4

I am looking for a rather formal verb(phrase) to mean "involuntarily inserting a word from one's mother tongue in a speech made in one's foreign language because the person in question is in a very nerve-wrecking situation such as speaking in court"

Example:

A person whose second language is English, and first language is French says the following:

"I don't mean to blow things out proportion, but I think that what you said is, uh, uh, 'injuste', uh, I mean, unfair!" (Heart pounding hard)

Note the involuntary insertion of the French word injuste into the English speech is involuntary because the person was too nervous or self-conscious. The insertion does not come from a lack a competency or command of lexicon, only nervousness.

I thought of stumble but I don't think it serves the purpose well.

3 Answers 3

2

I can only think of "reverting to one's mother tongue". http://www.answerbag.com/q_view/312196

2

The formal term is code-switching, and the specific sub-category is tag-switching for switching words or phrases. It happens involuntarily also.

Tag-switching is the switching of either a tag phrase or a word, or both, from one language to another, (common in intra-sentential switches). In Spanish-English switching one could say, "Él es de México y así los criaron a ellos, you know." ("He's from Mexico, and they raise them like that, you know.")
- Code-switching/Wikipedia

2
  • Thank you for the effort of researching, but code-switching is a choice that the speaker makes. It is never involuntary.
    – asef
    Feb 8, 2014 at 2:51
  • No, it can happen involuntarily, like a "reflex". You can search about "involuntary code-switching". There seems to be resources about psychological aspect of this.
    – ermanen
    Feb 8, 2014 at 3:30
0

I would use Momentary Lapse.

Lapse on its own would also be appropriate but could imply that the speaker inserted a larger section of speech from their native language.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.