This is a bit of an impromptu post but I felt like I had to get it off my chest. I got teary eyed today…okay maybe I shed a couple of tears but who’s counting. I swear this is language related! Okay, so there are so many times that we take the languages we know for granted, especially those we grew up speaking. I wrote about Growing up Bilingual earlier this month and in that post I mentioned how at one point when I was younger I wanted to stop speaking Spanish. I hated only being able to speak Spanish at home, I hated having to translate everywhere we went, and I hated being interrupted while playing to have to read the mail. Luckily this didn’t last very long once I realized there were plenty of other kids like me who were bilingual. Over the years I see more and more how blessed I am to have been able to grow up bilingual and to full capacity, meaning reading, writing, listening, and speaking.
Today I had two moments where it really hit me how grateful I am that my mom taught me the language and continues to push me to be even better. Yeah, as a native speaker I still make mistakes. Most stem from me throwing a little bit of English in the mix, but even to this day my mom will correct me and teach me any new words that come up, even fun obscure ones like Ornitorrinco which is one of my favorite words, and means platypus! The first moment is the one that got me teary eyed. I was unpacking when I got a message from my mom on Facebook. She had sent me a 3 minute video in English and had asked me if I could please watch it and summarize it for her. I figured since it was just 3 minutes long I would just translate the whole thing for her. As I was sitting there watching the video and typing the translation in Spanish it hit me how incredible it was that I even had the ability to do this. The fact that I could so easily sit there and have the words come to me in Spanish that I had heard only seconds prior in English, made me so proud to be bilingual and so grateful to my mother.
It’s moments like these that I want to be able to experience in all the languages I study, those moments of pride that make you love and appreciate the language even more. If you are a parent trying to raise your children bilingual, I know it can be a struggle and a fight sometimes. They may not see it or appreciate it now but one day, one day they will be so eternally grateful to you for the gift you have given them. Don’t give up!
I think I mentioned this in a prior post but one of my language goals for 2017 is to start working towards my Medical Interpreting Certification. As of right now the only languages I am proficient/fluent in are English and Spanish so those are the ones I will be focusing on. I actually have a fairly decent knowledge of medical terminology in both languages due to years of having to translate for my family but there is still a lot I’m not comfortable with, especially in Spanish. I ended up picking this book off of Amazon earlier this month and am hoping to work through it before I start classes sometime next year.
I’m actually a little disappointed to be honest because I didn’t realize until after purchasing this book that it is mainly targeted at non-native speakers of the language. Just from my initial flip through, I noticed that there are a lot of sections dedicated to basic greetings and phrases one might use as a medical professional. This is great of course for someone new to Spanish, but I was hoping for something a little more focused on just the terminology. I’m still going to work through this and soak up all that I can but I will be looking for another book to add to the rotation that is more geared towards native speakers.
I still haven’t decided how much time I will be allocating to this per week but am leaning towards at least once or twice a week. Because I am familiar with a big portion of the material, I’ll be able to cut back on some of the study time, which I can then apply to one of my other languages. Or at least this is what I am hoping will happen, but then again my other goal involves learning how to better manage my time…
I’ll let you guys in on a little secret…I dont even remember the last time I read a book in Spanish. Like it has been YEARS! You might be wondering why, but I really don’t have a good reason. To be honest I think it is mostly out of laziness. I grew up reading a lot of things in Spanish but as the years went on I gravitated more towards reading in English. I’ve always been an avid reader and I love talking to people about the books I read, which I think played a big role in my choice of language. No one in my family really likes to read and so the majority of the people I share my love of reading with happen to be English speakers. Not only is it easier to walk into a bookstore and find a book I want to read in English but it is also easier to talk to people about a book in the language you read it. I really want to change this because the Spanish language can be very beautiful and poetic and I think I am missing out by neglecting to read books in Spanish. I went to the bookstore earlier this week and decided to pick up El Alquimista (The Alchemist) by Paulo Coelho to start off with because I have been hearing fantastic things about it for years now. Hopefully this will be the motivation I need to pick up more books in Spanish!
Do you guys read in only one language or do you tend to read evenly across all languages you speak? I would love to know!
I think a common misconception about bilingualism is that you do everything in both languages. While it is true that most people who grown up bilingual CAN do most things in both languages, it doesn’t always mean that we do. From my personal experience, a big part of how I use language, was and still is, influenced by the world around me and the experiences I encounter in each. There are plenty of things I subconsciously choose to do in one language over the other. I thought today I would go over three topics where Spanish always seems to take over my brain even though I could just as easily execute them in English.
Nursery Rhymes & Songs
Growing up in a household where Spanish was the only language spoken, it only makes sense that any nursery rhymes or songs I heard for the first few years of my life were in Spanish. Even later on in life when I learned English nursery rhymes, I couldn’t see them as such. That memory of being put to bed and having my mom sing a song to me was and always will be connected to Spanish. So how does that affect me now? Well, I don’t have any kids of my own yet but I’ve come to notice that any time I am putting any of my friend’s babies to sleep I automatically start singing in Spanish. I don’t even think about it, it just seems natural. This has made for some pretty hilarious moments when I am in a room full of English speakers only and all of a sudden burst into Spanish songs. This is one of those quirks of being bilingual that I quite like because it makes me feel as though I carry a part of my mom with me when ever I sing them. If anyone wants me do a post of some of my favorites, let me know and I’d be happy to! ^^
Okay, okay, so I don’t ONLY curse in Spanish. So that in it of itself is not unique but there are two situations where I curse almost exclusively in Spanish. The first is whenever I am frightened or more specifically when someone or something unexpectedly scares me. This can be anything from someone popping up behind me to me spilling hot coffee all over my hand…like I did last week at work. ㅠㅠ My automatic response is to curse in Spanish. Keep in mind when I say curse I don’t mean very explicit words, more like strong exclamations of surprise…yeah, we’ll go with that. The second time this happens is fairly similar, it’s when I get hurt.To say that I am clumsy is quite the understatement and so this happens more often than I care to admit. I really am not too sure where this habit came from as I never cursed in front of my mom/family and I still don’t. Perhaps it was a way to express myself without fear of others understanding? Given, these days a lot more people I encounter speak some degree of Spanish and could potentially understand me, but in most situations the person is completely oblivious to what I just said because they are too busy laughing at how easily spooked I am…
I grew up in a fairly religious family who attended service multiple times a week. These were always in Spanish and because of this, religion became something I naturally associated with the language. The biggest quirk that came out of this is that I can’t pray in English. Well, I can, but it’s uncomfortable to do so. It feels more rehearsed and less sincere if I try it in English and I just end up switching to Spanish. I know this one is not really a big deal because 99% of the time I’m the only one who would even know this but I always found it fascinating how something could have such strong ties to language.
Okay, those are all for now! ^^ For all you bilinguals out there, do you have certain things you do more so or completely in one language over the other? If so, please share in the comments!
My journey with languages began 25 years ago. I was born in Miami, Florida to Cuban immigrants. My parents had been in the United States for less than a year when I was born, which meant they had a very limited understanding of the English language. I managed to go through the first 4 years of my life speaking only Spanish, which to be honest is quite easy to do in a city like Miami, where Spanish is so prevalent. Everyone in my small world spoke purely Spanish and it wasn’t until I began Pre-Kindergarten at age 4, that I realized there was a whole other world out there in English. I struggled to pick up the language the first few months because no matter how much I learned at school, the second I left I wen’t straight back into my Spanish bubble. Thankfully, this only lasted for a couple of months and slowly it started all making sense. I found such utter joy in being able to communicate with all my classmates and my teachers. I slowly started watching primarily English cartoons and as my cousins began learning English as well, that became our primary means of communication.
There even came a time when I wanted to rebel like other kids and start only speaking English. Of course my plans were foiled due to the simple fact that my mom and the other 90% of my family only spoke Spanish. I did find small ways to fight back, for example, refusing to participate in our weekly Spanish lessons at school. Looking back this was so ridiculous but at the time I felt such a divide within myself. When I spoke Spanish I felt I identified as Cuban but when I spoke English I identified as American. I couldn’t grasp the concept back then that I could be both. It wasn’t until years later that I realized what a tremendous privilege it was for me to grow up bilingual, to be able to say I am fluent in both is such a wonderful gift. Both languages are now such an integral part of my identity and I would not change that for anything in this world.
Look forward to a couple more posts about the ups and downs of growing up bilingual in the United States. The good, the bad, and the downright hilarious!