Reka Pal


This conversation is closed.

How does bilingualism make you feel?

What do you experience when you or others around you use and switch between two languages? Please share your experiences with bilingualism.

Closing Statement from Reka Pal

Thank you for all your contributions!

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    Jun 8 2012: Hello,

    I feel more special when I switch the language (albanian/English) with my sister. I feel like people are watching me and they wish they knew what I was talking about. I also feel that being bilingual, I am more open to new situations with languages. As my German teacher says...learning/speaking new languages helps your brain more than you think.
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    Jun 7 2012: Bilingualism makes me feel very proud to be Canadian.
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    Jun 6 2012: Married 9 years to a Lebanese girl and friend now have tried to learn the language; and chinese. I absorbed myself in the culture! from an aboriginal australian background i found it hard to switch my mind into the pace and spirit that they experience. if you study thier words the images and pictures they would experience in thier minds help language to flow. for instance my ex wifs name was Salam meaning "peace" and Ive been told my name Damien mean "Diamond" pronounced Almas. as my english language is expressed and my interpretation of comprehension I formulate sentences and I produce little scenorios (scuse my spelling i just want to express myself here quickly to get this clear... :-).) anyway so I couldnt do it in the end. My son hes 7 but i watch him when I have friends and work collegues talk to him in arabic and his mum speaks to him although he doesnt; I notice his body language and hes adhears to the spiritual and cultural side and his demeana changes... I listen to the language and even when people speak to me in english and i dont hear some thing clearly i still 5-6 years later after stopped trying to learn arabic and involving myself in the culture. i hear sounds like... and can interpret the words i learned in arabic. so i understand arabic just cant speak fluently by switching- my english is too strong! thanks for your question :-) i liked trying to explain my experience.
  • Jun 6 2012: Hi Reka and all

    "The more languages you speak the more identities you can have."

    This might sound untrue. we all have just one identity, we are who we are we can't (or don't have to) pretend to be another one.

    I wasn't that smart at school, I didn't even like it, (just like some teenagers around us) all I loved were History and Geography, that's it,I went to school for these two subjects - but after school I discovered that actually it is easy to learn any languages you want. I re-started with English and it let me to learn other languages in a short period of time.
    it is not easy to switch from one to another, (the brain isn't machine) and I am not specialised in Translations (however I can do it).

    During my student years I could know that a FBI agent could speak 42 languages and was specialise translator of 28 languages. Things like that inspired me even more (I wanted to learn as much languages as possible or school has to offer)

    Today I speak aver five languages. Now I believe, if I could achieve it, anyone can do it - indeed it is easy to say so - Once you find what you are passionate about you go for it. "Anyone can do it but not everyone" can say anyone but not everyone.

    Today I help languages students with the techniques I used to learn them. the results are outstanding.
    but when a student come over just because his/her parents want them to study, it doesn't work.
    the interest and the passion have to come from inside.

    Watch this:

    This is from TEDxSinCity

    Dr Woodsmall talks about our education system, but there is a part about learning languages
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    Jun 6 2012: Bilingualism would give access to two different cultural expressions. Each language has its peculiar rhythm, pace and intonation. Thus, expressions would have its beauty and acceptance based on the community life of a language group.
    Being able to access human experience in two different languages broadens one's mind; gives access to the knowledge of peculiar artistic expressions; and helps one to have better understanding of culture in a holistic manner.
    I love the British culture; I speak English as a citizen of the Commonwealth. I could access songs, books, and the media. I could identify with anything English.
    I was born in Akure; a Yoruba town. I could access songs,books and the media as an insider.

    The experience for me has a bit of drama. I seem to be a bit melodramatic when I speak Creole.
    Sometimes one tries to explain the material culture and ideas of one culture, with the language of another. One would see the inadequacies of the language, and the possibilty of meanings being lost in translation.
    Then, one knows, like a sage, that words should be interpreted with care.
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      R H

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      Jun 6 2012: "...broadens one's mind." "...meanings lost in translation." This, to me, is the crux of the benefits of bi/multi-lingualism. The varied conceptual understandings, which some may be realizable in one language but not the next, is the foundation of diversity, and (again for me) diversity is the foundation of human success and enjoyment. In my opinion, to begin to appreciate this fact is the beginning of the unification of our total human effort towards world-wide prosperity, joy, and peace. By celebrating this fantastic ability of humanity to have multi-faceted understandings of life and reality, we have an opportunity for mutual appreciation and resulting contribution to growth into a world beyond our most fantastical imaginings. But that's me.
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    Jun 9 2012: I was in a store tonight and this gentleman said to the cashier, while I go get this, please help this young woman "meaning me", I reply to him, this is really kind of you and when ahead and did my transaction.

    I live in beautiful Montreal, and my area is mainly French, and he told me: "Wow, I'm amaze because you respond to me in English".

    It felt nice to hear that, and to have the ability to know at least two "tongues". I would love to speak and learn, I can only imagine, what a woman can do, with three tongues..?!!
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    Jun 8 2012: To a certain extent, it made me feel confident to interact with people.
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    Jun 8 2012: On the few occasions when this has happened I felt stupid that I couldn't continue the conversation. With one couple who were from South Africa and used to revert to speaking Afrikans mid sentence, I felt excluded and even parinoid.
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      Jun 9 2012: Don't get carried away just fun...laugh instead of parinoid!! Laughter is the universal language, everybody understand time, just laugh and raise your shoulder, saying, oupps, I don't quite get you!!
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    Jun 7 2012: I remember immersing myself as Au pair in Bandol in southern France for my A levels and no-one spoke english, by the end of my stay I was even dreaming in french! I remember feeling amazing, like a new world opening up.

    A bilingual friend of mine said 'to speak two languages is to live two lives'.....I know exactly what he means.
  • Jun 7 2012: Some of us aren"t good at languages. Look at Einstein. But a few main languages or second (2nd)
    languages help communication. I wish I were better, but if I make an effort in another language.
    someone will speak English to me if they know it. Isn"t the curteous? It's like that in the good
    old self-absorbed USA Be curteous try
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    Jun 6 2012: Hi Reka and All,

    I deeply think that one language symbolizes a vision of the the world.
    This thought definitely gave me the ability to develop and nurture Human values such as Tolerance, Humility and Respect.

    Bilingualism has no meaning without Empathy.
    Empathy is crucial to develop the willingness to understand each other.
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    Jun 6 2012: I am just grateful that English, as a widely spoken language, connects us and enables us to have a conversation like this.
  • Jun 6 2012: It truly is difficult to learn a second language. But it is so fantastic to have that much more of a perspective on the world when you have a second language to fall back on. Usually in the process of learning a second language one also learns about some aspect of another culture and they open up a whole new group of people to learn from as well.

    I learned Brazilian Portuguese a number of years ago and I was surprised how difficult it was compared to anything else I have learned. I learned about dedication, hard work, and enduring through hardships. In that aspect it made me a better person. I also now connect really well with Brazilians and I have learned how awesome they are!

    It has always been funny to speak English and Portuguese now. There are times I'll take an expression in English and translate it to Portuguese and it does not make a lick of sense and the same thing exists going the other way. That and it opens up your world to a whole new slough of random language mistakes that create the greatest inside jokes ever. Basically learning a second language has been the funnest thing ever. Now if only I didn't keep through in
    Portuguese words as a substitute when I practice Spanish :P

    By the way, the coolest thing in the world is when I am speaking with a fluent English/Portuguese speaker. When I cannot find a word in Portuguese I can just throw in an English word and the other person gets it. I end up creating English/Portuguese sentences and the other person continues on as if two languages have not been fused together when a normal person would just stare at you and wonder "What?"
    • Jun 6 2012: Hi Eric,

      I agree with you that learning any foreign languages is difficult and all I want to add is that you don't have to try to learn foreign languages at all you have to try to walk with foreigners.
      you know, as anthropologists put it: Walking what makes us human.

      You might wonder what walking has to do with learning foreign languages.
      I am sure that you are familiar with that saying: "When in Rome, Do like Romans do"
      Now, When in Rome, Walk like Romans walk then Talk like Romans talk.

      I live in a area where there are many English, but guess what, hardly a few try to walk like Spanish,
      how do you want them to talk like Spanish? They can't.

      I am not Spanish neither English, I learn both languages as foreign languages.
      and you know what's funny: I am happy that none of them are my mother tongue and that's why they make me to learn them.

      NEVER stop learning. Learning is FUN
  • Jun 13 2012: It adds a positive dimension to my thoughts and my conversation. There are some words/phrases that have that extra 'oomph' in one language and not in the other. Being bilingual is like having different shades of colour to play with!
  • Jun 10 2012: It opens additional opportunities to enjoy good things about other cultures, that otherwise, would remain unknown. I believe that the billingual person must master his or her native language correctly, and be highly proficient at a second, or even third language. I also believe that mixing different languages in the same conversation weakens the speaker's ability to speak either language correctly over time. It would be interesting to see if everyone in the world spoke two languages, such as their native language, and an international language. It would change the world in many ways in which we can't even begin to imagine.
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    Jun 9 2012: It makes me feel r-i-c-h

    As a purely linguistic point of view, I always feel content when I discover that for eg an idiomatic expression is translated the same in another language...or not. For example, "beating around the bush" is translated in French as "touner autour du pot", which literally translates as "circling around the jar"; why is that? is a question for which I don't look for an answer, it's just fun to know that.

    From a social point of view, it opens your world, begets respect and openness from other people; you just feel at ease with someone who speaks the same language as you, and/or you're just pleased seeing the effort the other is making to communicate with you (communicating comes from Latin and means s-h-a-r-i-n-g)

    The world would be place if people spoke more than one language, that's fore sure :)
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    Jun 8 2012: it means more opertunity for knowledge, culture, relationships and carrier.
    and it really makes you feel that world is wide and life is short.
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    Jun 8 2012: Initially, I felt that it hugely expanded my human horizon. After 30 years of living in a trilingual environment, it just feels like expanded vocabulary at best, but I no longer notice which language I am using, or those around me. Whatever works best in the circumstance. I do feel that mono-linguists around me are somewhat handicapped, like they're missing a hand.
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      Jun 9 2012: Nothing wrong of missing a hand Henk ! Not everybody can learn an other language. Of course, is best to have and learn more, hence being mono-linguist, but I do not considared it as handicap.

      People live in Canada for over 20 years, and never learn to speak French...and they still produce and contribute.

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        Jun 11 2012: I agree Mireille - I did not intend to judge those "missing a hand", on the contrary, I empathize with those that are left out of conversations because they don't speak the language (been there). I also agree that it doesn't stop them from performing in society. Some people ever go beyond basics like "hello", "1 beer" and "goodbye" and they get on very well for decades!
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    Jun 8 2012: Funny fact, some asian languages uses the musical parts of the brain. Psycholinguistics is a very interesting and complicated field of study.
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    Jun 8 2012: In my K-8 educational years, I felt marginalized from all those basic english skills tests, and outcasted from other raced students. In my high school, I still felt marginalized from those same tests, but other people would find interest in my funny tones. Currently, I feel that more jobs want me and in those jobs they might expect a lot from me, so in a sense, I still feel marginalized, though it has its perks I guess. I want to feel comfortable in my bilingualism, but I feel as though an extra weight comes with it, so I am still searching for meaning in my life. =)
  • MR T

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    Jun 6 2012: Jealous
    • Jun 6 2012: Hi MR T

      Jealousy is a sickness, it can drive you crazy,

      you better envy
      • MR T

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        Jun 6 2012: Whats the difference?
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      Jun 6 2012: I do get jealous sometimes but I always let admiration surpass my jealousy.
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    Jun 6 2012: This situation always happened around me,because I'm a second language learner.I've been learning English and Japenese.I think it is very interesting on the premise of other people can catch on.
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    Jun 6 2012: I wish I learned other languages in school. I've spent the past 5 years traveling and currently live in Mexico. I now speak English, Portuguese & Spanish but would like to learn more. At first learning is very frustrating as you can not express your personality with people so you have to be creative in your new language. Learning a new language opens new doors not only in work, social life but in yourself. It takes time to have a "personality" in your new language so you find yourself looking for creative ways to express yourself and this experience really opens you up. :)
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    R H

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    Jun 6 2012: The background: I am not biligual, but someone I know very well is, is in the field of bilingual education, and is very well respected. I have been to many educational meetings and social gatherings with prominent educators in the field. I have heard and discussed much of the pertinent research from universities and private foundations over many years, AND, I have my own opinion on the subject, as I am not an educator. Many of the people I deal with in my line of work are bilingual, and my first language (English) is not theirs. I am often in situations where they will default to their native language and I am left out - usually intentionally.
    How I feel about it: I feel at a distinct disadvantage. Both sides of my parents spoke different languages, but when I was young and in school it was discouraged to speak anything but English, and other languages were frowned upon - big mistake. Because I have been exposed to such professional info, and because I was attracted to multiculturalism as a teenager, I feel that everything points to the benefits of bilingualism - except convenience for those who don't speak or understand it.