12 Struggles Bilinguals Know to Be True

If you speak two or more languages, you possess a very special skill set. But that skill set can often bring you des problèmes. Whether you grew up speaking two languages, majored in a language, or did a crap ton of Rosetta Stone, here are 12 problems with which you probably identify.

1. Americanized terms

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You’re having a nice conversation when it happens. Your poor companion does not even realize what they have done. You think you should correct them, but you just stand there whimpering and feeling pity for them. “Noter DAme” is an American university in Indiana. Notre-Dame is a cathedral in Paris…

2. “What would my name be in…? Say my name!”

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Believe it or not, names are the same. There may be a variance in pronunciation based on a vowel or something, but your name will virtually be the same. One night, I spent an hour and a half reading off baby names in a French accent for a friend. They may have been prettier or “more fancy,” but IT’S THE SAME DANG THING.

3. “Can you help me with this other language? They’re basically the same, right?”

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NO HABLA ESPAÑOL. While the romance languages did all descend from Latin, we do not speak/read/know how to conjugate all of them.

4. Google Translate

Translate

It’s wrong. It’s all wrong.

5. “Say something in…”

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You have to muster all the grace you have to not respond with “something in…” Tip: translate the phrase into the language, so you are basically being a smart ass, but they won’t know. “Quelque chose en français…” They’ll look at you like you are so cool. And you are…très cool.

6. Interacting with native speakers

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Native speakers are so cool. They are also some of the most intimidating people in the world…initially. I once had a Frenchman shout at my friends and me for ALMOST slicing cheese the wrong way. SLICING CHEESE. Always learn the language AND the culture…

7. Watching a movie with others and a phrase in your second language is spoken/the movie has terrible subtitles

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You know it’s coming. You panic and try to act like you need to run to the bathroom. *Friend pauses movie* “What did they say? Is it like a popular phrase? But what does it mean? How do you pronounce it?” Bonus points if it is an idiom or profanity.

8. Having a conversation/writing a post when you realize you switch languages halfway through

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I have done this more and more as I have studied le français. C’est le pire. Sorry, it’s the worst.

9. Majoring in the language and getting this question: “So, what can you do with that?”

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Whatever the heck I want. According to Master Studies, majoring in or getting a second degree in a foreign language makes you more marketable, improves your cognitive language, and strengthens your  proficiency in your native language. So there.

10. Autocorrect

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Porn what? Pourquoi*

If you have friend who speaks the same languages, chances are you communicate in both. As if autocorrect wasn’t confused enough…Sometimes I want to say presentations instead of présentations or vice versa. You just have to pray you are doing well and not doing beer.

11. When you forget vocabulary

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If you haven’t used one language in a while, you begin to have gaps. It’s pretty embarrassing when you can pull off a five minute debate about the influence of media in two countries but you can’t remember the word for spoon.

12. “Teach me a phrase!”

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I have a love/hate relationship with this phrase. Teaching someone else another language is a great way to broaden horizons and make connections, but it is also an invitation for terrible pronunciation. We were all there once. We all said “j’ai m’appelle” instead of “je m’appelle”…okay, we didn’t, but we can’t really blame those who do…the first time.

 

Stay strong, mes amis.

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Author: Lexie Little

Journalism and Electronic Media/French Major @ the University of Tennessee

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