how are languages stored in your memory?

General discussion about learning languages
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Re: how are languages stored in your memory?

Postby aokoye » Thu Jul 18, 2019 8:43 pm

manuD wrote:I find it more interesting to share experiments like the above ones, rather than reading theoretical manuals.This forum is certainly unique, with members speaking 5 or 10 languages.

edited because I just don't have the energy for any potential dust that I may lift up.

That's fair, though I do quite like theory (good thing I study linguistics). I do think it's important to present a wide variety of resources though.
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Re: how are languages stored in your memory?

Postby Iversen » Thu Jul 18, 2019 9:31 pm

Like aokoye I would also like to see some proper research reports done on this question, especially from a neurological perspective. But personal experiences may point to questions which it would be interesting to investigate with more rigorous methods.

Personally I can say that that I do experience some degree of interference, but I don't see it as a sign of confusion, but more as a strategy my brain uses to fill out holes in my vocabulary or to cover up that it hasn't quite internalized all the features of each of my languages. Anyway, there is interference so my language can't be stored in totally separate small boxes. I would even say that my native language is part of the total gamut of languages rather than a special entity, because it happens that I have to think about something in Danish and then it is an expression or word in German or English that pops up.

That being said, I do think that the center in my brain that deals with classical instrumental music is placed quite far from the one that deals with languages - otherwise I couldn't sit here and write in English while listening to baroque violin concertos. In this case the concertos are written by an Italian composer named Nardini - and apparently this truly delectable music doesn't block my ability to think in foreign languages.

On the other hand: if I tried to listen to a news broadcast in Italian while writing this message it would have a certain degree of negative influence on my ability to think clearly - and if I had been writing in for instance Romanian instead of English the effect would have been even more perceptible. Weak languages are always easier to throw off course, and the very fact that my active production is affected by babble behind my back in other languages - but not by signore Nardini's works - is one more sign that all the languages share a common space in my brain.

But cave: I have read about cases where somebody suffered a brain damage that killed off one language (or group of languages) while leaving others intact, so maybe those persons have another brain structure - and that's definitely one of the open questions which must be checked through brain scans and other hardcore techniques before we can say anything definite. But until there is proof of the opposite I assume that MY language areas are organized like a pizza rather than as plate full of sushi.

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Re: how are languages stored in your memory?

Postby risbolle » Fri Jul 19, 2019 4:49 am

Glossy wrote:
manuD wrote:There is also the question of what language we dream in. Or do we dream in concepts? I think both cases can occur.

Like most (all?) people I forget most of the content of my dreams soon after waking up. So I actually don’t know what language I dream in. Maybe there are no words there, just things happening. And yes, I’m curious how other multilingual people would answer that question.

In my experience and observation, dreams can vary dramatically from highly abstract to finely detailed in any aspect. The former are linguistically non-specific, the latter may or may not be.

In my dreams I've experienced thinking, saying or hearing specific words, complete sentences and even very short stories (also visualizing mathematical formulas and sophisticated mechanical contraptions, though those would all sadly turn out to be non-sensical in the cold light of morning). I've had them both in Russian and English, sometimes in a mix of the two, a few times in other languages I'd been going hard at at the time. I'm more or less bilingual in Russian and English (or so I'd hope).
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Re: how are languages stored in your memory?

Postby Gordafarin2 » Fri Jul 19, 2019 1:41 pm

I get interference when I'm struggling to remember a word in my current language, and it doesn't seem to matter how close together or far apart those languages are. I get Spanish words popping in my head while learning Chinese, and American Sign Language words form on my hands while I'm trying to remember Italian :lol:

I also get a lot of interference when I have to switch languages quickly. If I'm spending the whole day reading/talking in one language, I don't have a problem, but if I have just spent an hour reading Persian and then I try to say something in Spanish, it's a mess. Once my brain is used to one L2, changing gears to use a different one is tricky.
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Re: how are languages stored in your memory?

Postby tarvos » Fri Jul 19, 2019 2:03 pm

On a USB stick, I'm pretty sure I have to re-load some of them every time I speak them
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