Expat Life, Life, Studying Abroad

The 7 Worst Bilingual Problems

Modern Family is one of my favourite TV-Shows and in many ways I relate to Gloria more than I like to admit. I speak two languages in my (sort of) every day life and though it’s useful it is not just fun and games. I’ve used English and Norwegian as examples in this post since that’s the two languages I consider myself fluent in, but the problemsbelow are universal for most bilingual people.  Here are  the (in my opinion) 7 worst bilingual problems.


1: Switching Back and Forth Between Languages
I spend most of my time in England, but tend to go home to Norway for Christmas and the summer holidays. My brain can not cope with this change however, and more often than not I end up changing languages mid-sentence, speak the other language by accident or completely forget words  in one language, but remembering them in the other. It’s frustrating to me, but endlessly amusing to everyone else.

2: Reading or Hearing Something In Your Own Language but Having no Idea What People are Saying.
Nuff said. People can repeat things over and over and over again but Ze brain does not compute ze words. Y U SPEAK COMPLETE NONSENSE?! AM I SUPPOSED TO UNDERSTAND YOU?! ARE YOU SURE YOU ARE SAYING ACTUAL WORDS?! THIS GOBBLEDYGOOK MEANS NOTHING TO ME.

3: Words That Don’t  Translate Between Languages
Norwegian is one of those languages that has words that simply don’t translate into English. In Norway we have a lot for words for snow, and the texture of snow, for example.  And we have the word “kos” and “koselig” which are meant to mean something like “warm, cuddly feeling of fun” but can be used to say “this house is koselig”, “saturday night kos”, it was so koselig” and therefore can mean that something is nice, inviting, lovely, meant for enjoyment and so on. It’s infinite ways of describing something as positive and nice in one word. “Pålegg” is another one. It’s the word for anything you could think of to put on a sandwich. Do Brits have a word for this? I think not.

4: Coming Across Arrogant When speaking English in Front of Norwegian People.
This could just be a problem I have, but for some reason me having a British accent always makes people comment and/or send me a look as if I’m pretending on purpose or faking the accent. I have a slightly northern English accent because I live there and so my English has adopted this accent, much in the same way I speak with a Northern Norwegian dialect because I grew up there. It doesn’t seem like this fact matters to a lot of my Norwegian friends or acquaintances however and most of them ask me if I “actually talk like that” or if I’m just trying to make myself sound cool. I’m not cool and I wouldn’t bother trying, I just talk like this.

5: Autocorrect Shaftation
Not a day goes by without my autocorrect completely failing at letting me write what I’m actually trying to write. If I try to write English, it will correct my correct English into Norwegian. If I try to write Norwegian it changes it into English, and sometimes French? And If I dare to try and write in my own dialect Norwegian…. well, lets not get into that. Just trust me when I say chaos ensues. I’m also one of those people that type fast and send off messages without really reading through them. Don’t be surprised if I message you and “Have you remember to pille up the toalettpapir?” is what you’re getting. I’ll leave it up to you to figure out what exactly you have to “pillle”.


6: Realising You Have Holes In Your Vocabulary
As you can tell by this blog I can write and speak a decent amount of English. I think myself as having an alright vocabulary, but there are some situations where I realise that my English education has left significant words and phrases out, simply because it wasn’t useful at the time. If I have to go to the Doctor for example and he asks me to tell him where it hurts I will do nothing but point to my stomach and hope he has X-Ray vision because damnit I don’t know many words for internal organs in English and up until this point I didn’t know that I needed to know. Liver, heart, lungs, eehhhhhhhh, that thing really far in the back of my stomach to the left of that bone thing? Yeah, Doc, I think that’s where it hurts.

7: Accidentally Changing Your Accent or Dialect.
Last, but not least, the problem of changing your own dialect or accent. After spending a significant amount of time speaking English my brain can not seem to remember the dialect words or the dialect versions of words that I used to know in Norwegian. Sometimes I don’t remember the Word in Norwegian at all and if I do remember a word it’s likely to be the literal dictionary translation and not my own northern accent/slag/everyday phrase.  I end up sounding like a complete baboon; accent confused and slightly linguistically foolish.

Let me know of any other #BilingualProblems you have encountered! xxx


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