Mixing up languages

Hi everyone,

For the last 4 years I've been slowly picking up Cantonese from people around me speaking it and a few months ago I decided that I would put some effort into learning Japanese. This actually caused a problem for me because I've been unintentionally mixing up the two while having a conversation. It would go something like: "Keuih ho zung ji わたしのネイルアート!" Which roughly translates to: "She really likes my nail art!" But half Cantonese and half Japanese. Or answer a question asked in Japanese, in Cantonese.

So my question to you guys is if you have any advice regarding this problem? Is it normal? Should I focus on Cantonese first and try Japanese again when I'm more fluent? 

Thanks in advance!

Apr 11, 2017 1:20 AM
Comments · 4

I can understand your feeling quite well.

Whenever I speak with Chinese friends, and my Chinese seems not to be understandable for him/her, I always find myself searching Korean words which I learned in advance unconsciously. Although he/she doesn't know Japanese, At least they are interested in Japan (so that they speak with me). But Korean is utterly out of their field. So the conversation gets more and more confused. And when I spoke with a Vietnamese friend for the first time, then, I found myself searching Chinese words!

Curiously, English doesn't appear in such cases. Probably my subconscious is noticing that the person I'm speaking to is an East Asian people, and cannot understand English just like us ourselves. But they cannot understand Japanese at the same time. So I don't have to use Japanese, cannot use English...Maybe this is the limit of my subconscious. And it starts searching words "not Japanese and not English" with full speed. I also cannot control this for now. I think the only solution is to stop "love affair" and concentrate to one language. But it seems very difficult for me. Because the world is full of wonder.

There's another curious phenomenon. After speaking with foreign people with other languages, I always find myself forgetting how to speak standard Japanese (Tokyo dialect), and speaking Kansai dialect (which is my mother tangue) in the middle of other district where no one speak Kansai dialect. Is it universal, too?

April 11, 2017
It's normal to mix up two second languages.
April 12, 2017
It's neither more nor less than an affair. Sometimes I feel that Speaking mistaken language to a foreigner unconsciously is as rude as to call my girlfriend by other girl's name. But if it were so, you can never start learning Japanese. However fluent your Cantonese gets, once you start learning Japanese, you would never fail to find that it gets more difficult to prevent yourself from speaking Cantonese automatically. What I meant the word "affair" was you must give up learning any other languages and choose one language as the lifetime partner in sickness and in health, if you truely don't want to get "mixing up". And as for me, -I say again- I can't.
April 12, 2017

Thank you for sharing. It's good to see that it's not my brain malfunctioning and that it's a common phenomenon. 

I think you're right, concerning the 'affair'. I was hoping I could keep learning both at the same time.

April 11, 2017