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"


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.


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

| improve this answer | |

It is called "code-switching". It happens involuntarily also.

It can be a type of code-switching called "tag-switching" as well.

More details: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code-switching

Also, I found studies about this topic when I searched further.

| improve this answer | |
  • Thank you for the effort of researching, but code-switching is a choice that the speaker makes. It is never involuntary. – asef Feb 8 '14 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 '14 at 3:30

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.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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