Bilingual People Explain Which Language They Primarily Think In

I'm fortunate to be bilingual. I speak English and Spanish and have spoken both languages since I was a child. (Thanks, mom!) Want to know something really funny? I think in a different language depending on the situation. When I'm around my relatives or in an environment surrounded by Spanish speakers––let's say the neighborhood of Washington Heights––I find I think predominantly in Spanish. Most other times I think in English. Makes sense, right? And things get really interesting depending on what I'm doing: If I'm reading a Spanish-language book or show or film, then my brain will switch to thinking in Spanish. And if there are subtitles, I think in a jumbled mix of English and Spanish!

After Redditor Golden_mango asked the online community, "Bilingual people, what language do you think in?" people shared their insights. Those of you who don't speak another language should take note.


"I'm actually an Indian..."

I'm actually an Indian, but I don't know why when I start thinking and overthinking I always think in the English language. Even the arguments in my mind are in English.

the_novel_lover

"Only weird thing is..."

I speak Mandarin at home and English in daily life. I think mostly in English, but there are times when I forget words and have to actively think about their translations. Only weird thing is, when I need to count, I count in Mandarin.

whatwasimeantodo

"If I'm thinking about my day to day life..."

It actually depends on what I'm thinking. If I'm thinking about my day to day life like what all I have to do or what I have to say, I do it in Hindi. But if I'm thinking of studies, games, daydreaming myself in TV shows etc., I do it in English.

Basically the language in which the thing I'm thinking about is, I think in that language.

pur__0_0

"I have been learning English since kindergarten..."

My first language is Arabic, English is my second, I have been learning English since kindergarten and I think in English most of the time, also the voice in my head is in English, it is probably because I have watched so much more content in English than Arabic, but sometimes I think in Arabic, depends a lot on the situation I'm in.

ahmednova75

"As a result of this..."

I am a Dutch person, not from the Netherlands but from Belgium, meaning that other languages such as English, French and Dutch get a bit more attention than in the Netherlands (no offense :P).

As a result of this I know both Dutch, English and French enough to think in any of those, however French is my least preferred. So I mostly think in Dutch since it's my native language, but I very often find myself thinking in English for no particular reason,this happens probably every day.

Erik_DoeRusting

"The truth is..."

I speak 4 languages fluently and I get this question asked a lot. The truth is that I don't think in any language. When I naturally think, I think through emotions and feelings. Once I start thinking about the thinking itself, that's when words come in (and they can be in any language).

kvde

"I can't remember..."

I think in English but count in Chinese. I can't remember phone numbers in English at all. If I have to tell someone a phone number in English, including my own, I have to write it down through thinking in Chinese and then read it out to them in English.

Also some Chinese words don't have English equivalents.

radical-compounds

"Oddly though..."

Russian is my first language, but now I think in English. Oddly though, I do math in my head in Russian. And I try to think in Russian when speaking with the in-laws so when I translate my thoughts to Spanish, it sounds more natural.

rubberdamclamp

"It's like a mix..."

It's like a mix, sometimes I'll catch myself swap languages. But mostly not in my native tongue (only Cos I have much more exposure to it in my everyday life - English). Sometimes dream in my native language sometimes in English. It's really weird haha.

spacecowboy1004

"My in-laws..."

Depends if I'm thinking of talking to a person. My in-laws are all native German speakers and if I'm thinking about a conversation with them, I think in German. Otherwise it's all English.

asourgrape

"I wrote my thesis..."

Both. I wrote my thesis in English, meaning I had to think and read and write in English for months. That changed my thinking. Mostly I think in Swedish though.

brendbil

"It can be rather interesting..."

Both. My mother language is Serbian/Croatian, but I've been learning English since I was four. I started thinking in English way later though, when I finally was confident enough to have conversations openly. Sometimes I dream in both too. I'd be the one speaking English and the other person would speak Serbian. It can be rather interesting, especially when mixing both languages in one sentence.

genjalno

"When I talked to her for a long time..."

I use my native language when talking to my family, I speak English to my partner and gaming buddies, German at work and Spanish when I'm talking to a single friend (we don't talk as often as before).

When I talked to her for a long time I'd start thinking in Spanish otherwise mainly English. When I'm angry or surprised it's usually in my native language and I count in my native language, too.

Equivalent-Durian

"I think in whatever language..."

German/English speaker here. I think in whatever language I'm reading or the language of the country I'm in. So in Germany it is German most of the time, except when reading/or watching a show in English. But in the U.S. I mostly think in English.

ForeverPapa

"Most of my verbal thinking..."

Most of my verbal thinking is conversations (real or potential), and those default to "whatever language I speak with the other person;" pretty much the only person I have mentally tied to both languages is my mom. The exception is the ones where I really want to curse someone out where I wind up basically running through grammatically-correct fury in every language I can swear in which is... more than I can speak.

Silamy

"It's also interesting that it seems..."

I'm switching, probably the one which is used more often in given time period. It's also interesting that it seems some thoughts are more easily emotionally processed when I think them in English than my native language.

wavelength303

"I speak three languages."

I speak three languages. Afrikaans, English and Zulu. First language is Afrikaans, but 2 years ago I moved to Canada so i speak English a lot more now and these days its just a big clusterf*** of all languages combined.

Suck-Me-Sideways123

"When I lived in France..."

When I lived in France and my French was at its most fluent, I could think in French. The more I used French (and less English) the more I thought in French. I had dreams in French at that time too, and once found my grammar in my dream was better than my actual grammar. WTF?!

kentffm

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