When I speak L2 or L3, I say sometimes some words from the other languages that I know. I also have seen many people who have the same issue, they speak in English in some conference for example and then suddenly they say some words from French. What is the most effective way to avoid this or at least minimize its effect on our language speaking?


Like I have already said, my question is more about this issue when we speak, and not with the whole language skills, and I agree that this happens a lot from the languages that we know better to the languages that we know less, but it might also happen in the other case, I mentioned this in the comments below though.

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    Great question. For some reason I catch myself thinking in another language while I am speaking in English. My wife simply tells me to think in English and I am okay.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Oct 22, 2016 at 12:15
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    @Hatchet, I took a look at those questions before I posted this one but they are not exactly why I am looking for, my focus here is more on speaking not all the other skills.
    – aettanany
    Commented Oct 22, 2016 at 12:32
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    Please, please, edit your question to explain what it is that you don't find in the questions that Hatchet listed in his comment. Otherwise, this question is at risk of getting closed.
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Oct 24, 2016 at 19:32
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    @fi12 I do not consider this question as a duplicate of the other one. The other question is about learning strategies that should reduce confusion, whereas this question is about language production. In order to mark this question as a duplicate, you need to prove that only learning strategies can help solve this issue. Where is the evidence for that?
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 9:46

2 Answers 2


Practice, practice, practice.

I met some polyglots at the Polyglot Gathering in Berlin and a lot of them are simply very strict with themselves. One that I met usually has tandem meetings where he speaks in one language and his partner another. That is one way to get used to the interference of another language.

Look at the words that you "get wrong" and think about why you used those words instead of the ones you should have. Sometimes I feel that a concept is much better in one language than another and that means that I'll use it. One has to know one's audience and use one's Fingerspitzengefühl for that, of course.

It could be that you don't know the words as well as you should. Write then down, say the sentences over and over again and use those words until they roll off your tongue.

Good luck!

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    Interesting answer but what about when the speaker is extremely with both languages? Commented Oct 23, 2016 at 20:19
  1. Restricting the use of each language to specific communicative situations: specific subjects and/or groups of people, etc.
    A typical example is using English as the means of professional communication, even when having other (possibly native language) in common. Seems difficult at first, but it is in fact an easily acquired skill and practiced in many professional communities. In academic environment I have known whole research groups using, English as the means of communication, while, e.g., being physically located in France or Germany. Notably, this avoids misusing equivalent technical terms in other languages, that can be very misleading.

  2. Avoiding frequently switching between languages
    The most marked case of mixing languages is in immigrant communities, where the native language is routinely used with admixture of terms that are frequently used in the country of residence and do not have clear equivalents in the native language (or have unwieldy equivalents). When returning to their native countries, such immigrants often find themselves unable to communicate in their native language without using foreign words. Similar things take place in multilingual families. The only way to avoid this is by exercising self-discipline and excluding such foreign borrowings (admittedly easier said than done).

  3. Refreshing/reviving the language
    As an extreme example, one may be used to speak in everyday situations in a local language, and unable to use any other language when transposed to similar situations in the another country, despite knowing the local language much better (e.g., as the one's mother tongue) - to the extent of being mistaken for a foreigner. Spending a few weeks using the local language however helps to overcome this difficulties.

When dealing with second language, it may be sometimes helpful to have a short refresher course to load the language in one's brain (e.g., by reading through a Colloquial X book or something like that or simply doing some reading or watching movies in the target language.)

  1. Accepting this as inevitable in a weaker language When you lack words/expressions in a language, you will be tempted to substitute from other languages, where the necessary word/expression easier comes to mind - that is those that you know better or use more frequently. This is particularly prone to happen when you find yourself under pressure - e.g., when you have to answer quickly or when you are engaged in a conversation and cannot stop in a middle of phrase. This is unavoidable.

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