Questions people like to ask foreigners, #2

Question 2: What language do you think in?

The last few times I’ve gotten this question, I’ve tried to explain that it typically depends what I’m thinking about. If I’m imagining a conversation with someone French, for example, I’ll think in French. If it’s someone American, it’ll be in English. Et cetera. However, this is how that answer usually goes:

My typical answer: [long analytical explanation of when I may think in French and when in English]
Typical reaction: Yeah… but what language do you think in MOST of the time?

… or some such thing.

My new answer is just going to be “one or the other.”

The real problem with this question is that people assume you think in words, whereas people do not think in words most of the time. We think in feelings, in images, in memories, and sometimes in words. And there’s no reason why French would ever entirely replace English in my brain, so the obvious answer is going to be both.

But it seems most people want a simple, short answer… so that’s what I’ll be giving from now on!

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3 thoughts on “Questions people like to ask foreigners, #2

  1. Another hated question. I usually say about the same thing as you, but no one gets it like you said.

    It’s kind of like, does a baby think in a specific language? No, because they’re still grasping language. But they do think. Or a deaf child who hasn’t learned to read? There’s no concept of language. The brain isn’t as simple as one language or another.

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