The Many Faces of Bilingual, part 2


It’s the first day of December! Where did November go?! ¡Cómo pasa el tiempo!

Last Monday I finished a five-part mini-series on the myths of bilingualism. While there are many more, I thought I’d just focus on the top five, which, if you’re interested, you can read here, here, here, here, and here.

And, as I was writing that first post on the different types of bilingualism, I began putting faces to each type, and I thought, “why not introduce them on the blog?” So, today, in part 2 of “The Many Faces of Bilingual” I’d like to introduce you to three bilinguals: husband and wife Angelica and Dan, and friend of mine, Sarah.

Angelica and Dan –

bilingual bilingualism spanish

“We speak English and Spanish in our family. Dan grew up learning both languages at the same time, even though his primary language was English. Angelica’s native tongue is Spanish, and started learning English in school. We use both languages throughout the day, but English is the predominant one. We use our respective native languages to express deeper thoughts or stronger feelings.
[Being bilingual] means to give our kids the opportunity to embrace cultural differences and also a love for language. We love that it allows us to emerge ourselves in that culture and be part of it. It also enriches our experiences.”

Sarah –

bilingual bilingualism

“I was born and raised 8 years in the Philippines, so Tagalog is my first language. I learned English from my Filipino parents and teachers growing up in Manila as well but wasn’t immersed in a predominantly English-speaking community until we moved to the U.S. when I was 8. I learned Levantine Arabic while living in Beirut.   If it’s any wonder why my English is off sometimes (prepositions are the worst!), this is why!! I don’t sound like I am ESL, but I am most definitely ESL!

I speak English every day. My parents speak to me in Taglish (Tagalog and English), but I respond to them in English exclusively and only use Tagalog when I meet a Filipino in public who speaks to me only in Tagalog. I speak Arabic with Arab speakers I rub shoulders with in the DC area. I miss speaking Arabic and life in the Middle East and have been pleasantly surprised by how many opportunities I’ve had to use it here in DC – doctor’s visits, shopping trips, restaurants, etc. I also speak Arabic with my half African-American and half Filipino daughter. Arabic is such a tender and endearing language. There are certain expressions specifically addressed to children that just isn’t the same in English.

It means the ability to communicate with many different people in their heart language. It means that I am more equipped to understand the inner depths of a person when I can communicate with them in their language. I’ve been bilingual since birth, so it also means that I can pick up languages like a sponge.  Being bilingual also means your brain hilariously short circuiting every now and then — for me, it usually happens when I try communicating strong, raw feelings and thoughts! It’s like turning switches on and off again. We laugh a lot in our marriage because of all the English language mistakes I make, even though I’m very Americanized and sound like I’ve lived here my whole life.

…I love the greater access it gives me to friendships and communities.  I especially love seeing the delight on people’s faces  when they hear me speak English and then switch to Tagalog or Arabic. I love that it makes me more understanding and flexible as a citizen of the world, since knowing a language always goes deeper than simply knowing a set of vocabulary words, sentence structures, and verb conjugations. It means knowing the heart and spirit of a people as well.”

Gracias and Salamat Angelica, Dan, and Sarah, for sharing your stories!

If you’re a bilingual 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.

5 thoughts on “The Many Faces of Bilingual, part 2

  1. Pingback: Greetings from Lake Tahoe! | Españolita...¡sobre la marcha!

  2. Pingback: The Many Faces of Bilingual, part 3 | Españolita...¡sobre la marcha!

  3. Pingback: The Many Faces of Bilingual, part 4 | Españolita...¡sobre la marcha!

  4. Pingback: The Many Faces of Bilingual, part 5 | Españolita...¡sobre la marcha!

  5. Pingback: Looking back: a six-month reflection | Españolita...¡sobre la marcha!

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