The Many Faces of Bilingual – part 6

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Did you know that there is more than one type of bilingual? 

Or, that “balanced bilinguals” (individuals equally competent in two languages) are rare?

Or, that mixing languages is a perfectly normal function of bilingualism?

And, that bilinguals use each language for different areas and people in their lives?

“The Many Faces of Bilingual” is a series here on the blog that seeks to personalize and bring to life the different types of bilingual. (If you’re new to the blog, you can catch the first five interviews by clicking on the link interviews on the homepage.)

You might be wondering, why a series on the different types of bilingual on a blog about parenting? Two reasons, I think. First, it serves to validate the multifaceted experiences of bilingual families around the world (check out the blog’s other series “Family Fridays”). It also reminds me, and hopefully other parents raising bilingual children, that there are many possible paths our children’s language development may take, and that’s okay.

So, today, I’d like to introduce you to two lovely ladies, Macquise Geraldine and Lindsay (from Lindsay Does Languages), each with a unique story to share. Be encouraged, friends.

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When did you begin learning each language?

When I was one year old I started speaking Krio. Krio is a day to day language spoken by the people of Sierra Leone. My parents and relatives speak Krio as their first language, so I learned from them. I started speaking English when I started school. In Sierra Leone, you have to speak English in school or else you will be punished. When I was five years old I started speaking English. I took French in grades 4-8. In Sierra Leone it’s a requirement in order for you to graduate. I left Sierra Leone and moved to America. I continued at grade 10 and am going to continue until grade 12.

How often do you use each language?

I use Krio very often, both at home and school to communicate with my friends and family. French not much, just at school, and English often. I use it mostly at school and a little bit at home to communicate with my teachers and friends.

What does being bilingual mean to you?

To be able to speak two or more languages and also to communicate with one another. To understand and express yourself, in two heterogeneous languages. To convey your thoughts in both languages. It make it easier to pass information. It also important because you will have more opportunities like jobs. It can be used to help people who are lost in a different language.

What do you love about speaking more than one language?

Being able to speak various languages means having the capacity to engage with people in more fundamental and sincere ways. When thinking about bilingualism or the ability to speak multiple languages it brings joy to me. Thinking about the ability to speak multiple languages to also help people in many ways, liked doing translation for people who just arrived to the country.

Being able to speak more than two languages helps me to communicate with my friends and family. It helps me to connect with my heritage. I feel like it is the most beneficial thing because it feels like I’m connected to my family history. Being bilingual gives me a different view and perspective of the world .

With my bilingual skills I feel like I can do anything. I feel like I can communicate and connect with different cultures and interact with people even deeper. I know in the future it will bring job opportunities. It will also help me to apply knowledge from one person to the other.

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When did you begin learning each language?

I started with French at primary school. I think I must have been about 8 or 9. I only stayed at the club because you got croissants and orange juice at the end of term. However, it must have worked because at secondary school, I was actually quite good at French despite poor teaching and uninterested classmates. It wasn’t until GCSEs that my interest in language grew thanks to Shakira, and consequently opting for Spanish at GCSE. To do Spanish we had to do French to ‘prove’ we were good at languages, so I just kept them both up. It was a long time until I ventured into other languages in 2009 when I began my degree. In the first year I chose Italian and Mandarin Chinese, just because they were on offer. I followed through with the second Italian course, and then how could I not do the German? 2014 was pretty busy when I studied Dutch, Portuguese, and Japanese for the first time!

How often do you use each language?

Not enough is the short answer. The more you speak the harder it is to fit some of each language into each day. I use English daily, obviously, and also French and Spanish as I teach both languages as well as English. As for the others, it depends on my priority. For example, right now, Japanese is my second ‘priority’ language after Spanish because I want to improve it slowly.

In which area(s) of your life do you use each one?

I wish I had an exciting answer to give here, but the truth is most of my life is conducted in English! This is one reason (of many) why I love my job. Teaching French and Spanish gives me the chance to use them, explore them, and constantly learn more about them.

What does being bilingual mean to you?

It means expanding your world and being able to communicate with a whole other community in their first language. It means always learning.

What do you love about speaking more than one language?

Phew. What’s not to love? I love everything that multiple languages have brought to my life. I love spotting things that I only know because of languages. For example, just the other day I was watching the Tintin film and they mentioned the ship’s magazine. Knowing the French word for shop is magasin, I’d previously looked into where this came from and discovered it was from the Arabic for ‘storehouse’. I love those moments.

Tehn-kee, gracias, merci, thank you, Macquise Geraldine and Lindsay, for sharing your bilingual stories!

One thought on “The Many Faces of Bilingual – part 6

  1. Pingback: The Many Faces of Bilingual – part 7 | Españolita...¡sobre la marcha!

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