20 Answers

  1. In my personal view, a person does not think in language, but rather in images, which they then enclose in a language shell. That is, during a conversation about dishes, it is easier to imagine, say, a glass visually than to find a word for it. That is why we can forget a word that we haven't used for a long time, but we understand that an object or concept has a name. The question of the process of thinking in a different language is rather on a different plane — what language is used, so to speak, by default, when you need to say something. And here everything is very individual.

    If you take my personal experience, I lived abroad for some time in a completely non-Russian language environment. One of the things I noticed about myself was that I started having dreams where other languages were spoken. As for how I form my thoughts, it all depends on the language environment. If I need to speak another language, then I form my thoughts in the language that corresponds to the language situation. In the case when I realize that I don't have enough words to build a sentence or phrase, I can try to navigate among the material of other languages known to me, or get into the dictionary. That is why my oral Russian speech turns out to be a little ragged in some places — I can remember a more accurate word for the corresponding situation in another language, but in literary Russian such a word may not be available — you have to think a little to find a similar analogue among Russian expressions.

  2. A thought formed in a richer, richer and more diverse language for you personally will be both clearer and more thorough than a poorly digested thought in a foreign language. Such an idea can be interesting only when you can jump over the flat educational or vulgar cliches of everyday life to an unexpected metaphor.

    That is why from people living in a foreign country, sometimes you get as if deliberately simplified, unexpectedly primitive formulas of life in this new country. Ah, you see, it was he who began to think in a foreign language: his thought is lame, logical connectives are replaced by prepared images from the alley or the most shabby local newspaper.

    I have met several Americans in Russia who have begun to think in shriveled Russian: some of them are even afraid to return to the States, because they are used to carelessness and something sweet for them unbridled and swagger.

    And how many people from the former USSR who have started thinking in their own kind of German or English, with the help of which it is now more convenient for them to express hatred of foreigners and foreigners, racism, sexism – the whole set of ideas of the lower classes of German or American society that they would be ashamed of if they were left alone with a language

    That's why people who think in their native language (regardless of where they live) really think. And those who think in a poorly mastered foreign language usually turn other people's cliches in their heads instead of thoughts.

  3. After living in India for about 6 months, I began to think in English, speech began to be perceived as a normal conversation, internal pronunciation and mental translation disappeared. For my reasons, you start thinking in a foreign language when the level of understanding of this very language is sufficient for free communication.

    While the Chinese language has not reached this level, according to my estimates, it is somewhat more difficult than English. But I think it will be similar. And when I reach this level, I can say with confidence that I know Chinese.

  4. Using my own example, I can say that even though I don't live in an English-speaking country, I often think in English, because I have a lot of things around me in that language, plus I often don't notice that I'm watching something in English or typing.

    my brother, who has been living abroad for nine years, thinks in English, and they also communicate in English between Russians, because it is easier, because Russian is partially forgotten and it is difficult to choose words.

  5. They think in the same language that they are currently communicating in. I.e., if a person at work communicates in English/German/Spanish, then they also think in the same language at work. Internal translation eventually disappears as an unnecessary and time-consuming thing for the brain.

    And if these people communicate in Russian at home, the thoughtstream automatically switches to Russian.

    Bilinguals are much more interesting-people who know two languages equally well (for example, if the child grew up in a bilingual family, where the mother understands only the language that the father does not understand, and vice versa). According to their stories, they switch instantly and do not even notice it. That is, you can talk to them in Russian, and then they will turn to another person in Spanish and continue to talk to you in Russian again. They do not have a priority language “in their head” and they seem to think in both at once.

  6. An interesting phenomenon can be observed on the example of a person who has moved to another country – learning a foreign language becomes much easier.

    A person placed in a different information field does not arbitrarily begin to adapt to its conditions and thoughts already initially begin to be described by the sounds of the language group in which they find themselves.

  7. It so happened that for quite a long time I was surrounded by people who know more than 5 languages.

    The person with whom I was in the same office knew 17 languages!

    It always just “knocked me down” and delighted me, because I knew only one-Russian.

    And often there was the following-another person came into the office and asked the Person who was in the same office as me-they say, I'm writing a report and I don't know how to formulate it correctly in Russian…

    1. In French, it sounds like this…
    2. In Italian, so…

    How about in Russian?

    As a result, they explained to me in my fingers and in English, which I passed by at school, what they needed, and I spent a long time thinking about what they wanted from me, saying an elementary phrase for the report for a Russian person.

    After that, I decided not to study languages at all, because I realized (and maybe not correctly, but I'm happy with it) that the images behind words are just as different as the languages themselves.

  8. There are no generalizations or rules here. But based on my own experience ( I have lived in Poland for more than 20 years and am an ethnic Pole myself), I think exclusively in my native language, Russian. But not always, but when you need to convey something of your own, internal or your own train of thought, something independently conceivable. But if the question concerns the usual banal social contacts and the usual cliches and programs, then everything goes in Polish.

    So I think in Russian, but I exist in Polish.

  9. I have been living in Germany for 20 years now, and I think in both Russian and German, of course more often in Russian. Starting/learning to think in another language is quite difficult. But I think most people think in Russian. (This refers to the thought process.)

  10. Unfortunately, you have to think in the language of the country in which you live, otherwise you will “get bruises and bumps”, get lost and disgrace yourself. Of course, I mean the mentality. Each country has its own strategy. “You don't go to a foreign monastery with your own charter” is an important principle of living in a foreign country. But there are Russian diasporas everywhere, and that is where the Russian soul is saved, preserving its culture, language and traditions.

  11. I agree with the author that ” Unfortunately, you have to think in the language of the country in which you live…”. Once in Kiev, when I approached the store, I asked how long it was open. And suddenly I noticed that I was thinking in Ukrainian. Native language: Russian. I lived in Kiev for two weeks. I said to myself “Stop” and began to make sure that no more Ukrainian.

  12. It depends on what you think about and what languages you use. For example, if you study some new subjects in English at once, then it also fits into your head in English, with the same terms and speech patterns, respectively, and the thought process is also in these terms, especially if you don't speak your native language for a long time. Then you can have bilingual dreams, which is funny:) And you can switch easily in communication. Unless simultaneous translation is impossible, this is a completely different brain you need to have.

    If you start/continue to speak in your native language, then thoughts can jump, the main bundles are in your native language, and the terms are in another, simply because I didn't study them in Russian, for example, the names of some flowers like magenta, cyan, teal in translation into Russian have slightly different associations, I didn't even know them for a long time. Magenta – it's neither pink nor purple, I don't even remember exactly, but it's easy to recognize and imagine .

    It's easier not to even translate terms and phrases from the IT field, so as not to get confused, because, for example, in Russian speed, rate, and throughput are asked to be translated as “speed”, and this is confusion, so it's more convenient to think immediately with the necessary short terms. If you have just read a book or watched a video on the topic, then you can automatically continue thinking in another language. But I live in Russia, my experience without Russian was very long ago:)

  13. I speak two languages well. but I always think in Russian, which is why it is my native language. When they filled out the questionnaire in the USSR, there was a question “what is your native language” and many people mistakenly wrote, for example, Kyrgyz, but they thought in Russian and then corrected them – native language, this is the language you think in, and not your nationality, the rest at least 5 national languages you know, and by nationality not Russian, the language will not be native.

  14. They don't think in the language. The language is spoken and written.They think based on their mentality.Knowledge of other languages I think does not affect the mentality of people.The mentality is particularly national. Russians who don't even know their native language have a Russian mentality.

  15. In fact, normal healthy people of any tribal affiliation do not think in any language. Thinking is nonverbal. Language is a tool for verbalizing thoughts and communicating to the outside world. That is why thinking and language arose simultaneously and conditioned each other – their existence at different times is impossible. The thinking process is the same for all homo sapiens, but the results are different. Accordingly, there are a great many languages – about 6000. But there are only 40 languages in the world with more than 1 million native speakers. And two-thirds of humanity speaks only 8 main languages, among which Russian is still listed.

  16. My answer is based on personal experience (more than a quarter of a century in America). At home, in everyday life, in your personal life-of course, I think in Russian. But what else? Native language is not a horseradish in the garden. But at work, when communicating, when writing articles, I think in English. In terms of terminology, and in general in the scientific and technical field, my English is now richer than Russian. And, perhaps, when I read fiction in English, I also think about what I read in English.

  17. I believe that a person does not think in any language, a thought is much faster than its translation into any language. First, a thought arises, then the person thinks about how to present it to others.

  18. I have been living in Israel for 27 years. Not only do I think, but I have been dreaming in Hebrew for a long time. The first time I found myself thinking in Hebrew, after 3 years of living here, was when I joined the army. They were forbidden to speak anything other than Hebrew.

  19. Having left for work in the United States in six months, I was already confused in languages. After a couple of weeks, I couldn't remember in what language I watched the movie, read the book, or said something. But all this time I didn't communicate with Russian speakers, at all! At the same time, he did not know the language. It helped that he knew Spanish. I could clarify some questions for myself. Well, in the end, it was according to the situation. Sometimes dreams are in English, sometimes I can't remember any Russian word. But sometimes dreams are in Spanish too! Plus, I learned French at school…Overall fun!

  20. I have a pen pal. Moved from Uraina to live in Spain 6 years ago or more. Studying to be an engineer. So I asked him a similar question: the numbers in his head, when counting, he says in Spanish. But Russian is still the main language. I think it also depends on the age at which a person migrated.

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