Image credit Harriet Russell
Me: How do you say that thing you know? The tool you use to hit the nails (uses hand gestures to describe)
Friend: A hammer? Seriously…
Me: YES, there you go. A hammer Sorry, I could only remember how to say it in Spanish.
Has this ever happened to you? If you speak more than one language, I’m willing to bet you know exactly what I’m talking about. That moment you know what it is, but your brain doesn’t let you spit it out in the correct language.
Well today, I’m going to try something new. I’m going to write about being bilingual, but without restricting my brain letting the words come as they please. In whatever lenguaje they come out to show you how es que mi mente works. I’m literally just going to write as I’m thinking; not trying to force anything. Welcome to my pensamientos!
I’ve been asked many, many times if I think in Spanish or English pero I don’t know how to respond. I had never really thought about that, but it left me thinking. Ósea, yo en realidad no controlo mi mente fully. It flip flops between languages without me even knowing.
For the most part, I think it depends on who I’m talking to. At home, I speak Spanglish. So, I assume my brain processes and switches between languages freely. Unfortunately, it’s true. Me vale. I just let the words come out como quieran just like I’m doing now. My family understand it either way so I don’t worry about it or try too hard to speak perfectly in one specific language. Words just flow.
However, I have noticed that when I think too much about it, I get stuck. For example, if I’m talking to someone that speaks perfect Spanish and/or they don’t speak English, I panic! No porque no sepa hablar en español, pero porque estoy pendiente de not to speak some English. My brain freezes like when you don’t know how to, but you’re trying to drive a standard car. I don’t find that this happens the other way around when I’m talking to an English speaker. Maybe because English is my predominant language now. I can read Spanish perfectly, but I don’t do it often. I am still trying to finish reading 100 años de Soledad…
Other times, I know that I’m thinking and processing my thoughts in the language I am speaking. For instance, if I’m talking to someone at school, my train of thought is in English. Occasionally, some words don’t come out like in the scenario above, but for the most part, my brain thinks in English.
Being bilingual is definitely and asset because we can communicate with way more people. Let me side track and tell you a little historia. Some years ago, I went to San Francisco and stayed at a bed and breakfast. In the morning, I came down for breakfast and found myself at the table with an extremely diverse crowd. Unos eran de Argentina, some Americans and a group of French people. I thought it was so cool that I could understand them all and communicate with them. Oh yes, I’m not fluent, but I took four years of French in high school so I can navigate my way around the language of love. I understand it a lot more than I can speak it. Oui, je parle un peu Français.
Anyway, please share your experience. If you’ve ever been in aprietos or struggles due to your bilingual abilities. I want to know. Or am I the only weird one?
Thanks for reading,