Quit Barking At Me You Cat

For all my bilingual people out there, what is it about the brain that prefers one language over the other? Or is it just me? Spanish is my native language and I didn’t learn conversational English until I was 9. I still remember learning English by sounding the words out in Spanish. The vocabulary words handed out in 2nd grade weren’t too difficult and by using Spanish as a spelling filter for English words made me a kick-ass speller. I don’t remember exactly when it happened, but at some point I started to think (as in my conscience) and dream in English. Coincidently, that’s when Spanglish unintentionally emerged in my speech. I didn’t view it as a problem then because it was an important communication tool within a bicultural and bilingual community. However, my English speaking, reading, and writing skills were terrible and they were much worse in Spanish. Did I care? No. Neither did most of my bilingual classmates throughout my years in the American public school system. Problems arose when people like me had to interact with monolingual Spanish or English speakers. Is this the setup for some sympathy and pity? Maybe. Get your Kleenex ready…

Growing up without dominating either language is like growing up half-cat and half-dog. Other cats and dogs look at you weird. You make the cardinal sin of asking cats what purring is and when you’re invited to bark with the dog pack you meow. Even while hanging out with cats and convincing them of your cat-tastic abilities, it is only a matter of time before they notice your wagging chihuahua tail and they will call you out for it.

It wasn’t until I attended college that I realized how I never fully learned either language properly. Because the entire curriculum was in English, I had no choice but to really learn and dominate it. This made Spanish my weaker tongue and even though it is my native language, my meow (English) was much louder and clearer than my bark (Spanish).

I’ve come a long way since college, but English is still more advanced in my speech and comprehension. Is it possible to dominate two or more languages “equally”?

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1 thought on “Quit Barking At Me You Cat”

  1. Good Question… As I’m learning Vietnamese, Spanish words often pop into my head when I’m trying to speak Vietnamese… I don’t think I’ll ever be ‘bilingual’
    Reminds me of the joke:
    What do you call a person who can speak two languages? – bilingual
    What do you call a person who can speak three languages? – trilingual
    What do you call a person who can speak just one language? – An American

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