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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » confusion for bilingual writers?

   
Author Topic: confusion for bilingual writers?
legolasgalactica
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I'm just wondering if this or other problems ever happen to other bilingual people.

Sometimes while I'm writing (or even speaking), ill be going along smoothly when suddenly... nothing. The word, or any synonyms, that I need to continue that line of thought just doesn't seem to exist in the English language, so I have to backtrack and start over. It has happened enough that I've decided it must be patterns of speach from my knowledge of Russian that is bleeding through into my thoughts that don't work in English. Of course, I could be going insane or senile at age 30, but I prefer the the other option.

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MartinV
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It definitely happens to me. What I do is just write a word in my own language or write the next best word in English, put some brackets around it and keep writing so I don't lose my train of thought.

The odd part is when I talk to people in my own language. I'm trying to say something and the only words that come to me to describe that particular something is with English words. That's embarassing because some people's English isn't that good so I will have to describe it to them later.

One does not become popular by making people uncomfortable because they tend to think you're doing it on purpose to put them down, even if you're not.

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IRWhite
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Same here. I've been writing exclusively in English for a while now, but I still get the occasional mental freeze on words.

I usually try to think of the right word or expression anyway, because I believe that the more I push my memory, the easier it gets next time. But I occasionally do use placeholders, though only until the end of the sentence or paragraph (otherwise, it's constantly on my mind and interferes with whatever I'm writing next).

Also, if I have internet access, I often have thefreedictionary.com open in one window, and google.com in another (the first helps me with synonyms and word origins/associations, and I double-check usage, connotation, and idioms in the second, in cases when I'm not 100% sure about a word or phrase). I've also found that google translate has gotten pretty good for single words, but I try not to use it unless I get really frustrated (again, trying to train myself not to rely on external aids too much).

As far as words and expressions coming out in English when talking in my own language -- it happens to me too. Luckily, nowadays I tend to speak my language mostly with others who have the same problem (or my family, who get it). But I do know how people back home react when someone who's just returned from overseas after a long stay happens to struggle finding the right word in his own language, gets flustered, and throws in the foreign word instead. That person's pretending, you see, just to rub it in everyone else's face that he's been overseas and is thus "better" or "special" or what have you. (and it's even worse if that person hasn't been overseas, but has merely tried to immerse themselves into a foreign language so completely that it gets tangled with his own language)

So, if what you've experienced is even half as bad as what I've seen back home... I feel for you. =(

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MartinV
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Hm. I use the Wiktionary or simply google "synonym word".
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Robert Nowall
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Not sure of the problem...but I'm not bilingual, and my only real experience with a foreign language is learning French in school. (I can read it, after a fashion, but I can't speak it.)

Lots of times I do have problems with blanking on the right word to put in...usually I'm speaking and I say some other word, often one several nouns ahead in the sentences. Or failing to remember a proper term and coming up with some long circumlocution that explains what I'm talking about but looks really stupid when I read it a while later.

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IRWhite
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I've never used Wiktionary before. Just checked it out -- love the etymology and derivatives reference on there.

Don't know, though -- maybe because I'm used to the thefreedictionary.com format, or maybe because it has synonyms and associations on top of word definitions (plus it's all in a fairly condensed layout), I think that it will probably continue to be my main tool.

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Reziac
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quote:
Originally posted by Robert Nowall:
Or failing to remember a proper term and coming up with some long circumlocution that explains what I'm talking about but looks really stupid when I read it a while later.

I do this all the time, which is why "bang-it-with" and "onscribble-wither" are regulars in my vocabulary. Why I couldn't think of "hammer" or "pen" at the moment escapes me as well. [Big Grin]
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