I am bilingual

I have meant to talk about bilingualism and the experiences of living with two languages for a while. I have felt a bit more motivated by the fact that I have to develop very real and trustworthy relationships with my research participants who are all bilingual and multilingual. The fact that I am in a similar position using two different languages on a daily basis is an enormous advantage for making that special connection. I know what they are going through as I have experienced it myself – all the ups and downs, making conscious and not so conscious choices about what language to use, trying to remember words and phrases, having it all in context…

I am in the process of finding a concise way to structure and articulate my experience of being bilingual. Furthermore, @mlmanchester got me thinking by asking followers what languages they speak. I was born in Bulgaria and Bulgarian was my first language, however, I have been studying English all my life and I have spend quite a time in an English speaking environment before I moved to England. I consider myself to be bilingual and here’s why…

  • I am bilingual as I use both English and Bulgarian on a daily basis. I switch between the two languages effortlessly and starting sentence in one and finishing it in the other language is nothing strange or unusual.
  • I think in either one of the languages depending on the context. If it’s England, university or a work related stuff, it is more likely that I will think in English. But I do think in Bulgarian when my family and childhood is concerned.
  • I use the two languages for different purposes and to communicate with different people. However, sometimes I may find it hard to express a thought in Bulgarian, so then I switch to English where possible.
  • Credit: REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

    I use two alphabets – the Latin and the Cyrillic (кирилица). I use English for my university and research work, so this is my academic language along with my everyday language in the country where I live. I use кирилица to write emails to my family or other Bulgarians.

  • I dream in both languages, sometimes I even switch languages in my dreams and I think this depends on the context as well.
  • Living with two languages helps me remember, it seems like my mind has lots of drawers and being able to relate to words in both languages makes it easier to store and access all that information. Sometimes I just have to remember the broad context and the specific words and language will turn up to be my reminder.
  • Being bilingual gives me access to more cultures and extends my knowledge and understanding of other people. I have the confidence that I can understand other people regardless of the language they speak.
  • So that’s the last one – I am bilingual and this allows me to use additional means to communicate, be it language, pictures, gestures…

I am proud to be a bilingual and I find it fascinating how language choices are made in the process of communication and thinking. Any thoughts?

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