An Ode to Bilinguals Everywhere

Elizabeth Azevedo
May 30, 2017

This past week I have been confronted with the fact that my Spanish has really taken a hit from lack of practice. Up until this point, my progression with the language has been going very well—from not being able to ask where facial soap is in Farmacity to having conversations about the environment and politic sphere. Now mind you, I struggle with finding the right words or sometimes don’t understand a response but I can get by most situations. However, recently certain experiences have shined a light on the complexities of language and the difficulty of becoming fluent in more than one language.

One such experience was a comedy show on Sunday night (if you are ever in BA you should definitely check out BA Comedy). I watched four comedians in English and then stayed for the show in Spanish because WHY NOT? Although I understood the first Argentine comedian (the second one talked waaayyyy too fast for me to catch anything), I did not get all the jokes. I could understand the who, what, when, where of her set but not the why. Why was it funny? Sure, I understood certain jokes and laughed along with the crowd, but there were moments where everything went completely over my head. It’s because language is so much more than just knowing how to communicate, it’s about understanding one another.

There's so many things about what makes a language special: how you physically say words, different dialects and accents, and of course meaning. The intricacies of a language are infinite. Slang and new meaning behind words make it difficult to fully grasp a new language. Although I have shown vast improvement in my Spanish, it's something that must be constantly worked on. Learning a language requires dedication.

The experience of learning a language is something that most U.S.-born citizens try and scoot around. Sure, there is a high school requirement (sometimes in middle school as well) but learning a language that late life has been proven to be ineffective. Most other countries require that children learn another language while in primary school. This language is often English. Because such importance has been placed upon English, there lacks a need for people in the U.S. to learn anther language due to its permeation into nearly every culture and country. Even though the United States has no official language, English has unofficially become our mother tongue causing a reluctance by many to learn another language simply because they do not need to. Through this system of education, we close ourselves off to other possibilities and ways of thinking, furthering our Eurocentrism. Learning a language teaches you about the culture, its history, and its people and we do not allow ourselves to have such empathy and understanding due to our total lack of effort.

I met a man from Belgium this week and learned that he spoken four languages fluently (with some basic Spanish thrown in). He told me that this was a common occurrence in Belgium, especially if pursuing a professional career. However, even those pursuing a technical career such as a plumber would know at least two languages. At least.

More Blogs From This Author

View All Blogs

Elizabeth Azevedo

<p>Come one, come all on this adventure of a lifetime! I&#39;m Elizabeth, known to many as Liz and Avocado by some. Originally from Northern California, I am currently studying Communication Studies and American Culture at the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor. I&#39;ve decided to take my education beyond the bounds of the United States and head to Buenos Aires, Argentina!! Follow me along this journey as I navigate a new country and try to remember Spanish!</p>

Home University:
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor
American Studies
Explore Blogs