Last week we talked about the two most wanted-to-know questions about bilinguals, if you missed them, you can check them out first and then carry on with this post with the mystery title with it. Maybe I am overreacting a little, but that’s the fun part of it.
After reading the first post, it’s already crystal clear that life it’s not always fancy for those strange beings –the bilinguals. There are the messy beginnings, but I suppose that’s just life.
Before coming to Scotland I had all sorted out in my mind:
- In one or two months I will be an official bilingual.
- In one year I will be already over-qualified to start a degree in English.
It’s funny how learning a language in the actual country is not what is cracked up to be. It’s like, by magic, the fact that you are there, maybe something in the air, or the British tea (hmm) will make you release the tongue and your posh English will come out, out of the blue.
How did I manage to learn English (or rather get a plain decent level of communication)? That’s another post, stay tuned!
But how do we manage to stay (mostly) sane while learning the language and what we don’t tell you while we smile politely and nod? That’s the real deal here.
Tip number 1 when you are trying to read a book in another language for the first time? –never try to translate every single word you don’t understand– because by an hour you will still be learning all the possible ways of saying the word potato from the first line (just kidding, stay here!). You need to flow with the story, so only translate the words that really keeps you from understanding the main point so you don’t surrender on the way. Ok, that sounds very good. Shall I try it in normal conversations? Yeah, why not. I reckoned I started understanding 50% from conversations, and I was sort of happy with that.
Nodding, smiling and freaking out with every single pitch of interrogation because, oh boy, it’s my turn. Sweet.
Then, time goes by and your confidence builds up, along with the percentage perceived. That’s just how it is. Someday you will confess to your very-patient-God-bless-them-friends that you have not understood every single word they say, but you got the message (eventually).
Another thing you need to know is that we do notice our lack of expressiveness (maybe more like you), and it can be very annoying. We can hear something shocking, incredible, hard to believe… we are about to come up with something cool, and then…
–Oh, that’s good!.
You panic, you need more time to think.
Ouch. I thought it was just me until one of my friends, who is learning Spanish, admitted to me how frustrating was feeling completely blank when she meant to relate emotionally to someone in Spanish. Jokes are another story, but honestly, be patient because even the most “weirdo” (hi!) end up being able to crack some decent jokes (
or so I was told).
Similar thoughts on going blank here, do you remember I told you in the last post how it is not really possible to be translating your thoughts while talking? sometimes that means you just go blank, and it could be very frustrating when wanting to make new friends. I consider myself a bit (
a tiny bit) socially-awkward person, so awkward silences make me nervous, I admit it, mainly because I kinda feel is me who has to say something.
One wonderful life-changing experience in Scotland was when I actually confessed to one of my first best buddies how I was so sorry cause I felt I couldn’t be completely myself with her due to the language barrier. You start to feel comfortable, loved and you just want to offer who you are, but your mouth and your mind don’t seem to be in sync. It honestly got to the point where It was extremely suffocating. But at that crucial moment, my friend spoke some grace into my life.
-Ale, you don’t need to prove anything, I know your heart, don’t worry.
And I could breathe again. Why was it life-changing for me? I realized how the right people will just get you, will be patient and your friendship will be marked by those funny and unique moments. It gave me hope and from then on, I aimed to be as gracious as my friend was with me (Thanks, Jen) with other people going through the same. Take note of this:
You never see the whole picture, be always patient and kind.
“Love is patient and kind(…) “-1 Corinthians 13:4 (Bible)
(Sight) So, there you have it. Some things your bilingual friend never tells you (and maybe should start telling you). A big hug to the people living in a foreign country and have ever felt this way (I feel you!) –Life will get easier, keep studying and remember, you know already a language! You just love a good extra challenge.
Thanks to the bunch of folks who were and are patient with me while learning and made me feel welcome.
We need more people like you.
And you who read this, thank you.
Do you want to send me some thoughts/experiences on this or maybe just correct my English mistakes? Feel free! I am here to learn too, it’d be very appreciated.
Comment down below or drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.