June 20, 2011 by Kimmo Linkama
Caught between three languages
Having Finnish as your native language, living in Estonia and working with the Estonian language in your everyday life, and doing most of your reading, blogging and writing in English is something of a challenge to your brain.
I’m finding myself getting caught in the intersection of three languages. Sometimes it’s irritating: I can’t for the life of me remember my native language words for certain things I’m used to describing in another, and it’s difficult to switch languages in mid-sentence, like when I met Mark Schaefer in Tallinn and had to give my order to the café waitress in Estonian when talking to Mark in English.
Then again, they say polyglots live longer because juggling languages keeps your brain more active. There’s also a certain pleasure in knowing you can express yourself pretty fluently on any subject in three languages. Instant gratification, if you will.
But the point of this post is not bragging with my language skills. Actually, I’m a bit worried.
If you’re constantly switching between three languages, will it in the end mean that you will not be fluent in any of them? Or that you will mix them up, accidentally slipping words in one language into your speech in another?
It would be interesting to hear your view on this, if you live in a multi-language environment. Let me know in the comments! Thanks.