Forgive my Swedish poems, but some things can not be translated.
I think and dream a lot in English, I have noticed. But I count in Swedish. And some Swedish expressions I wouldn’t be able to explain in English. Not so that it made sense anyhow.
There is so much to a language. The underlying perception of culture, the structure, the flow. Bilinguals often find ways to vary between their languages and choose expressions in the language where it appears most natural. Here in Cape Town, we mix languages all the time and we often laugh about how natural it is. We don’t even react. As long as you get your thought across, it doesn’t matter which way.
At work I speak English with my South African collegues who amongst them speak Afrikaans, Zulu and Xhosa. We are only about 5 from the Swedish team now in Cape Town. I read e-mails in Norweigan and Danish but I will reply in Swedish. The German e-mails I understand but will answer to in English. Sometimes I will catch myself replying to an e-mail in English written in Swedish. With Lorena I speak a mix of Italian and English. She, on the other hand, speaks French with Freddie.
When we hang out with friends we will speak English, as long as there is a non-Swedish person there. Sometimes, if that person leaves it takes us a while to realize that we can speak our own language. But it makes joking a lot easier.
I do lose some of my character in English. But it’s ok. Being abroad, I find new ways to explore and create myself. Still, underneath it all, in the hidden corners of my smile, i’m Helen från Glada Hudik. And that is untranslatable.