There is a club if you will, a club of those bilingual and bicultural individuals who have never had to learn a new culture or language. Wondering if you fall into this group? The way to know the answer is simple: have you been in a situation where you see or hear something taking place in one language or culture and automatically filter it and not realize that what is actually taking place is not “normal”?
A perfect example from my own life is when I was five or maybe seven years old. I was at an event with my family where there was a speaker and an interpreter. After about 15 minutes of sitting through this speaker, I turned to my mom and asked why one man was repeating everything the other man was saying…the interpreter, of course, was having to “repeat” everything in Spanish. Being able to transition from one language or culture to the other, can often be beneficial, however there are times when it can trick you.
Although I love being bilingual and moving seamlessly from Spanish to English or vice versa, there are times when it can trick me. In fact, this happens to me nearly on a daily basis. I say something in English, all my words are correct, however my grammar and sentence structure is 100% in Spanish. I have certainly been part of some good laughs due to the occasional mix up. In addition, the most frustrating thing about two languages occurs when I am trying to remember a word in English and only can think of it in Spanish or vice versa. These are small examples that show how being tricked is possible, however it is well worth the embarrassing or funny moments.
In the same way that having both languages in one’s head can be tricky, it certainly is a treat to transition from one language to the other without thinking about it. This is especially helpful when it comes to feeling at home in different cultural settings. It is a treat to have two languages to express oneself. This is especially true when talking with another bilingual individual! It is a great skill and asset to have the treat of being bilingual and bicultural, is it worth it though?
Of course it is worth it! Yes there are moments where it creates extreme frustration, embarrassment and funny moments. Part of the treat that comes with being bilingual and bicultural is embarrassing the moments where being part of that club is the direct cause of frustration. Those are the moments that trick our mind, but they are also moments we embrace. Although being bilingual and bicultural can be a trick at times it is overwhelmingly a treat.