I have noticed people using the word for "so" (in order to / therefore) in their language, rather than the language they are trying to speak. This happens with persons who are otherwise very fluent in that particular language and even have a large knowledge of vocabulary.

Example: I have heard Russian people saying "tak"

Germans saying "also"

Swedish people saying "så" when speaking German


Americans say "so" speaking other languages as well

Why is this happening in so many cases?

  • Many Irish speakers (even native speakers) conversely use the English word so when speaking Irish, but that’s mainly because Irish doesn’t really have a corresponding word. I’m not sure Swedish-speaking using in German is really them using a different word, rather than just having a non-native pronunciation, since Sw. and G so are so very similar. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 10 '20 at 11:39
  • German "so" has different meanings. It is the same as english when trying to stress an adjective, like "so salty" would be "so salzig". But in the context of "therefore", "this is why", only the word "also" is used in german. – liambaumann Aug 10 '20 at 12:15
  • True, they don’t match entirely – I suppose over-generalisation is a more accurate way of describing it. You assume that because the same word exists and is generally used in similar ways, it’s also used the same in ways where it actually happens not to be. But where German uses also, Swedish would mostly use alltså as well, not . – Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 10 '20 at 12:20
  • (Except where also is used to mean ‘thus, in that way’, as in also sprach Zarathustra; Swedish would use there, but German uses so in that sense as well.) – Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 10 '20 at 12:29
  • Can you give sample sentences? I am having trouble seeing this in whatever language. – Mitch Aug 11 '20 at 15:38

That happens for the same reason as when people curse in their own language while speaking a foreign language — some language acts are unconscious and, as a result, uncontrollable. Secret agents and spies are said to undergo special training to exclude the possibility of being compromised by saying a word of their native language in a moment of stress or anything else that lets their subconsciousness out.

Note that the Russian word “так” means “so” as an adverb (“So nice!”, “I think so.”) and rather rarely “so” as an interjection (“So how does this story end?”), but “так” never means “so” as a conjunction (“He ate too much cake, so he fell ill.”) which you state in your question, since “in order to / therefore” is the meaning of “so” as a conjunction.

Probably you could hear “так” used as an interjection, and all those other soes from different other languages you heard are interjections, too, since it is interjections that most fully embody everything unconscious in the language, and a curse can be looked at as a kind of extended interjection.

It would be great if you could provide examples of sentences with foreign-language soes in them.

  • As a matter of fact, так can be used as a conjunction («будешь есть все подряд, так живот заболит»), even though так что is more common there. But I have never heard anyone using так embedded in English sentence structure, only as isolated interjections, similar to “Well”. Also heard ну and вот, in similar context. – J-mster Aug 11 '20 at 6:28
  • @J-mster - Yes, in your example так is used as a conjunction, but not in the meaning stated by the OP, not “in order to / therefore”. In “будешь есть все подряд, так живот заболит”, так means “then; as a consequence” and looks very much like “если ..., то ...” (“if ..., then ...”) with the “if” part elided. Generally speaking, using foreign words with grammatical or syntactic function, especially in a conversation with a person who can't speak your native language, looks very counterproductive since it impairs mutual understanding so I doubt that conjunctions can be used like that. – Yellow Sky Aug 11 '20 at 10:45

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