developed exactly like its supposed to. Language catgorizes, labels and restricts ones true nature. Possible the only global language to come will be a computer derived language that all of humanity uses and is familiar with.
        • Jan 8 2012: English being the newest of spoken languages, is the most spoken global language and is used practically in almost every application daily, be it in business, communication, medicine ect... I cannot see how what we have learnt, in whichever languages of instruction, has not influenced our growth, identity, or how we express our thoughts and ideas
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    Jan 6 2012: Interesting question. When I was younger, I spoke Malayalam, the language I heard my parents speaking in. I spoke and thought in Malayalam at that time. When I started going to school, I was given English five days a week, so I picked that up, and English has become my strongest language. I still know how to speak Malayalam fairly well, but I'm more comfortable in English. I think in English now. And there is a "moving in and out of cultures," as you put it, Ayesha. To me, English, is associated with school, grades, and work. Malayalam is for the home and church. A majority of my congregation speaks it. I often do feel I'm living two distinct lives. When living in one, I'll miss the other. Little things like that.

    I dream in both languages, and I find that strange since I think in English. But I'll take it. Excellent question.

    I have to add, I can read and speak in Malayalam better than I can write in it. I find it interesting, when I learned to read English, I just...did it. I didn't learn to read Malayalam until maybe age nine, and even now, I read Malayalam like I'm doing math. I make the connections (what symbols make what sounds) and I get through a passage mathematically. English is just automatic.
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      Jan 6 2012: Thank you!
      I can identify with english being your strongest, although I speak, read & write all three I still find English the most natural and fluent. I have distinct worlds for each language and I feel a different part of me emerges with each language, with Arabic, I become slightly more Emirati and so on with the other!

      I dream in all three as well but English is again dominant.
      I guess if I ever learn Malayalam it'll be quite mathematical for me too!
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    Jan 5 2012: My first language is Spanish however I speak other languages fluently and I guess, to a certain extent, that is part of my identity. I find that the language I think in really depends on what I may be thinking about and the context I find myself in. For instance, there are times when I may be using one language more than another so automatically I'll think in that language, although I admit, although I don't often swear, when I do, it's never only in one language...most of the time, I live in a Spanglish world...
    As for dreams, again it depends on what's going on in my life at the time, however I have sometimes dreamt in languages I don't even speak...weird, I know.
  • Jan 4 2012: This looks relevant: The gift of tongues | The Economist http://econ.st/ydVtJE
  • Jan 4 2012: That sounds like a great conversation in the making.

    A language is a window on the world; and the more windows you have, the better you are able to grasp the world. I grew up speaking Urdu and the local (Attock-Rawalpindi) flavor of Punjabi -- hardly two languages given they are almost totally mutually intelligible. (English came along in the sixth grade.) And yet, I think I get what you mean.

    I think in each of the languages I speak - the subject matter appears to be a factor. There would be others.

    The 'moving in and out' part is true, but I would like to add that your worlds move with you; your perspectives from the other windows never leave you, and I am not complaining.