The Many Faces of Bilingual, part 1

Happy Wednesday, folks! ¡Hola, amig@s!

If you read Monday’s post about the different types of bilingualism, then you know that today we’ll be meeting some of the “Many Faces of Bilingual.” If you didn’t get a chance to read my last post, there’s still time before the test (just kidding!).

bilingualism

Today, I’d like to introduce you to Salomon (from Cameroon), Fernando (from Honduras), and Alison (from the USA). Although all three are multilingual, each learned their respective languages in different contexts (remember, there isn’t just one definition of bilingual!). I hope this post is just the beginning of many more in this series (can you tell I like series?! “Family Fridays,” “Myth Mondays,” etc.).

So, with that said, if you’re a bi-, tri-, or multilingual somewhere reading this, and you’re thinking, “hey, I want to share my story,” then, please drop me a line. I’d love to share your story here on the blog.

salomon

Salomon –

I began learning French and Eton when I was a baby. I began learning English in elementary school. I use English every day. I rarely use French and Eton. I use English daily (at work and at home). I only use Eton and/or French when I communicate with non-English speaking friends and family members who live overseas. I do plan to teach French to my children, should I have the blessed privilege to have them.

To me, being bilingual/multilingual means being very blessed. I did not plan or choose to be bilingual. I was born from bilingual/multilingual parents. While many people work very hard to become bilingual/multilingual, I was “born” bilingual. Speaking more than one language]…literally adds more spices to my life.


bilingualism

Fernando –

I started learning Spanish since I was born In Honduras and English when I was 10 years old. I use both languages everyday. I use Spanish at home or when I am speaking to my family back home, and I use English at work with the students I tutor and in school.

Being bilingual to me is being twice as valuable compared to a monolingual person. For example, I am able to help customers in both languages at my job and my boss really appreciates that because it makes everything easier for everyone. Moreover, I get to embrace two different cultures and that is something I cherish everyday.

Like I’ve said, I have opportunity to experience the American culture everyday at work and school. Knowing English fluently makes it much more enjoyable. Similarly, I also get to embrace my native Honduran culture at home with my family and friends. That is something I appreciate.


bilingualism

Alison –

I am a native English speaker.  I studied Latin and Spanish in school but I started studying French in university when I fell in love with a certain Jean-Pierre. The love for the language, the people, the country stuck. The love for Jean-Pierre turned into a great friendship… An all around win-win.

I  teach high school French so I live in the USA during the school year. During that life, I mainly use French in the classroom, but English with colleagues.  I also speak English at home with my husband.  When I read the news, it is usually in French.  When I read for pleasure, novels and such, it is in English. I have a split life because I spend every summer in rural France.  In that life, my spoken life is almost exclusively French.  I still read for pleasure in English and when my husband is with me in France we speak a mixture of English and French, depending upon the people around us. You have to choose the language so as to include, not exclude, your companions.

Being bilingual means being lucky enough to be able to see the world through two different lenses. Often it is easier to say certain things in one language or the other.  When you are bilingual you realize this and you can switch back and forth according to your needs.  Usually when you switch to the other language it is because the ‘other’ language word is more exact, but sometimes it is because it is the word that comes to you first. This also makes you momentarily switch to your other self emotionally. I also think that that ability to switch selves makes you more aware of cultural differences.  I know it makes you more linguistically aware.

I love the fact that speaking two languages allows me, more correctly obliges me, to be two different personalities.  Invariably, when my family members spend time with me in France they comment on the fact that I am a different person there.  I am more lively and animated, much less of an introvert.  I think this is a linguistic influence.  The French language is more emotional, has more passion and punch, while English is tonally more flat.  I have discussed this phenomenon with other French/English bilinguals and they say the same thing. When you speak French you have to get involved.  English seems to allow more distance between the emotion and the words.


Muchas gracias and merci beaucoup to Salomon, Fernando, and Alison for sharing what being bilingual means to you!

 

Stay tuned for part 2 of “The Many Faces of Bilingual!”

10 thoughts on “The Many Faces of Bilingual, part 1

  1. Thanks for sharing these stories, Audrey! Really fascinating – Mark and his mom are very fluent in Spanish (and my grandmother was bi-lingual her entire life) so we thought about doing this for a hot second before realizing what an enormous commitment raising a child bilingually is. We’ve chosen to focus on other things when our children are little although we plan to start language training (in Latin and Spanish) early. Hopefully that they will still be fluent in at least one other language by the time they are adults. Anyway, that’s a long-winded way of saying that I love all of these stories! I have huge respect for anyone who makes the time/emotional commitment to raising their children bilingually.

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    • Thanks for sharing this about your family. I’m curious to know how Mark and your mom-in-law learned Spanish and to hear more about your grandmother’s story. Maybe a future blog interview with your family…? 😉

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