Setbacks of being bilingual.
“Hey! Let’s see… How did you sprain your ankle?”
“Well I was walking and I, I like… Do you know when you are like…?’’
“When you are like what?”
“Like walking… and then you feel like you’re about to fall? What’s another word for that?”
“ Oh yes! That thing…”
This happens to me almost everyday. When I’m supposed to explain something or even talk, I always struggle with some words. Considering the fact that I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, which is a Spanish-speaking country, I think it’s normal for me to have some difficulties with my English, but after a while, it has become annoying. Everybody says it’s good to speak two fluent languages, and that might be true. However, being bilingual also has its setbacks. When you are used to speak only one language and then you have to speak the other, it becomes confusing. It feels so different speaking a foreign language and personally, that creates frustration inside me.
“So how was your day?”
“ Oh, it was so…”
I have it. I have the word right in my mind, but in Spanish. When this happens, all I can do is wait and check if there is any word in English that could mean the same thing as the word I am thinking about. If I can’t think of something, I just say the word in Spanish.
“It was so brutal!”
“Brutal? What does that mean?”
“Oh sorry, brutal means like… awesome or something like that.”
“Oh! That’s good!”
I have those two languages in my head, but mixed. Some words in English with
words in Spanish. All mixed up in my head, crossing each other and coming out
of my mouth when I don not know how to say the same word in the other language.
This leads me to confusion. It’s frustrating when you want to explain something
to one person and you can’t find the words to describe it, or they just come to
my head but in the opposite language. Especially when you want to be as
detailed as possible. That’s why most of the times I just say the first word
that crosses my mind, even if it’s not the correct one or even close to that.
In an essay I read by Richard Rodriguez, he was telling a story similar to mine. He once said: ‘’my words could not stretch far enough to form complete thoughts.’’ This totally describes my daily struggles with English. Every time I try to say something in English, I think in Spanish. When that happens, I try to act like I forgot the word, and just give a brief description or some clues until the other person figures out what the exact word is, but I get tired of that. I am tired of the Spanish getting in the way on almost every conversation I have. I want to speak freely and fluently. Without searching my brain’s ''dictionary/translator'', without thinking that I have to be really careful on what I say and how I pronounce it, and without trying to fake my accent. All that so I can sound normal and seem like I know what I’m saying.
There is a point where you feel that you shouldn’t even speak. I did not feel it until it was the time to speak in front of everyone. The moment when everyone is expecting you to say some words, and you just cannot find them. That’s what makes me want to run, and hide from everyone.
I am tired of sounding like an uneducated person in front of everyone. I hate the fact that I cannot express my self in English as well and as much as I can in Spanish. I feel like I am trapped. I do feel like I cannot express my self anymore. It is so frustrating.