Out of the corner of your … ear?
We’ve all heard of those Magic Eye pictures that you have to look ‘through’ to see the hidden picture. I for one have only managed to glimpse one in my life (not through lack of trying), and that may just have been my brain taking pity on me and making something up. This is beside the point, though.
I’ve discovered that if I’m trying to speak a foreign language, and I can’t think of a word, my brain will automatically avoid the English translation and look for another language. Typically I cycle through several translations of the word (in different languages) before I come up with the version I want.
When I was living in Turkey, I would frequently get stuck on a Turkish word, and my brain would invariably give me the Cantonese version first. It happened so often that I realised that I knew far more Cantonese words than I thought I did!
I was speaking to a friend today who has found the same thing. When she tries to think of a Mandarin word, her brain provides her with the German that she studied at school.
So perhaps when learning a new language, we can also reinforce any others that we already know. It’s always encouraging to realise that you have more information available to you than you originally thought!