I grew up in a Puerto Rican household within the U.S. We had arroz con habichuelas, perníl, pasteles, along with tacos, hot dogs, hamburgers and everything that the good ole’ U.S. of A had to offer in the ways of food. We also spoke español. That’s all that was spoken in the house, amongst friends (dad was Army), and at church. We really didn’t begin to speak English until around 4-ish. Thanks to many, many, many episodes of Reading Rainbow, Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, and Sesame Street, I am able to speak pretty good English without an accent and people wonder where the hell I’m from. I can’t really say the same for when I speak Spanish and unfortunately, I write Spanish sentences using the English sentence structure. I have been reprimanded by my daddy many a time because of it (and also for using double negatives).
Being bilingual has its advantages. Being bilingual, light-skinned, and blue-eyed has some real advantages. You can listen in on conversations and no one is even the wiser. Seriously, no one suspects me speaking any Spanish at all. Been asked if I was Greek (Greek, really?), but never Latina.
Anyways, another advantage is when I say full names and sentences in Spanish, I’m suddenly the drill sargeant that says, “JUMP!” and they say, “How high?” There are days when I do feel that I need to learn some angry sounding languages to keep this fun going (German or Russian anyone?) Supposedly, you will get hired faster if you are bilingual. Meh, don’t know really know how true that is when people tell you you don’t look “Latina” enough. Yeah…sorry, I don’t look like your ideal Latina/Hispanic chica, bitches. That’s another post all together.
Now, the one disadvantage that I always seem to run into is when I talk in English. The first time I encountered this was when I was 18. We were waiting to get measured for our cap and gown. I asked my friend about the toga. Yes, my friends, toga is what we use for cap and gown in Spanish…well, at least in Puerto Rico 3 years prior to that incident.
You know you thought it.
Another bilingual snafu was when I told my daughters that they were “out in the street all day.” It made total sense to say this in my mind because my mother would say, “A estado todo el santo día en la calle.” Of course, I get that confused look from my girls as if I was speaking in some sort of alien language and they have yet to figure out how to communicate with me. Then when I try to explain, their beclouded looks become glazed and I’m forced to admit defeat by uttering, “Nevermind.” Always good to know that I can bore them with tales from my youth. It doesn’t matter that they may learn something from it. It’s just too damn boring for my 13 and 8 year old to process. So much for sharing my wisdom with them.
I also just realized that because of this language word cross over in my vocabulary, it has lead to some minor miscommunication between the hubby and I.
Yep. It’s like that sometimes. The hubby is Tucker’s character and I’m Jackie Chan.
After 14 years, we figured out why we have this miscommunication about cups, mugs, and glasses. He would tell me to get him a cup of milk and I would bring it in a small glass. A cup of coffee was pour in a mug. A glass of tea was poured in a tall glass. He didn’t understand why I would pour him milk in a small glass when he asked for a cup. Finally, it dawned on me that one plus one doesn’t always equal two when you’re speaking more than one language.
Aaaaahhhhh and there’s the rub.
So, after being together for almost 15 years, we finally understand where we are coming from. At least, when it comes to what drink goes where. I laugh at myself thinking how long it took us to get to this point.
I would love to read some of your issues about being bilingual or even trilingual.