Switching and Dominance.

I love stories about using multiple languages, and Nicole Chang has one for BBC Future:

I’m standing in line at my local bakery in Paris, apologising to an incredibly confused shopkeeper. He’s just asked how many pastries I would like, and completely inadvertently, I responded in Mandarin instead of French. I’m equally baffled: I’m a dominant English speaker, and haven’t used Mandarin properly in years. And yet, here in this most Parisian of settings, it somehow decided to reassert itself.

Multilinguals commonly juggle the languages they know with ease. But sometimes, accidental slip-ups can occur. And the science behind why this happens is revealing surprising insights into how our brains work.

Research into how multilingual people juggle more than one language in their minds is complex and sometimes counterintuitive. It turns out that when a multilingual person wants to speak, the languages they know can be active at the same time, even if only one gets used. These languages can interfere with each other, for example intruding into speech just when you don’t expect them. And interference can manifest itself not just in vocabulary slip-ups, but even on the level of grammar or accent.

She says the speaker “needs to have some sort of language control process”:

If you think about it, the ability of bilingual and multilingual speakers to separate the languages they have learned is remarkable. How they do this is commonly explained through the concept of inhibition – a suppression of the non-relevant languages. When a bilingual volunteer is asked to name a colour shown on a screen in one language and then the next colour in their other language, it is possible to measure spikes in electrical activity in parts of the brain that deal with language and attentional awareness.

When this control system fails, however, intrusions and lapses can occur. For example, insufficient inhibition of a language can cause it to “pop up” and intrude when you’re meant to be speaking in a different one.

Tamar Gollan, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California San Diego, has been studying language control in bilinguals for years. Her research has often led to counterintuitive findings. “I think maybe one of the most unique things that we’ve seen in bilinguals when they’re mixing languages is that sometimes, it seems like they inhibit the dominant language so much that they actually are slower to speak in certain contexts,” she says.

In other words, a multilingual person’s dominant language can sometimes take a bigger hit in certain scenarios. For example, in that colour naming task described earlier, it can take longer for a participant to recall a word in their first language when switching from their second, compared to the other way around.

In one of her experiments, Gollan analysed the language-switching abilities of Spanish-English bilinguals by having them read aloud paragraphs that were just in English, just in Spanish, and paragraphs that haphazardly mixed both English and Spanish.

The findings were startling. Even though they had the texts right there in front of them, participants would still make “intrusion errors” when reading aloud, for example, accidentally saying the Spanish word “pero” instead of the English word “but”. These types of errors almost exclusively happened when they were reading aloud the mixed-language paragraphs, which necessitated switching between languages. […]

And even though the majority of participants were dominant English speakers, they made more of these intrusion errors for words in English rather than their weaker Spanish – something that Gollan explains is almost like a reversal of language dominance.

“I think the best analogy is, imagine that there’s some condition in which you suddenly become better at writing in your non-dominant hand,” she says. “We’ve been calling this reversed dominance, we’ve been making a really big deal out of it because the more I think about it, the more I realise how unique this is, and how crazy it is.”

This can even happen when we are learning a second language – when adults are immersed in the new language, they can find it harder to access the words from their native language.

There’s much more at the link; thanks, Trevor! And for a shorter and fluffier take on multilingualism, see Viorica Marian’s The Language You Speak Influences Where Your Attention Goes — thanks, Jack!


  1. Trond Engen says

    I must have told this before, but at my first visit to Paris I was stopped at (I think) the Chatelet metro station by an American tourist asking for directions. Always happy to help, I gave her my best smile and replied — in Norwegian. A deeply confused look made me realise the problem, and I started over — in French. (Or was it the other way around? I no longer remember.) At the third attempt I finally managed to speak English.

  2. Jen in Edinburgh says

    If I’m understanding this properly, it’s definitely something I’ve noticed – I’ll be trying to produce Gaelic, say, or French, and I’ll find that my brain has filled in odd words not in English, which would be understandable, but in Norwegian. It’s as if any kind of foreign is better than none…

    (Not that Gaelic is foreign, but you know what I mean!)

  3. I don’t know whether I mentioned that here before, but the first time I was in Poland trying to speak Polish, sometimes Dutch words slipped in, although my native language is German and Dutch isn’t even one of the languages I’m most fluent in.

  4. Not quite the same thing, but when I returned to England after spending six months in Finland as a teenager, I remember the first time I went into town and heard English being spoken around me I had a momentary sensation that I was listening to a foreign language,* before familiarity kicked in.

    *It sounded a bit like Swedish

  5. David Eddyshaw says

    After some time in Burkina Faso, I developed a distinct tendency to address any African-appearing stranger in French unless I was concentrating. In the UK, this tends not to be as useful as you might think. (I got better, though.)

  6. cuchuflete says

    Once adopted a 130 lb. Chesapeake Bay Retriever. Partly just because I felt like it, and somewhat less to help some young members of the household learn another language, I spoke only Spanish, northern Iberian version, to my four-footed friend. Then we found an abandoned, starving, cat in the barn. He was adopted. To avoid confusion (presumptuous to think there might have been any), the cat was addressed exclusively in Brazilian Portuguese.

    After that, dogs evoked Spanish, and felines brasileiro. But one of our neighbors is Chilena, and has her own conventions for animal address, not the same as mine. Then we “adopted” a family of six barn (feral) cats. I sang Columbian folk songs to them when something frightened them, and to form a sort of relationship beyond armed neutrality.

    It all sounds so clean and simple, except when I get my code switching wires crossed, an ever more frequent occurrence as I am, as they say, older ‘n dirt. The indoor cat, a three legged rescue, answers to four languages so long as a food bowl is in sight. “Toma sopa” works in any accent.

    When I inadvertently use the ‘wrong’ language,I sometimes don’t notice my error for a while.

  7. It’s a huge relief to hear that this happens to people more experienced than me. I seem to have a switch in my brain that only has the settings English and Not-English; the harder and faster I try to say something out loud in a second language, the more enthusiastically the Non-English setting chops and mixes in any vocabulary it can get its hands on.

  8. When my wife speaks Irish, often Hindi comes out, She also speaks French, German, Russian and some Hebrew and Spanish, But Hindi and Irish are the ones that get confused.

    For the last few years I’ve been doing exercises on Duolingo in four different languages every day. When I go from one to the next, there’s a small reset period but I rapidly adjust to the new language without crossover. I realize though that this is not the same as trying to have a conversation with someone. I once had a holiday with some people who could speak English, but preferred German, but so-and-so’s boyfriend only speaks French, so when he’s here we have to speak French. That put me through some mental gymnastics. But actually those people didn’t seem to get confused. I certainly did, When I tried to say something, I had no idea what language would come out.

    I had a friend who was what you might call a language hobbyist. She loved to go to new countries and learn the language. She told me that what she always did was try to imitate the body language of native speakers, before she even got any vocabulary. That was the key to how she managed with something like ten different languages.

  9. I don’t think in language; I think in concepts. What is produce as language is removed at least two degrees from my thought process. What comes out of my mouth (or fingers, or body language) is extremely situational depending on the cultural environment I find myself in.

  10. Stu Clayton says

    I think in language, with an attendant bevy of half-baked concepts, die ich beim Reden allmählich verfertige.

  11. Learning from the fox 😉

  12. Stu Clayton says

    Gosh – I had completely forgotten the fox, although his character is essential to the piece ! Not macht erfinderisch.

    Auch Lafontaine gibt, in seiner Fabel: les animaux malades de la peste, wo der Fuchs dem Löwen eine Apologie zu halten gezwungen ist, ohne zu wissen, wo er den Stoff dazu hernehmen soll, ein merkwürdiges Beispiel von einer allmählichen Verfertigung des Gedankens aus einem in der Not hingesetzten Anfang.

    The wonderful way Kleist comments, phrase by phrase, on how the fox muddled through shows the theatrical talent of both.

  13. I have liked that piece since first reading it at school, because it so well describes my own way of improvising on the spot when I have to.

  14. jack morava says

    I recall pretty clearly learning to talk; my parents seemed unaware that their names were Jackie and Vic, they thought they were called Mom and Dad, it took a while to straighten them out. I’m quite aware of thinking in images and concepts, and it can take me a lot of work to put things into words; I’m a mathematician, basically a geometer. Being unable to communicate some things in words could make me hysterical, I sometimes mistook misunderstanding as malicious bad faith on the part of my hearer. I find languages fascinating, my wife is an anthropological linguist, but for me learning another language would be about as difficult as acquiring a new personality.

    I came across a reference once, I think in St Augustine, about learning to talk, but can’t now find it. Accounts of learning to talk seem to me to be very rare in literature, and I have wondered previously about asking the languagehat community for references; I think we should be told…

  15. David Marjanović says

    I think I’m not actually extroverted enough to outright speak in the wrong language. The closest I’ve done, twice, is that half an English word came out in my native sound system while I was speaking in German about something I only ever read & write in English or nearly so.

    Languages blocking each other is familiar, however. I remember sitting in a car in the US and just not finding the word seatbelt because all I could think of was ceinture.

    I recall pretty clearly learning to talk

    That is highly unusual; most people don’t grow a long-term memory till they’re 3 or so. (By that age, I had learnt two languages and forgotten one.)

    I do remember finding out my parents’ names, but that was later.

  16. David Eddyshaw says

    I came across a reference once, I think in St Augustine, about learning to talk

    Wittgenstein cites this at the very beginning of Philosophical Investigations; it’s from Confessions I.8.)

    cum ipsi appellabant rem aliquam et cum secundum eam vocem corpus ad aliquid movebant, videbam et tenebam hoc ab eis vocari rem illam, quod sonabant, cum eam vellent ostendere. hoc autem eos velle, ex motu corporis aperiebatur, tamquam verbis naturalibus omnium gentium, quae fiunt vultu et nutu oculorum certerorumque membrorum actu et sonitu vocis indicante affectionem anim in petendis, habendis, reiciendis fugiendisve rebus. ita verba in variis sententiis locis suis posita et crebro audita quarum rerum signa essent paulatim colligebam measque iam voluntates, edomito in eis signis ore, per haec enuntiabam.

    Translation for the barbarians amongst us (nicked from


    When they named any thing, and as they spoke turned towards it, I saw and remembered that they called what they would point out by the name they uttered. And that they meant this thing and no other was plain from the motion of their body, the natural language, as it were, of all nations, expressed by the countenance, glances of the eye, gestures of the limbs, and tones of the voice, indicating the affections of the mind, as it pursues, possesses, rejects, or shuns. And thus by constantly hearing words, as they occurred in various sentences, I collected gradually for what they stood; and having broken in my mouth to these signs, I thereby gave utterance to my will.

    As W points out in extenso, This Cannot Be.

  17. By that age, I had learnt two languages and forgotten one.

    Interesting! What were they?

  18. J.W. Brewer says

    Ahem! Augustine was himself famously a βάρβαρος, lacking the basic knowledge of Greek that one used to be able to expect from more intellectual sorts even in the more westerly parts of the Empire.

  19. David Eddyshaw says

    He knew Punic, though. Much better.

  20. J.W. Brewer says

    No doubt some thoughtful Hellenes thought that Punic-speakers were a higher class of βάρβαρος than mere Latin-speakers.

  21. David Marjanović says

    Interesting! What were they?

    German and FYLOSC.

  22. J.W. Brewer says

    I think what David M. calls “blocking” is quite common. When my mother in her mid-thirties was trying to learn Japanese and trying to remember the word for X that had been taught in last week’s lesson she quite frequently dredged up instead the French word for X, which she had learned in high school but long since (so she thought) forgotten.

  23. “Accounts of learning to talk seem to me to be very rare in literature, and I have wondered previously about asking the languagehat community for references; I think we should be told…”


  24. @M: I think the OP meant own accounts of people how they learnt to talk themselves, not general literature about speech acquisition by children. On the latter, there is indeed abundant literature.

  25. Jen in Edinburgh says

    I think Compton Mackenzie might write about his experiences learning to speak – he starts his autobiography with his babyhood. I’m not willing to read any of it again to find out, though!

  26. David Marjanović says

    she quite frequently dredged up instead the French word for X, which she had learned in high school but long since (so she thought) forgotten.

    Oh, that’s interesting. I only seem to get this with languages I’ve learned around the same time: English and French, Russian and Chinese.

    …but it’s not like I can do statistics with that. I’ve had very, very few opportunities to speak (or write) Russian or Chinese.

    most people don’t grow a long-term memory till they’re 3 or so

    This intersects with people who can already read by that age: Prof. Mair can’t remember learning to read.

  27. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    I don’t do that, and neither does my trilingual daughter: we always speak the language that’s appropriate for the occasion — badly in my case, perfectly in hers. My wife does, however. For her French is the language you use with people who are not family or close friends, and she will address waiters, for example, in Spain or Chile in French.

    The first time we were in Italy together, in 1987, she had almost no problem communicating with Itaiians, asking for directions, for example, with her speaking Spanish and them speaking Italian. She can’t do that now, because her brain won’t allow her to speak Spanish with Italians.

  28. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    most people don’t grow a long-term memory till they’re 3 or so

    This intersects with people who can already read by that age: Prof. Mair can’t remember learning to read.

    My earliest clear memory was of the very cold winter of 1946/47, when I was not quite 4. Nothing much after that until I was clearly 4. I don’t remember learning to read, but it was probably when I was 4.

  29. David Eddyshaw says

    I remember the birth of my brother (who was born at home); I was two years old and eight months. Not just the event, but a number of vivid details surrounding it.

  30. Like DE, my first memories are linked to the birth of my younger brother, who was born when I was 2.5 years old; I remember my father driving me to my grandmother, who lived a 3-4 hours drive away, and my great-grandmother who lived with her fixing a chocolate drink for me. My next memories are from when I must have been 3 years old.
    Clearly, there is some memory-forming trauma involved with the birth of siblings 🙂

  31. Trond Engen says

    I used to have a vivid memory from the summer just after I turned two. (Some family accounts say it was even the year before, at about 13-14 months, but that’s unbelievable.) We visited the mountain dairy farm where my mother had spent her summers as a child (in the postwar years when city kids needed to be fattened up in the countryside). I was allowed to come along in the rowing boat when they took up fishing nets at night. In one of the nets there was a duckling that they carefully let loose. It must have made a huge impression on me, because I told it years later, and I remember everybody being in awe. That memory became a thing in the family and the story was retold again and again, and now it’s probably just a memory of the memory for me.

    The oldest datable memory that I still see in clear images is of me sitting in the garden and my father coming to tell me that my brother was born. I was a couple of days short of two years and nine months old. But what is a clear image? My brother was born in the winter and I remember it as summer. That part of the memory would fit better with my sister’s birth. If so, I was only 15 months old (but again, unbelievable).

  32. jack morava says

    I suspect memories from before language can be hard to recover and hard to recount. There’s pomes by some guy named Wordsworth about this I think?

  33. I’ve heard of someone who at a very young verbal age claimed to remember being in the womb, but forgot it a few years later. It can’t be proven but I wouldn’t dismiss it.

  34. Trond Engen says

    I briefly worked with someone with very early memories, in images and feelings, not words. He told me that he could recall visiting some relatives and being held above a certain carpet, thinking that it’s a long way down. When he first had told this story to his parents, many years later, describing the carpet in great detail, they told that the visit took place when he was about three months old, and that the relatives moved away from that house soon after.

    His memory was special. He claimed to be able to recall everything he’d seen in his whole life. Once we had lunch together in the workplace cafeteria, some other guy sat down with us and for some reason started to talk about his home valley in western Norway. My co-worker followed up with questions about where exactly he lived, refering to individual houses and named roads, and the poor other guy naturally wanted to know when he’d stayed there and where he’d been living, probably trying to plot him onto the genealogic tree. But he’d just passed through many years ago, looking out from the back seat of the family car.

  35. A friend was born with a congenital heart condition that had to be corrected surgically. It was done when he was 18 months old. His first, vivid memory is of standing on a hospital bed or gurney afterwards, apparently the first time he’d been able to stand. That’s quite young, but also credible to me given the magnitude of the experience. Though I could also see how he might have created a memory around a narration that his parents likely repeated many times over the next year or two.

  36. Stu Clayton says

    Funes el memorioso. Funesta memoria.

  37. January First-of-May says

    AFAICT my first memories are indeed from roughly age 3-4. The one I think of as my first memory had been mostly reconstructed from narration* (and/or later rememberings), and IIRC in early discussions my parents weren’t quite sure of its context, though the usual explanation is that it relates to my visit to Tashkent in 1995 (i.e. when I was 3).

    By then I was already capable of reading, writing, and (somewhat) speaking. As such, I do not remember learning either, except to the extent that it took me a while to figure out how to produce some of the phonemes.
    As it happens, some of what appear to be my earliest memories are of doing math on paper. (I liked math as a kid. Probably an ASD thing.)

    *) IIRC, for many of my early memories, as far as I could tell I appear to have lost the actual original memory, but I do remember describing it, years later, to someone else – or to myself, in some cases – well enough to reconstruct most of the details.
    For the Tashkent memory I think I estimated at some point that most likely what I had left of it was a reconstruction of a reconstruction, or possibly even another layer down…

  38. David Marjanović says

    It can’t be proven but I wouldn’t dismiss it.

    Is there ever enough oxygen in there for consciousness?

    He claimed to be able to recall everything he’d seen in his whole life.

    Yup, there are such people. Forgetting is an ability not everyone has.

  39. I have a memory (of sizzling rice soup) that my parents say is from my first birthday. I’m a bit dubious about the dating on that one, but I do have a few definite memories from when we took a trip to Arizona later that year, when I was about seventeen months old. One is my father taking a picture while lying down at the top of the cliff, peeking his head over the edge. The other is a saguaro cactus by twilight. Yet strangely, what might have been the most notable event of the trip—me falling and slicing the side of my head open, followed by a trip to the emergency room—is not something I remembered at all.

  40. Is there ever enough oxygen in there for consciousness?

    Maybe as much consciousness as a sleeping adult. People sometimes remember something from their sleep. But, I don’t have any fetus acquaintances to ask.

  41. “Yup, there are such people.”

    Search for:

    1) Hyperthymesia

    2) People who remember everything

  42. Trond Engen says

    I also have a very clear false memory of my father working in the garden with a prybar in a thunderstorm and my mother begging him to stop and come inside. My mother was adamant that this happened when they had just moved into the house and she was heavily pregnant with me.

    Writing this now it strikes me that actually my mother may have been wrong about this after all. The thunderstorm season is July/August (and was more clearly so back then), and I’m born in May, while my sister is born in August the year after. But that would mean that I was about 14 months old at the time, and that’s only slightly more believable.

    I too learned to read early, but I don’t particularly remember learning it. I remember my mother writing short words on an envelope for me to read, and especially one time I misread and felt embarrassed. Later I remember walking around in Oslo with my grandmother or my great aunt reading all the signs on all the shops out load, but that was me showing off my skills. What I actually do remember is learning to read silently. I was laying on the coach in our living room reading a Donald Duck comic (as we all did in the seventies), and my mother, finally tired with the sound of my reading, told me to try not reading out loud. I said I hadn’t learned that, but she insisted that I try. It worked like magic!

  43. Trond, are you sure that’s not a lost scene restored in the director’s cut of My Life as a Dog?

  44. Trond Engen says

    Which one? The one with the prybar? Not unless somebody in my family somehow worked as a manuscript consultant for Svensk Filmindustri. I was 17 when My Life as a Dog came out and had already discussed the story with my parents several times.

    It’s a very graphic scene. I probably filled in the images later after hearing my mother telling the story of almost becoming a widow before my birth. But I still must have done so pretty early. The images are clearly from the garden of the house we lived in until I was three (as is the memory of my father telling me that my brother was born),

  45. John Cowan says

    Only sparse flashes of memory from me until I was seven.

    “Memories of events late in the first year of life are not extremely rare, and there are possible examples of even earlier recollections. At age three, my son Nicholas was asked for the earliest event he could recall and he replied in a hushed tone while staring into middle distance, ‘It was red and I was very cold.’ He was born by Caesarean section. It is probably very unlikely, but I wonder whether this could just possibly be a true birth memory.” —Carl Sagan, The Dragons of Eden

    Shelley interrogating a baby on pre-existence. I have to admire the mother’s grit, standing up to two crazy (though harmless) college students like that. I omitted to mention at the time that the other one, the narrator, was the lawyer Thomas Jefferson Hogg (apparentlly named after his grandparents, not the American), one of Shelley’s closest friends and probable co-author with him of The Necessity of Atheism, which got them both kicked out of Oxford (“rusticated for contumacy”, technically, as they refused to admit or deny authorship). Its opening paragraphs claim, contra David M, that the strength of people’s beliefs is proportional to the amount of excitement the belief generates in them, and that in particular belief is involuntary.

  46. January First-of-May says

    Trond, are you sure that’s not a lost scene restored in the director’s cut of My Life as a Dog?

    Not being familiar with My Life as a Dog, I was wondering if you were talking about the “reading the signs on all the shops out loud” scene and Dog’s Heart. You know, the “Абырвалг” bit.

    (that one “word” is probably one of the most memetically famous bits of Dog’s Heart)


    interrogating a baby on pre-existence

    There’s a scene in Jonah Sheket where the titular protagonist ends up (IIRC accidentally) in telepathic contact with a baby about to be born, who tries to persuade Jonah to let them divulge all the secrets of existence. Or at least as much as they can still remember, because they keep forgetting more and more of it in preparation for the birth.

    Unfortunately for Jonah, the strength of the contact is barely enough to get a few snippets through, though IIRC it’s mentioned that even those few snippets really helped his work.

  47. jack morava says

    … the titular protagonist ends up (IIRC accidentally) in telepathic contact with a baby about to be born…

    This reminds me of an old scifi story called `Let’s be Frank’ in which the loving father looks into his newborn majorly telepathic child’s eyes and is immediately glommed/subsumed into an infant hive mind (Frank) which eventually takes over the world, solves all problems, end of story QED.

  48. That’s by Brian W. Aldiss; it was first published in Science-Fantasy #23 (June 1957). Archived version.

  49. jack morava says

    wow that was fast as lightnin

  50. Trond, the story of your mother asking you to read silently and you with a perfectly logical reason for why you had to go on annoying her matches the mother/son relationship in My Life as a Dog pretty well.

  51. jack morava says

    Interesting to see how one’s vivid memories can have been reorganized by one’s hypothalamus or whatever. Also kind of uncanny re recent popularity of genomics…

  52. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    He claimed to be able to recall everything he’d seen in his whole life.

    Yup, there are such people. Forgetting is an ability not everyone has.

    I knew someone (the biophysicist Reinhart Heinrich) who could remember every day of his life. The actress Marilú Henner is said to be like that.

  53. Henner talks about it here (I just read the transcript.) She says she remembers being baptized.

  54. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    I was taught to say things like “c-a-t spells cat”, and my mother thought that was all the “reading” I could do until I read out a paragraph from the Straits Times in a coherent fluent way (we were living in Singapore at the time). I was probably 4 or 5. I don’t remember this incident, but I remember being told about it.

  55. Captain Beefheart recalls:

    I remember every bit of it. I remember when the jerk slapped me on the fanny and I saw the yellow tile and I thought what a hell of a way to wake somebody up. […] I was born with my eyes open—I didn’t want to be born—I can remember deep down in my head that I fought against my mother bringing me into the world.

  56. Man, that sounds exactly like Mike Greene (aka thegrowlingwolf) — he also claimed to remember things from a surprisingly early age.

  57. David Marjanović says

    Its opening paragraphs claim, contra David M, that the strength of people’s beliefs is proportional to the amount of excitement the belief generates in them, and that in particular belief is involuntary.

    …I’ve quoted that the strength of people’s beliefs should be proportional to the strength of the evidence. I never said that it is, if that’s what you mean.

    I’ve also said a few times that I can’t imagine choosing to believe.

    My earliest memory must be noticing my apple allergy (it scratches in the throat). I was being fed rasped apples, so I must have been about 2… but I can’t remember ever being able to speak or understand FYLOSC.

  58. David Marjanović says

    It is probably very unlikely, but I wonder whether this could just possibly be a true birth memory.

    Not if total anesthesia was used, as was usual at the time according to a few minutes in Wikipedia.

  59. David Deden says

    While speaking street Spanish (Cuban) in Miami, I occasionally spout Malay words (right meaning, wrong tongue) which I then have to retranslate into English, then try to recall a Spanish synonym that’s understandable.

    Almost daily, I’ll hear somebody insert “pero” in between 2 English clauses.

  60. тохтановись!, a portmanteau of тохта! (general Turkic) and остановись! (Russian), both meaning ‘stop!’

  61. Trond Engen says

    I had to look if there’s a family Останович. There is.

  62. Kate Bunting says

    After living and working in a Francophone environment for almost a year in 1973/4, I was buying stamps in the post office in Lausanne when I heard two men conversing in English, and promptly added the English word ‘please’ to my request.

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