Lost in Translation | Maureen Good

Growing up with two cultures is a peculiar experience.

On the one hand, you develop at an early age a deep appreciation for cultural differences. You may get to enjoy more traditions, like celebrating Thanksgiving or Chinese New Year as well as Christmas and Easter. On the other, you might find yourself in constant movement, shifting mentally and physically from one to the other.

Travelling becomes an everyday affair, and having to explain to your friends that your packed lunch ‘isn’t weird’ and ‘is actually really nice if you want to taste it’ is commonplace. One of the most striking and, arguably, fun aspect of having a bi-cultural family is of course the linguistic diversity. Growing up bilingual, I have had first-hand experience of both the difficulties and the perks of speaking several languages. It doubles the amount of accessible content: books, movies, podcasts, TV shows… which, beyond opening up new artistic and intellectual avenues, makes it twice as hard to get anything done, there being twice as many ways to procrastinate! It also makes for an amusing way to communicate with your family without others around you understanding – a secret code of sorts, if you will.

The flip side of this is of course the frustration at being unable to express oneself concisely due to having temporarily forgotten a word in one language – with your brain handing you its linguistic counterpart on a platter and your interlocutor insisting you ‘say the word, maybe I’ll know it!’ creating too much noise to be able to focus on retrieving the desired term. But the advantages always outweigh the inconveniences, as many other bilinguals will appreciate.

What challenges have you encountered from speaking several languages? Which language will you learn next?

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