My struggles as a bilingual
Some people have no idea what it’s like to have two active languages in your head all the time while trying to fit a few others in too. I mean, it can be pretty much crazy. A spinner of craziness, really. And kind of intense.
But before I start sharing the juicy details of my daily struggles as a bilingual here, I want to first give you a short overview of my general life. I call myself bilingual (most of the time at least) mainly because there are two languages that are equally involved in my daily life.
Since, I live in Russia — Russian language takes on a good chunk of my personal as well as professional (I’m a literary translator, nice to meet you!) life. But aside from that, everything else in my life is connected to English: my blog, my writing, my work, my podcast, my social media life, even my ‘education’ cause obviously, I am using English speaking resources to learn two other languages French and Chinese as if my life is not complicated enough.
With all that said, let me introduce you some of the bilingual struggles that might make no sense sometimes:
1. ‘Split-personality’ perception of the world
It’s like having different lenses on each of your eye. You don’t look at the things that you used to perceive as the only true and right ones anymore. It provokes a complete reform of your beliefs and values. Which is not a bad thing but it definitely does have a shady side to it. I call it accidental, (because obviously you didn’t mean for this to happen), alien syndrome — which means at some point you might feel like you don’t fully belong to the society you grew up in anymore and yet, you feel like you will never become a part of another country and its society either.
Over time, it gets easier to actually see your place in this bilingual state of things, but it’s still quite a challenge to get to that point.
So often, I find myself torn between two different ways of thinking. It’s like being half-fish that is drawn to the call of the ocean, and half-bird that is starving for height at the same time.
Quite a turbulence!
2. Memory glitch
I forget words. All the time. In both languages. And no, I can’t help it.
I also mispronounce words, confuse words, and on some days, my ability to express my thoughts in words fails me miserably.
3. Bilingual loneliness
I wish I had a teleportation power so I could teleport from one country to another to just CHAT WITH PEOPLE.
I think it’s more about me craving for more chatting with English-speaking people but yeah, well, since I’m a freelancer, I, in general, don’t really talk much, so my speaking skills are a little weak and flabby. Which makes me feel a bit lonely, sometimes.
4. High expectations
When people hear ‘bilingual’ or ‘a language buff’, they expect excellence of some sort and it’s a hell of a pressure I must say. Because the reality is that when it comes to languages (any language, even your native) mistakes are unavoidable.
I have bad days. My brain has bad days. And so I mess up a lot. All the time.
And as much as I hate to admit it, mistakes break my heart, as if all these years of learning mean nothing. As if I will never be good enough. All because, when people learn that I’m a bilingual, they expect me to be a walking dictionary, testing me all the time if I know this word or that phrase, or if I could translate this song or that video… ugh… exhausting.
A news flash, bilinguals are not walking dictionaries or a call google translate.
And keep in mind the memory glitch I talked about above.
Another thing that I struggle with as a bilingual in Russia is that I can’t buy as many foreign books as I want to because they are either too expensive or unavailable in the local bookstores or even online. And Amazon is not an option here.
So, even though, most of the time being a bilingual is fun, with fun come the struggles. So hopefully, talking about it will help to make it a little easier for all of us.
Are you bilingual? If so, feel free to share what is the hardest thing of being a bilingual for you in the comment section below. And don’t forget to support me by clicking on the like button below.