Noticing a change in your native language when you move abroad

Friend in Frankfurt: Once you’ve been here for a while, you’ll realise that your English begins to change.
Me: No chance!

I couldn’t have been more wrong. 21 months later and I often catch myself saying odd things in English that I never would have crossed my mind before I moved abroad. Of course, the way we speak is strongly influenced by those we are surrounded by (hence my lovely South London accent), but I am beginning to realise this a lot more since working and living with people from all over the world.

I don’t think it’s a case of forgetting your native language, rather becoming used to phrasing  sentences in a way that you wouldn’t usually say them to ensure non-native English speakers understand, not speaking too quickly and not using colloquial language. In my case, sometimes maybe even ‘Germanising’ the sentence to make communication easier. This doesn’t mean what words you use, rather how you use them, avoiding cultural miscommunications.

A friend from home once mentioned that it’s weird that I keep saying “very good” all the time. I then realised that this is something I’ve picked up from the commonly used “sehr gut” in German. Do you ever catch yourself doing something similar?

Regularly keeping in touch with friends from home and using English on a daily basis means I’m able to maintain my native language, although there’s no doubt my vocabulary will continue to adjust. I didn’t realise how just 21 months of living abroad, talking German on a daily basis and speaking to non-native speakers has adapted my native language, and even given me days where my English sounds ‘too German.’ Ha! I’ll need not to make a habit of this.

5 thoughts on “Noticing a change in your native language when you move abroad

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  1. Not just that, stay long enough that your accent begins to modify slightly and people will think you are foreign when you visit the UK!

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  2. I’m a German living in the US. Now, when another German offers me something like a drink or to eat, I decline with the words: Danke, ich bin gut. Sounds really weird. My son (15) who is basically an English native speaker (his German is good, but his English is better), says sometimes in English: “I have hunger.”

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  3. Something similar has happened with me…when I started learning Japanese, taking courses from native speakers and watching too many youtube videos (of natives who gave Japanese learning tips in English)–I sort of picked up the Asian way of talking (sometimes i did it purposely, cause i found the accent funny) and sometimes spoke weird phrases (direct Japanese to english translation)….

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  4. This happened to me too when I was in America. I even had an american accent when talking German in the end. And even to this day because I read and listen to a lot of English stuff I’m still missing words in my native language 🙂

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