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Linguistic... soup? Filing cabinet? Or toolbox?

Since we're almost all multilinguals here at InterNations ... I'd be interested in hearing your views on how we all manage our languages?

How do we find the right word when we need it (the 'right word' in our 2nd, 3rd, 4th or Nth language)?

Where do we find it?

How do we store it?

I've personally gone from:

Imagining that we've a mental soup in which all words are suspended - from which rises the word the stimulus tells us we need - and there it is, it rises to the surface of the soup and we can use it (without getting in a mess!!)

... to thinking of all words for one concept being contained in a single file we recognise as being of that concept

... to picturing a toolbox in which we store all our linguistic items by category.

To date the soup remains my favourite / most likely hypothesis.

Have you ever wondered about this or do you take your ability to alternate between various languages for granted?

Food for thought?

The Babelonian

[No I'm not particularly religious, I just think that its natural that after an 'event' such as the confusion of our language [as described in the story of the Tower of Babel] and the development thereafter of many different languages, that we should all speak more than one language since in order to work effectively together and to build communities and societies (as is our very nature) we need to be able to communicate our ideas and just look at this 'community'. English is only the 'lingua franca' here].