The Many Faces of Bilingual, part 4

bilingualism bilingual multilingualism espanolita

Happy Monday, amig@s!

We made it safely back home last night from a week on the west coast. What a beautiful area of the country! I think I left a piece of my heart back in California. Stay tuned later this week for my thoughts on traveling with an infant. We survived!

Anyway, we’re back with part four of this series “The Many Faces of Bilingual.” You can check out the first three parts here, here, and here if you missed them.

Today, you’ll meet a bi-national husband and wife couple, Crissa (from the USA) and Oscar (from Chile). Crissa was a class mate of mine in graduate school at Georgetown and she’s now working on her Ph.D. in linguistics. Both she and Oscar have some thought-provoking insights on what it means to be bilingual.

Pay particular attention to how Oscar code-switches back and forth between English and Spanish. Fascinating stuff! If you’re interested in the notion of code-switching, or you aren’t sure what it is, you can read about it in a previous post I wrote here. My translations in English follow his remarks in parentheses.

Crissa –

bilingual bilingualism espanolita spanish english language

When did you start learning each language? How often do you use each one?

English was the language used in my home when I was born. I began learning Spanish in ninth grade public school classes when I was 14, and I learned French in college starting at age 18. I use English outside of my home every day (and inside of it if we have friends over) and I use Spanish inside of my home every day and outside of it if my husband and I are doing something together or spending time with friends who speak Spanish. My French is quite dusty these days, but I occasionally use French and Spanish with students or their families while working as an educator, and I interpret in Spanish for our local school district and a few businesses.

In which areas of your life do you use each language?

Spanish is the language of my relationship with my husband, so as you can imagine, I use Spanish for all the types of topics you’d discuss with a partner. It’s been a long time since I’ve used Spanish with co-workers, or to do an academic task (such as reading research written in Spanish), but when I lived in Chile, I used Spanish in all the domains of my life- professional and social. I use English for conversations with friends, family (not including my husband or his family), and for my work. I often find myself excited to speak to Spanish speaking friends about a variety of topics, because only speaking it with one person does affect my vocabulary and range of expression over time.

bilingual bilingualism spanish english espanolita language

What does being bilingual mean to you?

[Being bilingual has] meant different things at different times- our bilingual identities are always changing! But in this stage of my life, being bilingual means that my husband and I have bilingualism as a goal for our lives (as opposed to him mastering English perfectly and us being a monolingual family). He’s working towards academic and professional goals here in the US and has only been learning English for 3 years, so we sometimes get the question, “Wouldn’t it be a lot better for his English if you just spoke English to him all the time?” Although many responses pop in to my head when I’m asked this question, the one I’ll often give is that our goal is not just “his English,” it’s our bilingualism- we both want to speak two languages and are willing to accept any little temporary sacrifices we might have to make to live this way!

What do you love about speaking more than one language?

The nerd in me just loves learning language. I like paying attention to new grammar, new vocabulary and new phrases! I love that my husband and I can communicate to each other in the language that is best for us as a couple- we wouldn’t have found each other if I didn’t speak Spanish- and I love all the relationships I have in Spanish. Some of my best friends in the world don’t speak English and I never would have had access to those friendships if I didn’t speak Spanish! As an added bonus, since I’m doing doctoral research involving multilingualism, I like the personal connection being bilingual gives me to my academic work.

Oscar –

bilingual bilingualism spanish english espanolita language

When did you start learning each language? How often do you use each one?

Estudié en el colegio pocas horas a la semana pero eso solo fue un 2% del aprendizaje, hace 3 years y 6 meses que estoy viviendo en USA y me sentí que comencé de cero a hablar inglés. Hablo inglés la mayoría del día en el trabajo y cada vez que comparto con amigos. Hablo spanish con mi esposa en casa. English language at work, with friends from USA, or sometimes in front of people that don’t know English language as an advantage for asking to mi wife things that I don’t want them to know.

(I studied English in school, but just a few hours a week, and I only learned like 2%. But, when I moved to the United States three years and six months ago I felt like I was starting from zero. Most of my day is in English: I use it at work and more and more with friends. I speak (español) with my wife at home.)

In which areas of your life do you use each language?

Español con mi familia cuando hablo por skype o con mi esposa después del trabajo o los fines de semana.

(Spanish with my family when we talk on Skype or with my wife after work or on the weekends.)

What does being bilingual mean to you?

Power (learn more, leer diferentes cosas), control (tomar decisiones de que cosas quiero aprender)  and the opportunity  to help people que necesita traducir lo que están hablando. Escuchar las películas sin leer o tener la traducción en español que es malísima.  Participar con más personas de distintas culturas que comparten el idioma inglés como yo. Aprender de distintas culturas. Mayor participación social, hacer contactos, más variedad de opciones ya sea de trabajos que requieren hablantes bilingues, grupos sociales, etc.

(…(read different things),…(as in making decisions about what I want to learn) … who need help translating. Watch movies without needing to read the subtitles or the translation in Spanish, which is often horrible. Interacting in English with people of different cultures; we share the language in common. Learning about different cultures. Greater social interaction, greater variety of options, whether that’s a job position that requires knowledge of two languages or social groups, etc.)

What do you love about speaking more than one language?

Todo es distinto…  es como nacer de nuevo pero teniendo la experiencia de un adulto que desarrolla otro lenguaje como un kid que se va mejorando con el tiempo y la practica.

 (Everything is so different. It’s like being born again, but having the experience of an adult acquiring another language like a (niño) who gets better with time and practice.)

Gracias, Crissa and Oscar, for sharing your stories!

If you’re bilingual and you’d like to share your story here on the blog, please drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you!

One thought on “The Many Faces of Bilingual, part 4

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

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