Register  Login  Active Topics  Maps  

Bilingual problem

 Language Learning Forum : Advice Center Post Reply
9 messages over 2 pages: 1 2  Next >>
nowayyy
Bilingual Triglot
Newbie
Germany
Joined 3364 days ago

6 posts - 7 votes
Speaks: English*, German*, French
Studies: Japanese

 
 Message 1 of 9
24 September 2015 at 6:03pm | IP Logged 
Before I go over to the actual problem, I feel like I should give you some backgroud information on myself: I grew up bilingually with German and English. I spoke German with my mother and English with my father. My father cannot speak German. I currently live in Germany. My skills in both languages are the same level, so my problem has nothing to do with this. My boyfriend is a German native language speaker and all our conversations are in German, and all our surrounding and friends are also German speakers. He is studying English at University, so he is eager to practice English and he also now wants to practice with me. He will start saying things in English and expect me to switch and speak back to him in English...just that I will want to talk in German and often do. Speaking to him in English feels very 'unnatural' and it even goes so far that I will not be able to think of words and that I will start to feel very uncomfortable. I explained to him many times that it does not work, but he doesn't seem to understand and thinks that I just do not want to help him and that if I just wanted to speak English with him, it would work. But that isn't the case. I now would like to know if this is a common phenomenon and what the reason for it is and of course what it is called.
Can anyone help me or has anyone had similar experiences?

1 person has voted this message useful



hrhenry
Octoglot
Senior Member
United States
languagehopper.blogs
Joined 3175 days ago

1871 posts - 3641 votes 
Speaks: English*, SpanishC2, ItalianC2, Norwegian, Catalan, Galician, Turkish, Portuguese
Studies: Polish, Indonesian, Ojibwe

 
 Message 2 of 9
24 September 2015 at 11:55pm | IP Logged 
nowayyy wrote:
My skills in both languages are the same level, so my problem has
nothing to do with this...

Speaking to him in English feels very 'unnatural' and it even goes so far that I will
not be able to think of words and that I will start to feel very uncomfortable.

Your skills are obviously not at the same level in both languages if you feel this way.

R.
==
1 person has voted this message useful



Speakeasy
Senior Member
Canada
Joined 2097 days ago

456 posts - 1067 votes 
Studies: German

 
 Message 3 of 9
25 September 2015 at 12:30am | IP Logged 
Hello Nowayyy,
My wife and I have a somewhat similar situation. When I met her, although she was a perfectly bilingual French-English speaker, because I had recently moved to Québec and was making a serious effort to learn French, she agreed that we would speak only French together. The years passed and, given the nature of my professional and social situations, I simply gave up speaking English in favour of French. Nonetheless, occasionally, we would find ourselves in a social situation where our interlocutors were unilingual English speakers and, of course, we spoke English with them. What surprised us both is that, when speaking to one other in English on such occasions, we felt quite "uncomfortable" and the whole process seemed, as you described "unnatural" to us. Some time later, at home, we tried speaking English together and, once again, we felt as though were speaking to someone whom we really did not know! After a number of attempts, we simply gave up and continued speaking only French together. To many people, this anecdote sounds absolutely bizarre, particularly as my wife worked in English whereas I worked in French! I find it comforting to know that we are not alone. I do not see this as representing a problem. As to your boyfriend, he will have many opportunities to practice English elsewhere, and you both know it. So, enjoy your time together in the language in which you are most comfortable together. Finally, as to the phenomenon itself, your post prompted me to conduct a Google Search under "bilingual couples". There are hundreds of thousands of articles that describe this phenomenon as well as other facets of multilingual families. These aren't problems, they're wonderful experiences. Thank you for your post.



Edited by Speakeasy on 25 September 2015 at 12:33am

5 persons have voted this message useful



vonPeterhof
Tetraglot
Senior Member
Russian FederationRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 2817 days ago

715 posts - 1527 votes 
Speaks: Russian*, EnglishC2, Japanese, German
Studies: Kazakh, Korean, Norwegian, Turkish

 
 Message 4 of 9
25 September 2015 at 8:09am | IP Logged 
nowayyy wrote:
Speaking to him in English feels very 'unnatural' and it even goes so far that I will not be able to think of words and that I will start to feel very uncomfortable.
This is certainly a feeling that's familiar to people who can speak a second language but aren't natively bilingual. Any time I have to speak English to a fellow Russian native speaker (outside of an English class) there's almost a voice in the back of my head saying "Dude, what's the point? This doesn't feel right, so let's just talk 'normally'". I used to think of this as simple intellectual laziness and/or my brain not wanting to expend more effort than necessary, but hearing about similar experiences from natively bilingual speakers made me realize the importance of social context in the use of particular languages.

I grew up in Almaty in Kazakhstan, a largely Russian-speaking city where many people are bilingual in Kazakh and Russian. I've heard of many couples who wanted to raise their children as native speakers of Kazakh and would try to speak only Kazakh at home. They would report feelings of awkwardness and discomfort, as well as the urge to switch to Russian, even if they could speak Kazakh perfectly well with their grandparents or their relatives out in the countryside. Apparently for them talking to one's peers who have grown up in the same environment as them felt most natural in Russian, in addition to having got to know one's soulmate through that language. I do also know people who managed to get over those feelings of discomfort and get used to the new mode of communication, but it does take a lot of time and effort which may or may not be worth it ultimately.
2 persons have voted this message useful



mrwarper
Diglot
Winner TAC 2012
Senior Member
Spain
forum_posts.asp?TID=Registered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 3271 days ago

1490 posts - 2500 votes 
Speaks: Spanish*, EnglishC2
Studies: German, Russian, Japanese

 
 Message 5 of 9
25 September 2015 at 2:47pm | IP Logged 
As others said above, not switching languages because of feeling awkward often stems from self-consciousness (f.e. when you know your skills are not that great) or pointlessness (communication would be more fluid in another language) but the issue can come from a wide array of factors.

I often find people tend to stick with the language they started communicating in and won't switch, unless others make them do so, regardless of native language -- as an English teacher, I've had many local students who didn't learn early on that I'm a Spanish native speaker, but would refuse to switch to Spanish anyway.

OTOH I have a cousin who needed help with his English but would only speak Spanish with me. Then he enrolled in some English classes... just to find out I was the teacher. As you can imagine, that was good for some laughs!

I've had my own problems with switching in the past (and I still have when my skills are not up to par), so I would advise to gradually force yourself to 'snap out of it' instead of sticking to one language and make switching grow as a new skill, so to speak. I didn't use any 'tricks', though, so I can't give more advice on how to do it. When I tried to help others, we did it in little steps and it mostly worked.

Edited by mrwarper on 25 September 2015 at 2:50pm

3 persons have voted this message useful



chaotic_thought
Diglot
Senior Member
United States
Joined 1587 days ago

129 posts - 274 votes 
Speaks: English*, German
Studies: Dutch, French

 
 Message 6 of 9
25 September 2015 at 11:48pm | IP Logged 
nowayyy wrote:
Speaking to him in English feels very 'unnatural' and it even goes so far that I will not be able to think of words and that I will start to feel very uncomfortable. I explained to him many times that it does not work, but he doesn't seem to understand and thinks that I just do not want to help him and that if I just wanted to speak English with him, it would work. But that isn't the case.


You probably won't like this answer, but I think the problem is that your boyfriend is right. If you truly wanted to help him practice English, then you would speak English. Since you don't speak English with him, then it simply means you don't want to help him in that way. You can't have it both ways on this.

1 person has voted this message useful



Arnaud25
Diglot
Senior Member
France
Joined 1887 days ago

129 posts - 234 votes 
Speaks: French*, English
Studies: Russian

 
 Message 7 of 9
26 September 2015 at 9:54am | IP Logged 
Perhaps you don't want to speak with your boyfriend the language you speak with your father: it's 100$, thanks for the psycho-analysis :)
2 persons have voted this message useful



Serpent
Octoglot
Senior Member
Russian Federation
serpent-849.livejour
Joined 4642 days ago

9757 posts - 15778 votes 
4 sounds
Speaks: Russian*, English, FinnishC1, Latin, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese
Studies: Danish, Romanian, Polish, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Croatian, Slovenian, Catalan, Czech, Galician, Dutch, Swedish

 
 Message 8 of 9
26 September 2015 at 10:37pm | IP Logged 
Yeah, it's awkward to change the language you speak with someone once it's been established. See this thread for example.

Edited by Serpent on 26 September 2015 at 10:39pm



7 persons have voted this message useful



This discussion contains 9 messages over 2 pages: 2  Next >>


Post ReplyPost New Topic Printable version Printable version

You cannot post new topics in this forum - You cannot reply to topics in this forum - You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum - You cannot create polls in this forum - You cannot vote in polls in this forum


This page was generated in 0.3135 seconds.


DHTML Menu By Milonic JavaScript
Copyright 2019 FX Micheloud - All rights reserved
No part of this website may be copied by any means without my written authorization.