Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Bowl of Mixed Languages

I think since last year (or perhaps even longer than that) I feel that my English ability has getting weaker and weaker. I remember when I first moved here and I could express myself in spoken English much more eloquently and quickly than now. These days there are times when these problems occur:

1. I want to say something in English, but my brain only comes up with the object or the meaning of the word in my brain and I struggle to find the English term.

2. More often than not, my brain can only remember the Indonesian term of the word, though sometimes my brain can only produce the image of the object without even remembering the Indonesian term.

3. Sometimes my brain can only remember the Finnish word, though other times it remembers both the Indonesian and Finnish word without remembering the English word.

Of course in most cases in the end I can still come up with the English word, but it takes (a much longer) time for my brain to search for that word - whereas when I just moved here, that word would mostly be the first word that popped up in my head 'coz I had been mostly thinking in English.

Due to the fact that Finnish pronunciation is more similar to Indonesian pronunciation, I also had some bits of trouble after doing the training in the library last year 'coz I realized that my tongue had reverted to "Indo/Finnish" - e.g. when I tried saying some specific English words, the pronunciation sounded more like "Indo/Finnish". I was SHOCKED!!!

To those of you who know and use at least two foreign languages in daily life, how do you make sure that you still nurture the ability to use those languages equally without letting the other one suffer? Of course it'd help if I get to meet different people regularly equally - meaning where I get to interact with different people purely in Finnish and purely in English regularly, but 'coz that's not the case, I fear that my English ability has suffered greatly (esp. compared to the time when I was at the uni, when I was still actively learning about grammar and stuff).

That's my dilemma now. I don't want to completely use Finnish with R2 'coz then I get less chance to practise my English, but I DO need to use my Finnish with him anyway. I've tried forcing myself to think in Finnish every now and then (even if it means I only think of some short phrases or 1-2 short sentences), but that means that those times I usually spend thinking in English have now been converted to Finnish. It would help if I start thinking in Finnish AND also translating those thoughts in English, but that takes time and energy...or maybe I should try translating all my English posts to Finnish? *gasp* That'd definitely be so tiring he he...

Anyway, I'm just trying to find the best way to balance myself inside this bowl of mixed languages that sometimes frustrates me. I have no problem keeping my Indonesian ability intact 'coz it's my mother tongue. It's my English ability that I'm worried about. I want to keep nurturing my English AND Finnish ability - and if possible I want to get better at both. Oh well...we'll see how it goes...


  1. I found myself in your post. You were exactly talking about what i've been suffering since months.
    At home and outside i have to speak in English, with my parents i have to speak in Turkish which is getting weaker and weaker each day. And with my mother in law i have to speak in German on the phone.
    A few days ago, i wanted to call a Turkish bank customer service for an issue, and i just sucked. I couldn't find the right terms to use and i went bright red after i hang off the phone. I am limited with my mother tongue which i don't want at all. Ok my German and English is getting better by practising it but what should i do to use 3 of them correctly?:)

  2. Burcu: I'm GLAD I'm not the only one who feels that way...but you're right, I also have NO idea how to nurture all three of them regularly so that none of them suffers too much. Ugh...HUGE HUGS, Burcu...don't feel bad about the language mix up 'coz I know exactly how you feel...don't forget to be kind to yourself, OK?

  3. You're deffinitely not the only one who feels that way... my brain is a mess. When I was in Spain for the summer, I partially thought in English, partially in Spanish and on rare occasions in Czech. I realised that I was missing basic English words! These days I think exclusively in English, but I feel like I'm only using very simple words, my Spanish became rather passive although I was able to speak it fluently in the summer, and my Czech is rather questionable... when I speak to my parents on Skype, they often tell me that what I'm saying doesn't really work in Czech, because although it makes sense, it sounds odd, as I'm directly translating it from English... in other words, instead of knowing several languages, I'm not even fluent in my native one at the moment!

  4. Bitter Chocolate: THANKS for sharing. So from your experience and Burcu's, it seems that both of you have trouble with your mother tongue. I think I still don't have trouble with my mother tongue 'coz I still use plenty of Indo language with my closest friends (through email) and with many people through Facebook. So it's my English ability that suffers now...

    My, my...I hope other people also share their experiences and give us tips to help us nurture all the different languages, including our mother tongue he he...

    And I understand what you mean about your Czech sounds odd 'coz you translate it directly from English. That's one reason I want to start to think more in Finnish 'coz I don't want my Finnish to sound like it's translated directly from English - but that means my English WILL suffer even more. Ugh...

  5. Hi Amel,

    As we have discussed privately, I have seen some changes to the way you write in English.. mainly in regards to tense usage or some words simply missing. I think we all do this from time to time.

    However, overall Amel, you really have nothing to concern yourself over as both your English and Finnish are excellent... even if you do not think so.

    I know that my English (native) has suffered from learning Finnish and naturally, normally, my English is excellent. I love writing in English, spotting mistakes in books etc is a rather sad forte of mine ... but there have been oh so many times of late, when my old grey cells simply cannot drag up the word that I am searching for. Now, part of that might be my age, but I am sure it is also because of learning Finnish.

    I am also finding that due to the Finnish structure having a different placement of words within a sentence, I am occasionally putting English words in an order that I never would have done prior to learning Finnish! Worse still, I often say them that way too! Funny how the brain works is it not?

    Little by little it will sort itself out. :D

    You know that you always have me to chat with, one to one in English and in some naff Finnish too for that matter! :D I am only around the corner! x Love Michelle x

  6. Mrs. Rainbow: HI HI HI...missing words are indeed the right words to describe what I've been feeling. It's at the tip of my tongue, but it takes time to get there ugh ugh...

    THANKS for your compliment on my language abilities...and yeah, I also experience a similar problem: using weird English grammar or word order due to the influence of learning Finnish ha ha...Funny and frustrating at the same time. :-D

    And yeah, I know you're always there for me, THANKS for that. :-D

  7. do you think you have any extra time to read and write more English? wouldn't that help your English more??
    Just a thought.

  8. I wonder if it would help at all if you listened to English radio via the internet. I used to do that to keep up my French and Spanish while I pottered about my apartment doing chores and i think just having the language filter into my subconscious helped. Now of course I am completely useless at both languages ;-)

  9. ChicagoWing: I dedicate my spare time to read Finnish novels, but I do read lots of English blogs. THANKS for the idea, though...let's see what I can do...maybe I should spend a little bit of time to read English novels too during the weekend he he...

    Fish: THANKS for the idea...I still listen to English while we watch our fave TV series almost every night and when we watch movies at home, but maybe I should listen to English radio too. :-D