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’m working on several goals and study plans that I want to kick into gear this upcoming year, but I was hoping to get a good bit done before then as well because why wait? This hasn’t really gone as planned unfortunately. I am currently in the process of moving and I have spent the majority of my time outside work, packing and sorting out utilities and paper work. When I’ve been able to catch a small break I’ve been too tired to properly study. I have gotten in small bits here and there:
- Watched about 3 episodes of 맘마미아 (Mamma Mia) which I have been loving.
- Finished lesson 5 in Module 1 of the Yonsei University online course
- Reviewed the 5 lessons in Module 1
- Several minutes of vocabulary review
- Did 10 Duolingo skill modules
Yup, that’s all I have been able to do this week. I’ve been trying to squeeze in bits of studying in any way I can. This week that has meant watching an episode of 맘마미아 before bed when I am too tired to look at a book, taking my flashcards with me to work and reviewing them if I get a break, and doing quick Duolingo lessons on the go while in the car (not driving of course!). I am proud of myself for not letting this hectic week become an excuse for not studying at all but am hoping by next week I will be more settled down and can make up for time lost. I’ll be posting my study goals for the new year sometime later this month.
I’m off to pack some more!
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!
Talking about my French language journey always makes me angry…mostly at myself. I ended up taking French my Junior and Senior year of high school and always thoroughly regretted not starting it my freshman year. I started with French 1 my junior year and jumped to French 3 Accelerated my senior year. I learnt so much during that time and I cringe thinking how good I could have been had I been working on it the previous two years as well. This was mostly due to the fact that I had an AMAZING teacher. Mr.P was not only excellent at making the class fun and engaging but he always pushed us to do better. Once he taught us the basics, he would only teach in French unless it was completely essential to explain something in English. He also required we only speak to him in French. Even if we ran into him outside the classroom he would say “Quelle? Je ne comprends pas” if we tried to talk to him in English. He really had the patience of a saint because I know I would sometimes go up to him and babble for 5 minutes trying to tell him something, half of which was nonsense, yet he never rushed me and always took time to correct my mistakes.
My second regret is that I never continued with the language after high school. Why? Because I obviously don’t make wise choices…The truth is that when I got to college I was lured in by all these other languages I was dying to learn and kept putting French on the back burner. Essentially, I took it for granted. Somewhere in my mind I thought that I would just retain everything I had already learned and I could just as easily pick it up later on down the road. That worked out fantastic! Okay, fine, it was a fail. As time went on I retained vocabulary but I started losing my grasp on the grammar and as that faded so did my confidence in my ability to speak and write it. So where does that leave me now? Close enough to the beginning that I am ashamed to admit it. I can still listen to speech at a slower pace and grasp the general meaning and I can still read text in French and understand a decent amount. This is half in part to retaining vocab and the other half due to the similarities between French and Spanish that allow me to cheat a little.
I work in an office setting and we have to take monthly Cyber Security quizzes which are excruciatingly dull, so to spice things up earlier this week, I took one of the quizzes in French after watching a 2 minute video also in French. Yes, this is my idea of spicing things up. Don’t judge! Anyways, I ended up only misunderstanding one of the questions but got the others correct, which I must admit, made me feel a little proud. Just a little.
One of my goals for this upcoming year, which I will be focusing on in this blog, is to get back to an intermediate level of French. If I am being realistic, it will be most likely be an upper beginner level, as I will be doing self-study. Maybe once I have reviewed the basics, I will invest in a tutor to fill in the gaps and to practice my speech as well. We’ll see what happens, I’m still working on a study schedule and it will depend on how much time I can allot to it a week.
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!