A question of thought

What language do you think in?

Weird question, isn’t it? It’s been bothering me for a while—especially since I saw the film What Women Want where Mel Gibson can hear women’s thoughts. Well, leave alone language, I don’t think in sentences! At least not in the well-formed, grammatically correct, complete sentences the women in the film did.

I seem to think in… well, it’s hard to describe it… in sort of half-formed, semi-articulated ideas and images. Unless I’m imagining a conversation that has to take place in a specific language, I also think in English, I guess. That might sound funny as English is not my native tongue, but it is the language I’m most comfortable with and most fluent in.

Yep, I can read, write, speak Bengali (mother-tongue; had no choice about it!) and Hindi (national language; forced down your throat at school) pretty okay, but people blanche when they hear my Bong, and Hindi I always associate with fighting with the horrible people of Delhi! Anyway, I have to speak English with the Significant Other as he only speaks Hindi otherwise, and the kind that makes you need a dictionary every second word. I also speak English with my mother quite a bit, as my Bengali makes her feel positively faint!

It’s silly, but I’d like to know what other people think in and how!


8 Replies to “A question of thought”

  1. Hmmm…it may sound a bit quirky but I do tend to think in sentences. As to language, well, it’s a mix of English and Hindi. I rather think I tend to think in the language in which I have been conversing recently. Talking of “What Women Want” – the scene in which Gibson’s daughter brings her boyfriend home only to find Gibson dressed in pantyhose and made up to the nines and about to try on some lingerie is about one of the funniest I have ever seen. Nice movie, albeit a bit too pat! Mind you, the copy that was used for the Nike ad in it was awesome!

  2. I think in English when I’m thinking words. Mostly it is images and partial sentences. There are many overlapping layers, though, with “deeper” thoughts harder to consciously recall. When I can pinpoint them, they seem far more cohesive than the ordinary stuff. It seems like it should be the other way around.

    Whenever I am dealing with a difficult person/animal/boss I tend to think full sentences out in my head first, but it’s very quick.

    Does the way you think change when you’re in different situations?

  3. I think in images mostly, unless I’m imaging a convo then it is in English. Sometimes I force myself to think in French, but that takes…work and effort and stuff.

  4. english for me too…Dont get to use hindi much ,except with spouse and family but its remarkably well preserved …

    No ,I dont think I can think in Bangla ..the thought makes me laugh 🙂 although I speak Bangla well .

  5. Me, Vertex boy says: Reply

    I’m not clever enough to know how I think. Sometimes I use words, English or Swedish… otherwise my thoughts are made up by feelings of meanings. I can’t say I ever think in images except when I’m dreaming…When I am reborned I shall make the creator give me brain that thinks with images. It sounds very funny *nods*

  6. I think in three different languages–assamese, english and hindi. I am, unfortunately (perhaps), most fluent in english so when I frame my thoughts I usually use 3 words of english and 2 words of assamese or hindi. sometimes bengali. because there is one bengali word that has no substitute–neka!!!
    you just know neka when you see neka.
    ditto for hindi–i feel happiest abusing people in hindi. English just seems too polite.
    Again very often I know words for some objects only in Assamese.
    Actually, now that I think about it, I find it very difficult to speak only in English without using words from other languages. It leaves me groping for words.

  7. And I, too, think in English – and it usually is sentences, coupled with images of whatever it is I’m thinking of. It’s a bit like a movie playing in my head, actually. While my Bangla is adequate enough, my husband’s isn’t, and since English is to all intents and purposes his first language, our conversations tend to take place mostly in English too. Isn’t it strange how so many Indians are so much more comfortable in English despite knowing their own languages? I think English should replace Hindi as our national language. I certainly have more choice abuses stored up in English than in Hindi for Delhi’s annoying auto drivers (among annoying others)!

  8. Yes, it’s funny, and perhaps unfortunate :???:, that many Indians are more comfortable with English. I think, getting your education in English has a lot to do with it. Funny how I never had trouble learning and working in English, but Hindi gave me nightmares! Maybe it was that assumption that if you’ve got any Bengali blood in you you have to mix up genders left me self-conscious.

    That said, I’m not complaining about anything—I feel safer abusing auto-wallahs in a language the cheating sods are not likely to understand!

    As for neka, oh, you’re so right! No other word in any language comes close to it! 😆

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