(The question title is clumsy. Any help to improve it is appreciated.)

When reading a text in English, occasionally I will meet a symbol. I of course know how to speak that symbol in English, but most of the time I pronounce it as it is in my native language. It can be symbols (!@#$%^&*), letters and abbreviations (WTO, HIV) or numbers. The only exception is when the symbol only has one digit or character (1, 2, 3 or A, B, C) or in a well-known structure that I have got used to pronounce it in English (the United Nation is not abbreviated as "UN" in my language, therefore there is a room in my mind for "UN" to be pronounce as "u-en").

For example, if I see a sentence "WTO has 162 member states", I will read it in my mind as "W-tê-O has một-sáu-hai member states", not "W-T-O has one-six-two member states"

I think the problem is understandable: come first, serve first. Usually, this makes no harm to my comprehension when reading an English article, but sometimes, it does.

  • 3
    Note that "162 member states" should actually be spoken as "one hundred and sixty-two member states", not "one six two member states".
    – Flimzy
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 19:53

3 Answers 3


This is a problem I've had myself and still occasionally have trouble with. The best suggestion I have is to practice the L2 symbol names on a regular basis outside of just reading. For example, when counting something in daily life you could make an effort to count in your L2 rather than your L1. This will make the L2 numbers more familiar to you over time. You may eventually find that when reading in your L2 you will automatically read the numbers/symbols in the L2 rather than jumping back to L1.


Even when you reading a book privately, take every word that is abbreviated every number that is written in numerals in your head as you read and say them in your L2 to yourself.

That is how I taught myself numbers in Spanish and French and Esperanto


After two years of asking I still speak that way in my head. I guess there is no harm for productivity, so I just let it be. We only change when we see the need.

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