July 27, 2015

Culture Buzz: In What Language Do You Think In Your Head?

The Thinker / Photo: WikiCommon

English is not my first language. Not a shocker there. But it is for some people who couldn't tell - and I will tell you, I've got a few many fooled without meaning to. Tap on my shoulder. "heck, got you fooled!" I can't help it. I was born and raised in Asia but I'm pretty fluent with the language and I can gab my way through a conversation without sounding soooo foreign and soooo fresh off the boat - which most "judgmental", ignorant, people think I am- just by looking at me. Tough. "Do you know English?". "Can you speak in English?" 

Right. Of course I do. Bitch.

To which I would get this "Oh wow. Your English is good!" 

I've rolled my eyes so many times, I've got the roll down to a science.


But you probably don't know this - but I'm telling you anyway -  that I also speak three dialects and semi-fluent with 2 other languages. I can hold 4 different conversations in 4 different languages and dialects at the same time. I have no problem keeping up and drives people nuts! Awesome right? Well, kind of.

A recent conversation with my English-speaking American, not-so-ghostly pale, sometimes gentle-giant of a husband stumped me. He asked, "What language do you think in your head before you answer?"

Huh-whaa?! The wires in my brain went berserk. I had no clue. How the fudge would I know this? Was it some kind of a trivial question that immigration would ask me at my interview. Wait. I'm already a naturalized citizen. So, obviously not for that.

Does it even matter what language goes rumbling in my head?

As it is, that one question made me very self-conscious - made my brain very self-conscious. Talk about psychotic trying to listen in on your own brain think! It's so ridiculous, it hurts! I would love to see you try it.

Wait. There is a disclaimer, it only works for the multilingual individual. Duh.

So, this crazy business is like spying on someone - except your spying on your own consciousness! I can't decide whether I'd be freak or be impressed.

It was harder than I thought. I had to be self-conscious to be conscious about my thoughts - which arguably, doesn't seem possible all. the. time.

So, did I accomplish what I started? Sort of.

It seems like my brain spit out words in mashed combination of all language/dialects it knows and get translated in whatever language or dialect I'm having in a conversation. Cool huh? It's like having google translate in my head. Click. Click. Translate.

I would be very interested in hearing from other multilinguals out there to weigh in on this "phenomena" and hear their own take:  "What language do you think in your head before you speak?"

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