The Struggles of Being Bilingual…

Welcome back my new, international friend.

I know, you’ve been in the UK a few weeks already and you are half way to being an expert. You survived fresher’s week, know roughly how your timetable looks and know the time of day when supermarkets start reducing the price of the bread. You have a few new friends on Facebook and, if you are lucky and live in Scotland (not biased here), you’ve already attended your first Scottish dance (ceilidh). But, wait, you realise you still have one big challenge to master: ENGLISH.

Coming to the UK gives you the amazing opportunity of working on your English, and mastering it once and for all. I am going to say it: my dear friend, you’re bilingual now (yaaayy!!!).

But being bilingual is not all fancy; it comes with its challenges and struggles. Here, it’s time for you and me to get it all out and realise we are in this together!

Firstly, wanting to understand jokes and tell jokes can be frustrating.

When I had got a bit more used to life here and the people, my heart started wanting to express so much more than my language ability allowed me to. Where’s that funny girl who made everybody (well, maybe just a few) laugh in her home country? It was like I was this new ‘very proper person’ taking the microphone instead. My sentences were restricted to being more formal.

Here’s what I want to tell you: be patient and kind with yourself because even the biggest “weirdos” (hi!) end up being able to crack the best jokes.

Secondly, I couldn’t express as much as I needed to.

You hear a story, and a thousand thoughts come to your mind. Your heart seems to be in the right place but your words… that’s another story.

I thought it was just me until one of my friends, who is learning Spanish, admitted to me how frustrating it was feeling completely blank when she tried to relate emotionally to someone in Spanish. 

Thirdly, with two languages in your mind, going blank and hating the awkward silence.

Talking and translating in your mind all the time is not really possible, which will mean you will go blank sometimes. Wanting to say something and going blank was very frustrating at times.

One wonderful life-changing experience in Scotland was when I finally confessed to one of my first best buddies how I was so sorry because I felt I couldn’t be completely myself with her due to the language barrier. But at that crucial moment, my friend said:

“Ale, you don’t need to prove anything, I know your heart, don’t worry.”

And I could breathe again. I realised how the right people will just get you, will be patient and your friendship will be marked by those funny and unique moments. It gave me hope and from then on, I aimed to be as gracious as my friend was with me with other people going through the same thing.

Take note of this: Life will get easier, keep studying and remember, you already know a language! You just love a good extra challenge.

My wonderful friend, you will get there. Now, enjoy the journey.

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