How often do you use your non-native language(s)?


I guess these days I’m not using my mothertongue (Dutch) that much. I’ve been locked up at home with my laptop for the past few months and most people I talk to online speak English.
Of course I need to go out for groceries now and then, but those conversations usually don’t go much further than:

  • Hello
  • Hello
  • Do you have a bonus card?
  • Yes/no
  • That’s €…,…, please.
  • Here you are
  • Do you collect saving stamps for the tableware/day trips/towels/children’s books/whatever?
  • Yes/no
  • Do you want a receipt?
  • Yes/no
  • I wish you a great evening/weekend/whatever
  • Thanks. Same to you!
  • Thanks.
  • Bye
  • Bye

And that’s about all the Dutch I use these days. Well, of course I do sub into Dutch, but really speaking? Not much.

As for my other non-native languages … I guess most of them get neglected, unfortunately. Some I’m still trying to learn or refresh, but it’s hard to keep up with all of them.


Do you know that feeling when you used English so much online (written and spoken form) that you get the feeling to forget your own language or by accident talk to people with the same native language like you in English too? :sweat_smile:


My native language is Greek while I can use English quite as well. I prefer watching series with English subtitles and read in English. I write books in English as a hobby (I never liked writing essays in Greek). My friend is the same and sometimes we talk in both languages. She could say something in English and I would answer in Greek and vice versa.:rofl: A couple of times people would look at us and couldn’t understand if we were Greek or tourists.


Sometimes my head thinks the Dutch word, but my hand types the English one! :rofl:


When I was living in Finland, one of my flatmates was an Italian who was born and raised in Germany. When she was on the phone with her mom I would constantly hear her switch from German to Italian and back! :de::it::de::it::de::it::de::it::de::it::de::it::de::it::de::it:


I’m nowadays like @mirjam_465 where I only speak Dutch in the supermarket and shops. On the internet I use English most of the time with sometimes some other languages depending on the situation. At home I speak mostly English because my housemate is Italian and doesn’t understand Dutch. She is learning it though because she wants to stay in the Netherlands so sometimes she starts speaking to me in Dutch and that’s how she practices. Most of our Dutch conversations are no longer than 2-3 sentences yet, but it’s interesting to help her and see her try her best. I’ve also been learning Korean since a couple of years and for practice I chat with a Korean girl who lives in Germany, so our chat is a mix of German and Korean.


Wow, nice question here! Thank you for reviving it :smiley:

Since many years I used to speak only German/Turkish at home or in school (if I see my turkish fellow students). But now I watch and read mainly English on the internet because of the universal language. In my real life I use all three language and I didn’t even noticed this sometimes because my cousin would ask in German “What did you say?” and only then I am like “Oh” lol. With my family I speak mainly Turkish (that’s why my writing is not so good but I am still improving) with my siblings mainly German with Turkish sometimes and English only if I meet a tourist here which is rare or I switch between those three languages in my daily life :sweat_smile:


Or you mix up both languages in the way that you mix a word or use it in wrong context, maybe that is not such a big deal in Dutch but German and English have many words with same letters but different meaning …

Oh and when I read a German book but using English too much at that time I sometimes had problems to understand the sentence because I only saw the ‘English’ version (=meaning of the word) while actually it was the German wording all the time…


Do you have an example? :slight_smile:

When I was living in Finland, I was surrounded by international students, so I used and heard English a lot. Then, at some point, I was waiting for the bus to take me from my quarter to the city centre, when my sister called me. So she asked (in Dutch of course): How long does the bus ride take?
I answered: Half een uur. The litteral translation of half an hour, but it should of course have been “Een half uur”.


I think for me, it depends on what I’m doing. English is my first language; however, I speak quite a few other languages including Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Italian, which are the ones I speak the best. My mom is Italian so I used that often next to English; however, there are a lot of people that speak Chinese and Spanish around the area where I live so I sometimes speak Spanish and Chinese while I’m out and about. I think for me, I like to learn languages if there’s a chance I can help people or communicate with those whom I normally can’t. So, any language I’ve learned up until now is one that I use frequently enough to become decent/good.


I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever mixed up English with another language, but I have accidentally used Italian words while I’m speaking Spanish. Like, I’ll accidentally switch between the two while I’m talking.


Just like me! Malaysian but ethnically Chinese :slight_smile: I speak English at home, Cantonese and English (with some Mandarin and Hokkien thrown in) with my father’s side of the family while with my mum’s side of the family, I speak Cantonese and some Hokkien too. I also went to a Chinese primary school and then SK secondary school. Now using English all the time since I’m based in the UK.


Actually, I just came across a picture with the word “worst” on it. For a moment I thought they were talking about a sausage … :sweat_smile:

Yes, we too have words that exist in other languages as well with different meanings.

Ja = yes in Dutch (and German), but “and” in Finnish

The English word “rug” is the Dutch word for “back” (the bodypart)

“Spin” is the Dutch word for “spider”.

In Dutch “chips” refers to either “potato chips” or some kind of microchip, but never to French fries or all the other meanings it has in English.

A “duster” is a “dressing gown”.

“Panty” is the Dutch word for “pantyhose”.

“Smoking” is our word for “tuxedo”.

Brand = fire (outbreak)

Chef = boss (not cook)

Slim = smart

Trap = stairs; kick

The Swedish word for “good” is “god”. In Dutch and many other languages that word refers to a divine being.

Another Swedish word for “good” is “bra”. What would the English think of that? :wink:

The German word for “empty” is the Dutch word for “leather”. It’s also the first person singular of the verb “to learn”, btw.

The German word for “it” is the Latvian word for “I” and the second person singular of “to be” in French, or third person in Spanish.

I guess we could go on for hours, haha. :wink:


Yes, your examples are what I meant. It confuses me more in written texts, e.g. in books, articles because of same writing while in spoken form (conversation, TV shows) it’s not such a problem because of different pronouncing but it can be a problem when a word may look the same but is different pronounced and you just have ‘another’ language in mind.

I once had a talk with my mother about a TV show from UK with ‘Bay’ (something, title was slightly longer) but at that time I was watching many Chinese shows and practicing some Chinese words/pronouncing so I just said it in the Chinese way of ‘bai’ instead of the English ‘bey’ (I really dislike the e/a exchange of English, it’s always confusing for the way words in German are pronounced; I somehow have less problems with using French/Latein and for Chinese I only have to remember sign + sound - and mainly ignoring pinyin because pinyin ist just English focused somehow so it is no help for speaking Chinese as a native German speaker). I recently discovered that couple of times the pinyin version Cantonese use is closer to how a German speaker would say it as ‘tip’ how to pronounce certain signs (of course it would sound more like Mandarin then and not like Cantonese because pinyin is always more sticked to English).

house - Haus
eye - Auge, Ei (Klang)
egg - Ei, Eck (Klang)
shine - scheinen, Schein (Klang)
my - mein; Mai (Klang)

Some examples of words with addition of how it’s spoken/sounds in German. I think that’s why I don’t like English. It needs much more concentration than other languages because of that and I think it’s only possible to use it more freely when you (as German native) are able ‘to forget’ all German for the moment you’re using English. That’s maybe also something that makes it hard for school kids that are still learning German grammar etc. and English at young age/same time.


We have the same word for egg as German, though it sounds slightly different. However, in Finnish the word “ei” means “no” in the third person singular. Yes, in Finnish “no” is a verb, which has different forms for all persons. The first person singular of “no” is “en”, which is our word for “and”. The first person plural is “emme”, which is very close to “emmer”, our word for bucket.

So when you hear a Chinese word, you can immediately picture the Chinese character in your mind?

English might be the most inconsequent language there is when it comes to pronunciation. Although the way they pronounce the “a” is actually a Danish influence.


Haha, I once knew a teacher, no language teacher though, she used to write short stories in a group I was as well. She said about the English language - it is barbaric, and she refused to use any loan word from English in German. The funny thing is when she let younger girls or boys talk, she used the German word, a kid now would never use, because it wouldn’t even know about it. She was in her late 60’s and wouldn’t listen if we others said that the “talk” of the youngsters sounded weird since we never hear young kids using this vocabulary.


:rofl: She’s right! English is the biggest bastard language around! It takes words from so many other languages, chews them us and uses them in new ways.

I grew up in California, USA so I spoke English at home, but I later realized it was heavily influenced with ancestral Irish (gaelic) loan words. My neighborhood languages were Spanish and Tagalog. My mom grew up in an Italian neighborhood so those loan words are thrown in too…so that was a very interesting language mixture and I DO switch languages mid sentence. ( I only realize it when my ‘victim listener’ wears a confused expression. :laughing: :face_with_hand_over_mouth: :sunglasses: ) I am not fluent in Spanish or Tagalog but I understand a whole lot more than I can speak… and I have a ‘weird’ Spanish accent that Spanish speakers in Idaho can’t place and find intriguing. :smile: It’s not an American accent. It is a mixture of Puerto Rican and California/Mexican with Tagalog accents thrown in. .:rofl: :laughing: Yea. Figure that one out! :crazy_face: :rofl: Later on I learned chunks of other languages also.

But this area (Idaho) is mostly monolingual English speakers so I miss my home’s international patois! (AND FOODS!) I moved here when I got married because the huge Bay Area was a bit too much busy-busy-fast-paced for my hubby. He’s a rural guy who visits the city but doesn’t live there. (He passed last year :sob:) Now, I can’t afford to move back to California because the rents there are impossible. The cost of living there is one of the highest in the world.:disappointed: (I miss the (Pacific) ocean the most! AND FOG!!! (It’s so hot here in summer!) I’m land-locked in the ‘sagebrush sea’, a high desert place)

To keep busy, since I’m retired now, I’ve been learning Korean since January so I can watch kdramas without having to depend on subtitles and it is starting to pay off. I can understand a lot of the broad meaning but of course, I don’t understand fine nuances.


So when you hear a Chinese word, you can immediately picture the Chinese character in your mind?

It depends on the complexity of a sign and if I already know it or not. I tried different methods to learn Chinese (including different language learning courses) and also talked with couple of native speakers about their opinion, tips, experience (like own approach to foreign languages and also learning Chinese signs as a kid).

Es geht weniger darum, Pinyin generell nicht zu verstehen/kennen als darum, chinesische Wörter/Aussprache nicht (primär) durch Pinyin zu lernen, sondern durch Zuhören, Nachsprechen, Bedeutung und Zeichen. Inzwischen kann ich oftmals in etwa abschätzen, wie ein Klang in Pinyin geschrieben wird, aber vorher konnte ich anhand des Pinyin trotzdem nicht wissen, wie es klingt (es hing sicher auch damit zusammen, dass viele Chinesischkurse/Lektionen Chinesisch/Englisch und nicht Chinesisch/Deutsch sind und ich hatte dann zB bei Übungsaufgaben als falsch gekennzeichnete Testergebnisse, obwohl ich das Chinesisch richtig verstand, aber durch das englische Eintragen dann Fehler hatte). Nach langer Suche habe ich endlich ein Chinesisch/Deutsch Programm gefunden, das verschiedene Lernoptionen/Kombinationen bietet: Schriftzeichen, Aussprache, Bedeutung usw. und auch chinesische Grammatik von Anfang an, die in anderen Kursen (selbst solche, die ich bezahlte) nicht vorkommt. Seitdem komme ich zwar langsamer voran, aber verstehe den Sprachaufbau, die Besonderheiten und Eigenheiten viel besser und deshalb gefällt mir die Herangehensweise dieses Lernprogramms mehr.
Die meisten Sprachlernkurse, die ich vorher ausprobiert habe, haben meist einen sehr starken Pinyin-Fokus und ohne Pinyin kam man nicht wirklich weiter. Ganz am Anfang gab es zum Beispiel eine Übungsaufgabe zu einem Wort, das man in Pinyin mit Tonzahl schreiben sollte, aber es wurde vorher überhaupt nicht erklärt, welche Töne welcher Zahl entsprechen. Der Lernfokus lag also auf lauter Aspekten, die mit Chinesisch nur sekundär etwas zu tun haben und deshalb kam ich damit nicht klar und auch nicht weiter (ich hätte zwar dann Chinesisch als Pinyin-Zahlensprache lernen können, hätte dadurch jedoch weder die Sprache lesen noch sprechen können). Ich hab das jetzt auf Deutsch formuliert, damit klar wird, wie ich es meine.

What kind of method do you use for learning Chinese?

English might be the most inconsequent language there is when it comes to pronunciation. Although the way they pronounce the “a” is actually a Danish influence.

Ye, unfortunately.


I must say that, while with languages like Russian, Korean and Arabic I’m against Romanisation (for language learners), with Chinese I can understand the need of an extra “alphabet” (Pinyin) to give the student at least a clue of how to pronounce the words, since the characters they are traditionally written with don’t tell us that. I can only admire that you are able to learn the right pronunciation just by listening and repeating.
Btw, did the methods you tried even explain how to pronounce Pinyin? If not, then how are you supposed to know?

Mein Chinesisch steckt noch in den Kinderschuhen. :slight_smile:
So far I’ve only been learning online. One of the courses was totally focussed on pronunciation and tone, and indeed started with Pinyin. But they did explain eveything very well, including the tones and how they are written. It’s also easy to forget them again, though.
Btw, Duolingo doesn’t use Pinyin. After learning a few characters you get whole sentences written in Chinese characters, with no spaces between the words … Help!!! :rofl:

Unfortunately for a lot of language study methods are only available in English (or sometimes another “killer language”). And I don’t have a problem with English, but using a method in another language can have it’s disadvantages, for example: the book might have a huge section about something in which the studied language differs from the method language, but which is actually the same as in your mothertongue. At the same time the differences between the studied language and your mothertongue could get neglected, if they are similar to the method language.
Of course it also has advantages: you improve in two languages at the same time. :slight_smile:

Btw, the first books I ever had to use for Finnish were completely in Finnish! All the grammar explanation, etc., all Finnish. Luckily some former student had taken the time to create a word list for the whole book, otherwise it might have been quite impossible. Although in a way it’s also good to completely dive into the language and don’t get distracted by other languages (whether it’s your own or another one).


Yea, I see basic ones in my mind, like numbers and greetings but that’s all I know so far. (I know enough characters to play Mahjong :mahjong: (I really need a gambling visor emoji and some cash. :laughing: I learned to play Mahjong when I was a kid whenever the neighbors or extended family had a party the garage always had a bunch of tables and gamblers playing away) I think flash cards are the way to go with characters since characters are words. I have to admit. I am daunted by having to read so many characters :crazy_face: so I will probably be mostly illiterate in Mandarin but would be able to understand some of it in the movies, but my area were mostly (originally) Cantonese language speakers which is a completely different language. Actually… Now that Mao is gone and Nixon normalized relations with China back in the 70’s, there are a whole lot on Mandarin speakers now in the Bay Area. I learned all my early languages by hearing anyway, not reading.

It is the opposite with Korean. There were no Korean people in my neighborhood so I never heard it as a kid. I only heard Korean after I started watching kdramas last year. I see 한굴 in my mind when I hear Korean. At least 한굴 is spelling so I see the letters for words in my mind, even if I don’t know what the words mean yet. :thinking: So I am ‘literate’ as far as reading goes, but stupid in understanding Korean. :rofl: I have a long way to go. 나는 매일 한국어를 공부하지 있어요 - I every day Korean study am doing (I study Korean every day) :nerd_face:

When I am reading the show’s intros and credits, I sound out the title’s letters then it’s like a slap in the face - like DUH! I think it is hilarious to see English words spelled in 한굴. :rofl: It took me awhile to figure out “The King:Eternal Monarch” because of the fancy lettering. ) yes, I am slow, it just takes this illiterate person awhile to get it sometimes. :rofl:)