It is pretty damn awesome being able to speak two languages fluently! Living in a country where they don’t speak my first language can be a bit tricky though. I have improved my English a lot since I moved to England, but there are moments I struggle being bilingual.
1. I mix languages up
One that might be slightly obvious, but it happens a lot! I switch between English and Dutch all the time, every single day. When I speak to my friends and family I obviously speak in Dutch, but when I go to class, go shopping or talk to my friends, I speak English. I do not have to translate every English word in my mind to Dutch anymore, I think in English and I think in Dutch but sometimes the “switch” doesn’t switch over quick enough and I speak Dutch when I want to speak English and vice versa. My boyfriend noticed that when I get scared or stressed I automatically get into the “Dutch-zone”, where I automatically speak Dutch. When he tickles me (which I absolutely hate) I shout “Nee, nee, nee, nee!” instead of “No, no, no, no!”. I guess it is and will always be my first language, my safety zone, but it’s funny how it works like that!
2. I forget which one’s which
This might sound very funny but sometimes, when I’m tired or not paying attention, I do not hear what’s English and what’s Dutch. Let me give you an example to explain it a bit better, cause I know it might sound a bit strange. The other day I was in Starbucks before my shift at the bar and wasn’t fully paying attention to what was happening around me. I heard people talk and it suddenly hit me that they were speaking in a language that I was incredibly familiar with. Were they speaking Dutch? But no, it was English. I think English has become so natural to me that I confuse it with Dutch because I’m so familiar with it now. You’d be surprised how often this has happened to me. (I love it with I’m right and they are actually Dutch tourists in Manchester!)
3. I’m forgetting my first language…
Because I live and study in England, English has become the language I use most in everyday life. I only speak Dutch on Whatsapp with my friends and Skype with my family and it makes it a bit hard to remember all those Dutch words… So much effort, right… When I call my parents I sometimes struggle to remember a specific word and especially the first day when I’m back home in the Netherlands I can’t always find the right words. Usually, it’s fine after about a day, but it’s weird how your brain works like that. It kinda scares me because Dutch is home to me, I don’t want to lose that. But I’m confident I’ll never forget how to speak Dutch.
4. “Hey, you speak a foreign language? Say something in it!”
As soon as people realise I am not English (which is usually pretty quick because I lack the British accent, although some people seem to think I’m American!), and find out that I’m from the Netherlands they ask me to say something in Dutch. I get that it’s very interesting and it’s kind of nice that they show interest in it, but they could at least give me something to translate!
5. My brain gets tired!
Speaking two languages on daily bases is incredibly tiring! When I get tired my English doesn’t always work the way I want it to work, I stick words together and forget vowels, but when I’m mentally tired from switching languages, it gets worse. The first few months in England were especially hard because I wasn’t used to speaking English that much. It’s definitely improved a lot over the last three years but sometimes it really does drain me.
Okay, okay, okay. I hope you understand this is a joke-y article. Yes, these things are kind of annoying but being bilingual is absolutely incredible. I have helped me in so many ways, it allowed me to do things I never could’ve imagined doing and I’ve spoken to so many interesting people I never could’ve spoken to otherwise. Being able to speak two languages has opened so many doors for me and I am a hundred percent sure it is going to influence a big part of my future too. Seeing how many positive effects it has had on my life makes me wish I paid more attention to French and German during high school because even though I know the basics, I can’t have a conversation in either language.
Seriously though, being bilingual has way more pros than these silly cons. It takes some effort but it will pay off!
See you soon!