Friday, July 16, 2010

He and She: Language Mix-Ups

Because in Indo language there're no separate words for "he" and "she", just like in Finnish, after living here for about 3 years, I've started mixing up the use of "he" and "she" in the English language. I guess it's normal in a way 'coz in this case Finnish has the same usage of "he/she" like Indonesian language.

Another problem I've encountered is that it seems there are two separate parts (or compartments?) of my brain - the Finnish part and the English part. For example: whenever I work in a Finnish environment, I always try to use my Finnish brain. Meaning I need to focus on understanding Finnish and then using Finnish as a reply - i.e. using my Finnish brain. So, when sometimes foreign tourists come, I have trouble switching to my English brain. One time when I was trying to tell the tourist how much he/she had to pay, I mixed up the words, so I used both Finnish AND English (I said the first number in English and then the second one in Finnish). ARRRGGGH!!! How annoying is that?

I think it occurs more often now 'coz in my daily life I use my Finnish brain more often than my English brain. Even at home with R2 I try to use both English and Finnish - though sometimes when I panic about losing my English ability, I use more English than Finnish, but then the dilemma is that if I use more English than Finnish, then I feel that I'm not using fully the resources that I have on hand (I mean his being a native Finnish speaker). ARRRRRRRGGGHHH!!!

Side note: I remember one time when I was doing the training at the hotel, the boss came over and said something in English and 'coz I was using my Finnish brain and I was trying to think of what kind of Finnish words she was saying, it took me at least 5 seconds before I finally realized that she was using English to talk to me!!! And right away she said sorry and she switched to using Finnish again.

So, the next time I had to use English again, I had to literally take a few seconds to switch to my English brain before I said the numbers correctly in English. Then they all came out in English. Phew!!!

And I've started thinking more in Indonesian than in English these days - which is a shame actually 'coz it took time to really use English actively in my daily life. But anyway, what happens happens...another thing I realize is that when I'm stressed out and I need to count quickly and act quickly (like whenever I am a cashier), I find myself counting in Indonesian. Why is this weird? Because before I started learning Finnish, for years I had forced myself to count in English (even when counting in my head), but now I've resorted more to Indonesian than English.

Maybe one reason is 'coz Finnish has more similarities to Indonesian than English (and Facebook has helped me use Indonesian more often than before). After all, Finnish and Indonesian pronunciation are similar. Secondly, the usage of "hän" (in Finnish) or "dia" (in Indonesian language) as opposed to "he" and "she". Thirdly, Indonesian and Finnish use the same kind of statement to say "half past (what time)". So, instead of saying for example "half past six", we'd say "half (to) seven" both in Finnish and Indonesian.

What language is in my head when I'm writing my blog posts? English, of course. Well, just wanna let you know the kind of mix up going in my head these days when it comes to languages. If somebody has ever experienced something like this, please do let me know so that I know I'm not crazy ha ha ha...


  1. Don't worry about it! I have several brains, too :) And I experience many of the things you say you go through with your languages. It's perfectly normal. It's human.

    I don't know about your Indonesian, but your English and your Finnish are excellent!

    Bytheway, I'm sure you have noticed that we Finns don't often use "hän" (=he/she) when we talk about people, but "se" (=it) :D

    Hah hah, I like saying "puoli yli" (=half past) when I talk Finnish, as a joke. Makes people laugh, but also helps my students remember it in English.

  2. Mel, I have the same problem too. Don't worry too much about it. Our brain is an amazing thing created by the Almighty and it will not explode from learning (or using) too many languages at time. hehe.. It just needs some time to adjust to a new language, and before you know it, you'll be counting in English, praying in Indonesian, talking to your hubby in Finnish, and able to switch to any language you want in no time at all. hehe..I know coz I grew up speaking 2 languages and then learned English in college. I count, think, and prayin in all 3 languages with no trouble at all. =) Now that I'm learning a new language again, my brain is starting to get used to the new language, so now I, like you, need some time to switch one language on and off, but soon enough, it'll be back like before. =)

  3. Yes, I've experienced it too, Amel. :-) At work, most of the time we use English when talking to the hotel guests or even all the correspondences are in English. That's why whenever I receive emails in Malay language, I'd find that it's harder 'for a while' to reply in Malay and sometimes my colleagues and I would laugh because they sound funny. I mean, we're not laughing at our own national language, but the way we construct the sentences. But then again, if I am to write a story in Malay or translate something into English, I could do it better if my brain is prepared and automatically switched to the language. :-D

  4. Rita: I knew you'd be one of those who understand my problem he he he...Yeah, now I've also learnt to use "se" instead of "hän" even though at first it felt rude to use that word ha ha...

    Puoli yli? LOL LOL LOL!!! :-D

    Shinta: Well, not worried, just a little frustrated sometimes and I just want to know if other people have experienced a similar problem. THANKS for sharing your experiences! :-D Yeah, once you master different languages better and better, I guess it's easier to switch he he...

    CMG: Yeah, I know what you mean about having a prepared brain and about the "funny" sentence structures. If you're sleepy or tired, it's hard to switch to a foreign language he he he...

  5. Well Amel, you know where I am with all this... two languages are enough.. English and Finnish. I was talking to a lady today at the työvoimatoimisto and found myself saying some english words in the middle of a sentence.. and it wasn't because I'd got stuck and just needed the word in english.. it just happened. Weird isnt it. Well, the brain is a funny thing.. it can't do the similar thing on the same side of the brain at the same time.

    Try this now for example. Sitting at your computer.. keep turning your right foot in a clockwise direction. Then with your right hand, try to draw a number six in the air! You will find your foot changes direction!! Funny eh?

    BTW... You said... (I said the first number in English and then the second one in English). ARRRGGGH!!! How annoying is that?

    Hmmm... well actually I would find that quite helpful really.... :D SPOT THE APPROPRIATE MISTAKE?? LOL..

  6. Mrs. Rainbow: WHOOPPSSIIEEE! THX 4 letting me know. I've just corrected my mistake ha ha ha...I wrote the post laaattteee at night so my brain must've been working rustily hi hi...

    Yeah, you're right about the brain...and you're just SHOCKED whenever it does something like that, eh?

    Yeah, that's funny about that exercise you mentioned hi hi hi hi hi...

  7. hai amel,
    suka baca blog loe lucu2. hahaha. tapi yg kali ini, gue juga ngalamin sih. secara gue bicara dalam 3 bahasa. indonesia, mandarin, english. >.< di singapore, tiga2nya kepake, jadi kadang gue suka bingung mo pake yg mana. >.< so gue bisa bilang kalimat dlm bhs inggris, en then pas jumlah angka berubah jadi mandarin (entah kenapa gue lebih merasa nyaman ngomong angka pake mandarin drpd pake inggris!!)
    en kadang bener2 butuh beberapa detik utk mendiagnosa org ini bicara ama gue pake mandarin atau english. ckckck.

  8. Grace: Hey, THANKS for your message and for sharing UR experience. :-D Ternyata sama yah otak tuh kerja keras kalo harus pake bbrp bahasa ha ha ha ha...lucu juga loe ngerasa lebih nyaman ngomong angka pake Mandarin he he he...But then again kan cenah kalo bisa lebih dari 2 bahasa (pake 2 bahasa di otak) tuh salah satu cara mencegah Alzheimer he he he...