As an expat in Brazil, I find that the vast majority of my expat friends speak English regardless of where they are from. I have always found their flexibility in switching between English and Portuguese intriguing. Since neither is their first language and they live in Brazil, it is actually quite normal. Though because I speak candidly to them in English, I find it amazing that they can have the same level of conversation in Portuguese. But of course, why wouldn't they be able to?
This begs you to ask: is it your home language, the languages you speak, where you live, or the company you keep that decides which you are most comfortable speaking? When you are a person of less flexible abilities than some of the multilinguals and world travelers out there, that crosses your mind.
What I find among these social nomads is that they have found a bridge. Don't get me wrong, they don't have the secret to the linguistic fountain of youth or anything like that. They do know, however, that the secret is acceptance, immersion, adaptation, and work.
That last one is the thing that surprisingly never comes up in multilingual talk. While some of had the advantage of being raised with at least 2 languages from birth (not including me sadly), many had to earn their language stripes. That includes suffering through the pains of not understanding anyone where you are at, never being able to adequately share your feelings, and generally feeling lost.
Yet, once you learn a language, you will find yourself torn between the two. I have moments where I can't find an English word for something because it is much better in Portuguese. Honestly, descriptive words in Portuguese rock and I find I have a much easier time discussing the medical issues of my children in my second language. Not a shocker seeing my boys were born and are being raised here. Brazil, and in Portuguese, is where my Mommy vocabulary was born.
On the other hand, I can't express my own feelings worth a damn in Portuguese. It's a block and I can't seem to get past it. I can be quite direct in English, or so I am told, and I know I can come off as a Satanic Bitch in Portuguese. Alright, I can come off as a bitch in English too but I think I've figured that one out at this point in my life.
How about you? Is there one language you prefer in certain circumstances? Do you find yourself mixing more than one language as a means of expressing yourself?
*Motivation for this post came from an article on the Psychology Today site.