7 interesting things that happen when you become a language learner!

So if you read my last post, you probably remember how it was pretty much entirely inspired by a conversation I had with my friend who recently started learning Spanish! Good news, that friend came through again! My friends and I were all doing a conference call to try and make plans for the evening. At some point we tried to explain a funny thing that a French guy had said to us in French. I tried to translate what he said, but it killed the joke. The funniness was lost in translation. Strange, eh? I tried to explain to my friend how some things can be funny in one language, but not in another one. He was surprised, but I assured him that he’d notice more of this as he progressed more with Spanish. That conversation made wonder about other things that happen as a result of learning new languages. Being able to understand jokes in different languages that don’t make sense in your native language is only the tip of the iceberg. In this post I’m going to talk about the many changes and cool experiences that I’ve had and noticed since I began my language learning journey.

Some jokes just don’t translate over!

So as I mentioned in the first paragraph, some jokes just don’t translate over and the funniness can be lost in translation. Let’s take the English saying “See you later, alligator” to which you respond “in a while, crocodile”. Obviously the concept could be translated over into a different language, but the only thing that makes this saying cute is how it sounds and that wouldn’t translate over properly. I recently learned that French has something similar to this. “See you tomorrow” in French is “Á demain” to which you could respond “Á deux pieds” which translates roughly to “to two feet” See? It makes sense in French and sounds cute and funny, but the funniness is lost when you try to translate it into English. I’ve had so many instances where I wanted to translate song lyrics or jokes so that my friends could understand only to see the punchline get murdered during the translation process.

You forget to switch languages or you switch without noticing!

This very rarely happens to me, but it has happened a couple of times. It usually only happens when I’m doing language exchanges with people. There was a Brazilian girl that I’d talk to a lot last year. Normally, with other language exchange partners we’d speak English for half the time and then we’d switch over to the other language or vice versa. With her, however, we’d just switch randomly, sometimes mid sentence. Code switching at its finest. Because of this, I’d sometimes say that I was going to explain something in Portuguese, but then continue to speak English or I’d already be speaking Portuguese and she’d ask me to continue the story in English, so that she could practice, and I’d agree, but then continue to speak Portuguese without noticing. I always thought it was so interesting how this could happen without me noticing right away.

You forget words in one language, but not the other!

Yes, this really does happen and at the most inconvenient and annoying times possible! I don’t know if my brother remembers this, but I asked him one time if he could put my coat in the… the.. you know that room that everyone has in their house where clothing is generally stored.. “What’s the name of that room again?” I thought to myself. The German and French words were readily available, but I couldn’t think of the English word. After a while, my brother just looked at me, perplexed and said “The closet?” “YEAH!” I exclaimed! This has happened more than I’d like to admit. Believe it or not, I forgot the word for chair in English, but could remember it in every other language. I honestly surprise myself sometimes

You notice things in your native language!

Learning different languages really made me notice how English works. There are many things that English does very well and there are many things that it just really doesn’t *cough cough* our spelling rules * cough cough*. One of the many things I’ve noticed is how many loanwords English has borrowed from other languages and how many English words other languages adopt. Another thing I noticed is that we’re missing some very important words such as the Portuguese word “Ficante”, for example. From what I’ve been told this word is used to describe somebody who you are pretty much dating, but without the official title or seriousness. In English you’d express the same idea by using an entire sentence. “I’m seeing so and so, but we’re not officially together and or serious”. Wouldn’t it be a lot easier if you could just say “This is my ficante?”. Another word that we don’t have is the word “Backpfeiffengesicht”. It translates to “a face that needs to be slapped”. We need an entire sentence where German only uses one compound word. I’ve never heard a German actually ever use this word, but the fact that the word even exists makes me laugh. There are many other examples of things like this.

You start dreaming in different languages!

This one caught me off guard. I dozed off and awoke to hearing Catalan around me. I thought that was strange because I’d gone to sleep in Canada and couldn’t recall buying a plane ticket or any 7 hour transatlantic flights. The weather had also drastically improved and I was wearing… shorts? How was that possible in the middle of December. I soon realized that I was dreaming… In Catalan?! It was cool while it lasted, but as with most other cool dreams such as when I win the lottery, I woke up shortly after I realized that I was dreaming. I really like dreaming in different languages and it’s happened now in quite a few including Chinese which shocked me. It has also happened in French and German. I had a weird experience one time when I started dreaming in “Faux Korean” after falling asleep while watching a Korean vlog”. That was strange and I swear I hadn’t drank any Soju before hand!

You catch yourself thinking in different languages

I now have a few friends with whom I speak either no English at all or close to no English. When I imagine a conversation with one of these people or am thinking about what I’m about to say to one of them, it will be in their language as opposed to English. I thought this was really cool when I first started noticing it years ago. One of the happiest moments for me was when I was hanging out with some of my friends and was able to finish some of their sentences… in a different language! That motivated me a lot! I also often get foreign songs stuck in my head. One huge downside to this is when I get a beat stuck in my head, but can’t figure out the song name.. or the country of origin or… even the language the song was in if the song was in a language I didn’t know much about. This happens because I listen to a lot of music that I don’t understand.

Your personality changes a little depending on the language you speak!

I didn’t really believe this for the longest time until I first started to experience it myself first hand. In 2014 I decided I wanted to try and learn to speak European Spanish because I thought it sounded the coolest. I love Latin American Spanish too, don’t get me wrong, but European Spanish just has this weird charm. I’d been exposed to Latin American Spanish for the most part up until this point, so switching accents was difficult. I honestly probably sound very weird in Spanish now because of the two accents. Spaniards say I sound like I learned Latin American Spanish and Latinos tell me I sound like I learned Spanish from Spain. Anyway, when I made my initial decision to learn European Spanish, I hopped on youtube in search of European Spanish vloggers. I kept finding Mexican vloggers, but nobody from Spain. I eventually stumbled upon a Spanish Dating coach and started religiously watching his videos in the hopes of learning to mimic his accent and way of speaking. He was the only person I could find and it actually started working. I started picking up his accent and way of speaking. There was a weird side effect though…A lot of you will probably think that I’m making this up, but I started speaking really “smooth” Spanish and I started flirting a bit without noticing it, but only in Spanish. I left a few conversations thinking “Damn, that was smooth!”. Aside from subconsciously flirting, I found that I can be a lot more bold when I’m speaking different languages. I’ve heard a lot of other people say that they feel like slightly different people depending on the language they’re speaking. Let me know if you can relate in the comments!

So can you relate?

Well, that was a list of a few of the interesting things I’ve noticed since beginning my language learning journey! Dreaming in different languages is always fun. I’m looking forward to hopefully dreaming in Romanian if I decide to keep learning it. I’m also very curious about what will happen in the future and if there will be any more interesting developments. Will I forget another random, but basic word in one language while simultaneously recalling it in another? Who knows! We’ll have to wait and see. Let’s all hope for my sake that I at least remember the words for chair and closet. I think thats a fair goal to set for myself because it will save me from receiving more perplexed looks. Anyway, I know Everyone is different, so I’d really like to hear your stories too! Have you ever dreamt in a different language, switched languages without noticing or forgotten a simple word in your native languages? Let me know by commenting below! I look forward to hearing your stories and experiences!


This picture was taken in Rome, Italy!

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