Taking Bilingualism for granted

In bilingual, Uncategorized on October 18, 2010 at 11:29 pm

I just read an article on the October Issue of  “Psychology Today” (an article called Double Talk) where they interviewed various bilingual people from all walks of life. Beyond the fact that they didn’t interview any Bilingual Hispanics, which kind of bothered me given there are so many of us in the states; they did have some really good points about the advantages that bilinguals have vs. monolinguals, such as:

  • Bilinguals often intermingle their languages (Spanglish), not out of laziness or lack of ability, but in a natural quest for optimal self-expression and understanding
  • Bilingual brains are fitter. Using two languages throughout life delays the onset of dementia symptoms by an average of four years
  • Bilingualism enhances attention and cognitive control in kids and adults
  • Bilinguals are better at learning additional languages, if those languages bear little resemblance to the ones they already know

That’s when it hit me! Wow, this very reputable magazine is pretty much saying that if you are bilingual you are special (in a good way) and that we think and perceive things very differently than those who don’t think, act or live in two languages. Have I been taking for granted this special ability? Have I been living life knowing that yes, I do live two different languages and sometimes felt one language described something better than in English, like the word “tierno” could never be communicated in English with the same feeling and intention as it does in Spanish- the word “endearing” or “sweet” just doesn’t sound the same. Perhaps you’ve never taken this special ability for granted but have you stopped to think how important we really are?

That’s when I went ahead and did some more digging to find out how unique we really are in America and found out that in fact – in the U.S. there are more than 55 million bilinguals and when it comes to U.S. Hispanics, 70% of us are bilingual. These are very interesting facts given that almost everyone who is from another country can be bilingual if they just learn English when they get here. Yet from research I’ve conducted, many of those people who are bilingual feel less than those who speak one language. They feel they can’t accomplish everything they would like to even though they studied in their own country. They feel they can only do things in the hospitality, fast food, cleaning arenas or anywhere that gives them a break. Is it fear? Beyond documentation or immigration status, what else is keeping a lot of these people from succeeding? Is it a lack of role models or a push to be steered in the right path?

Whatever it is I just want to let you know with this blog post that regardless of what you do…whether it’s blue collar or white collar the fact that you are bilingual definitely gives you an edge. You automatically have exposure to two languages, two cultures, two meanings, and definitions for what is around you. It gives you power that others can’t understand. It gives you one more bullet point in your resume.

Don’t ever take it for granted and instead push yourself like I am everyday after that article to use your bilingualism to make yourself better in everything you do.

  1. Definitivamente, I can totally relate to this article…me encantó, and I’m also very proud to be bilingual!

  2. Yo también me apunto. More power to nosotros! Perhaps those people who are bilingual, lack the confidence to pursue their goals because of their level of proficiency or their accent. Perhaps they feel that their English needs to be impeccable in order to venture into certain fields. But practice makes perfect, right? ¡Sí se puede!

  3. Thank you for your thoughts on this topic. I am a second generation Mexican American who is monolingual and have felt my language loss all my life. I have tried to learn Spanish throughout my life but the best I can say is that I am “conversant.” On the other hand, my husband is a first generation American born of Colombian immigrant parents. His parents taught him that he would be “twice as valuable” if he could speak, read, write and think in two languages and two cultures. It has proven to be true. Despite his parents being spanish dominant speakers, all his siblings and my husband have college degrees and my husband is a lawyer. They are all professionally successful and use their bilingual skills in their work. Our son now attends a Spanish immersion school where he is learning to speak, read and write in spanish.

    • That’s fantastic news! Just knowing that you are a parent that supports bilingualism for the next generation is a step in the right direction. Don’t ever feel bad for not being completely fluent, “conversant” is definitely much more than many Hispanics in America can even attempt at being. Thanks for visiting the blog and sharing a bit of your experience! Hope you continue to come back.

  4. Yo igual soy bilingue. Soy de decencia Boricua 1ra generación, nacido y criado en Brooklyn, NY- Newyorican. Growing up at home Spanish was mostly spoken. I remember my mom put me in bilingual class in the 5th grade, my classmates spoke Spanish as their first language (mainly kids from 1st gen. immigrant Latino families from CA, SA, DR, PR & Mexico). Putting me in this environment from 5th to 9th grade honed my language skills in both English and Spanish. I was fortunate that I was enrolled from an English only to bilingual. Today most people ask me where I’m from because of varied my accent speaking Spanish. Most think wasn’t born in here in the States. Bueno en conclución te dejo esto- En el futuro mis hijos se le habla y aprenden el Español en casa. En la escuela el Ingles.

    • Que buena idea la de tus padres y muchas gracias por compartir tu historia. De verdad que a mi me encantaria hacer lo mismo con mis hijos algun dia porque a mi tambien me criaron igual…espanol en casa e ingles en la escuela. Y todos los dias les agradezco a mis padres por esa decision. Hope you continue to visit the blog!

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