Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"
speak multiple languages ESL, English as a second language

Are you somebody who speaks multiple languages?

Can it be hard to find the balance between speaking your native language and English?

If you learn and know multiple languages then you know how hard this balance can actually be.

We’re going to look at how this balance can be, and we’re going to help you to find strategies for balancing your multiple languages successfully.

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We have a listener question about this specific kind of situation–getting your brain used to a certain language in times when you are speaking multiple languages.

Hi Lindsay,

I started listening to your podcasts a few weeks ago and it’s been very helpful with my English. I am a Taiwanese who works as a cashier of a duty free shop in the Kansai Airport in Japan. I have to work in a multilingual environment where I need to speak three languages at the same time, which are Chinese, Japanese and English.

The thing is that every time when I finish my job, I find it hard to switch back to my English brain. My English just doesn’t sound natural to me. After listening to a couple of your podcasts I feel like my English brain has come back again. I wonder if there are any ways that I can keep my brain immersed in English at work.

Thank you for your help,

Ricky Hsieh

Being Multilingual Takes Effort

This doesn’t mean you can’t do it, but you need to think it through.

You want to take steps which will help you to successfully switch between your native language and English, in the most natural way possible.

You may be the same way in that you speak multiple languages, which is ultimately a huge accomplishment.

So in the example it seems that Ricky uses all these languages at work, but wants to speak English outside of work.

This can be tough, but it can be accomplished.

Sometimes your brain replaces words you learn with words in another language.

Sometimes it can be a lot to learn, and you have to give yourself a break especially when you feel frustrated.

We have some great ideas, and these can help you if you have to use other languages but you still want to stay connected to English at the same time.

Be patient with yourself, take your time with navigating this, and see how this can work out to your advantage if you put in the effort.

Helpful Ideas To Balance Things Out

You want to keep up with your English learning, but you are also human.

You are going to have times where it seems impossible not to revert back to your native language.

You want to be able to make both work, and that’s all about balance and ensuring that you think this all through carefully.

These ideas can help you to stay current in your native language, but also ensure that you don’t lose any momentum on the English that you’re learning.

  • Put English in writing: The more that you write it down, the easier it becomes. Try to keep your cell phone in English (you may not be able to check it at work) and your computer in English. If you don’t use a computer, put English over the buttons to keep it going. In the example Ricky speaks about being a cashier, so maybe it’s a cash register. Whatever tools you have available use them as an opportunity to put English in writing for your easy access.
  • Take breaks in English: We all need a break sometimes, and this can actually help you here. So when it is your time to have a break, do something to practice your English. This could be listening to a song, writing a message to someone in English, or reading a newspaper article. This free time can be quite valuable when you use it to reiterate your English.
  • Don’t put too much pressure on yourself: This is important to remember so that it doesn’t turn into a horrible chore. It can be a lot to learn and use multiple languages at once, so don’t worry about it if you have moments where you struggle. Don’t be so hard on yourself and if you need a few minutes to get back to English, know that you are doing just fine.
  • Try speaking English with others who may speak it: If you have coworkers who are also speaking English at work ask them if they want to speak in English with you at lunch or on a break–you can even make it a “rule” to speak to each other in English, even if you are speaking Japanese to a customer.
  • Speak English in your head: It’s in your thoughts, but it’s a way of speaking nonetheless. If you don’t have customers, recite song lyrics, or think about what you are doing in English. Try to recite your thoughts in your head only in English and see what a big difference this can make.

All of these things can help you to make the switch between your native language and English.

Though it may seem like a big task, take it step by step and always aim to reiterate your English learning.

Even little things you do now and then can make a big difference over time.


Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, but know that there are helpful ways to make this work.

We’ve given you some helpful ways to keep English at the forefront of your mind when you have to speak other languages too.

Try these out at work or in other situations and see how well they may work for you.

It’s very possible to speak your native language while also learning English, and now you can make it all come together in a cohesive way.

Want to learn more? Learn how to apply this advice in a multilingual business world.

If you have any questions please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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