Thinking in a foreign language

No, Martial, I believe the kid tells true. When I was speaking more than an hour German or English, especially among German or English people I concider that I feel and think like them even I make some little mistakes. Just every language has its own patterns of perception of the world and if you are included to this perception, you involuntarily begin to think in this language(at least if you speak this language rather well). And every transition from one language to another like jumping into cool water: it’s possible, but not convenient, especially if it isn’t spoken around you…

I’m beguiner in english, but I think in English every day and I just dreamed in English some times.

I had an uncle who taught himself German along with a personal tutor for about 6 months or more. Afterwards he went to eastern France for six months and Switzerland for another six months. When he got back to the states my dad said he would rather speak German over English. He also would talk in his sleep and for a few months he would speak German in his sleep actually.

I think it depends on the person really. I sometimes have dreams in Spanish and can remember it afterwards.

Does one think in the language? I think it’s possible but one will always have their native tongue there so I’m not sure.

I know a little girl about 6 years old who speaks both English and Chinese, and I’ve watched her play sometimes and she will speak in Chinese when singing a song or doing something she’s learned in school. When she’s playing as a Transformer or Cinderella then she will speak English.

Other times she will say something to her grandmother in English (though her grandmother speaks no English), or she will speak to me in Chinese even though she knows I don’t understand Chinese very well.

I agree with Nick, generally it just depends on the person. I asked a friend of mine about this the other day who is a native German who moved to the states when he was only about 8 years old, and now is 18. He says that he always thinks, and dreams in English. I think mostly because the only time he uses his German is with his parents or siblings.
For me I couldn’t ever see myself thinking in a different language naturally. The only scenario I could see it is if I was submerged in the country of the 2nd language for more years than I spent in America, and never used my native tongue.

Frequently the person has dreams about the more bright moments of last day.
Which language did accompany these events?

It happened with me. I taken part in the international conference at last year. During three days I communicated with members by English. And my dream was in English at these days.

I’m a teacher and often I teach my students in English or German even in my dreams or I explain in English some of rules of Russian.Sometimes I show in my dreams St Petersburg to my ‘dream-friends’.
If I had a good day before, everything is OK; if I had a bad day, so I have dificulties in my dreams, too - in all languages.

I’ve had some dreams in the languages I study. More specifically, I’ve had some dreams where I speak the languages I study, not the rest of the people in my dream.

It’s funny how in my dreams the words just flow out of my mouth much better than in real life hahahaha. Maybe it’s not as good as I remember it to be, but I remember being much more confident speaking those languages in my dreams.

After three glasses of wodka I can ‘speak’ all languages, besides maybe chinese.
It’s a joke, but if you are too shy, one glass of wine will help you ‘untie’ your tongue.

I think that when I am writing in English, I am thinking in English because I usually do not translate sentences from Japanese to English. When I am neither writing nor speaking, I don’t know if I am thinking in English or in Japanese.

I saw this thread during my absence from LingQ and promptly dreamt that same night a multi-lingual conversation between myself, my son, my late husband and my Spanish tutor! In the dream I spoke to my husband either in German or English, as we used to do, to my son in English (he doesn’t speak German) and to Berta I spoke in a most fluent and wonderfully accentless Spanish. Unfortunately I cannot remember what I said to her, but it sounded good!

In reality, like YutakaM, I enjoy writing in a foreign language and I am thinking in whatever language I am writing in, unless I am very much of a newbie, in which case I would translate from either English or German in my head.

I can not think in a foreign language, it is absolutely impossible (actually, I dream of native speakers’ speed of thinking), but I used to say to myself in non-mother tongues (even if I was alone) while staying in my friends’ houses or hotels in foreign countries.

When my English was still at the very beginner’s level, I thought of everything in
Japanese and later I translated it into English. It took me such a long time to do it
that all my conversation partners looked quite annoyed:-(.

The more I became accsutomed to using English ( actually listening and reading it ),
the less time It took me to translate what I thought in my mind.
( of course I am still learning a lot, and there is no goal for language learning)

Now I feel much more comfortable to communicate in English thanks to all the
LingQ members. However it is difficult to know whether I am thinking in English
or not when I am writing or speaking.

Because there is a possibility in which the time to translate in my mind has been
significantly reduced compared to those days, and that’s why I feel as if I were
thinking in English.

Anyway many thanks for such an interesting topic.

I suppose that “simultaneous” interpreters can think in two languages simultaneously.

“The interpreter is both listening and speaking at the same time.”

Of course, it goes without thinking that simultaneous interpreters are not supposed to speak two languages at the same time.

If you lost your words completely, you could not think logically, even if you can pretend to be thinking about something.

I live in Germany but it’s normal that I think in different languages during daytime. My favourite thinking languages - besides German - are Dutch and English. But I can also manipulate my thoughts for example, if I know that I have an appointment with my friend for my Italian conversation group or want to visit my Esperanto group then I often choose to think in Italian or Esperanto on my way to the meeting location. When I speak to people in different languages on Skype then I continue thinking in these languages afterwards. So my way of thinking is quite multilingual and most of the time this multilinguality comes automatically.


When I have spoken English for quite a while, I spontaneously start speaking in English instead of Dutch (kinda weird). I don’t think I am thinking in Dutch then, but rather in English.

Sometimes, when I do not know how to express myself clearly in English (unknown vocabulary), I always go back to Dutch and try to find the word in Dutch to subsequently translate it. But when I’m just speaking English, there’s no Dutch involved!!