Monday, 28 May 2012

What makes me me?

I’ve been raised bilingual! I don’t know what came first, Dutch or English. I think English as I don’t remember much before my 5th year. My kindergarten years were spent in the Netherlands but after that all my schooling till my 18th was in English. Oops, I forgot that year in French. In Niger I spent 6 months of my third year of primary school at a French school. Due to the massive age difference, some of the other pupils were teenagers, my parents decided to pull me out of school and home teach. Around my 8th I was for a little while trilingual. According to others, I was fluent. Sadly, I don’t speak or understand French anymore. 

Why am I writing this? Bilingual people seem to be better at problem solving Clown. However, our vocabulary isn’t so vast as those who only speak one language. It also takes us a little longer to think of the right word for the object. Are any of you bilingual? Do you recognize this? I do. ‘Others’ usually don’t have the patience and my fellow countrymen regard me a little stupid in certain situations when I can’t find the right word. I even have colleagues who make fun of me! What they don’t know, is that bilingual people perform better in verbal and non-verbal communication than monolinguals. Sadly, this fact isn’t broadcasted! Integration in Dutch society means you have to be part of the group, you are not allowed to be different. When you are different, like the Amish practice, you are shunned. When holding a mirror to society, or to others, it places me in a difficult situation. I can read them, but they don’t seem to be able to read me! I am not like them Angel

Bilingualism sharpens the mind. The bilinguals, as researchers have found, manifested a cognitive system with the ability to attend to important information and ignore the less important. In terms of monolinguals and bilinguals, the big thing that researchers found is that the connections are different. When monolinguals solve a problem, and they use X systems, bilinguals will solve the same problem, using other systems. In reading nonverbal cues bilingual people are faster too. Why? It seems that when looking in their brains through neuroimaging, it appears that bilingual people use a different kind of a network that might include language centres' to solve a  nonverbal problem. Their whole brain appears to rewire because of bilingualism.

Now I understand why I am different, but the problem I need to solve is how to act when I’m surrounded by monolingual people.

When bilinguals speak, write or listen to the radio, their brain is constantly trying to choose the right words but simultaneously keep the alternatives in another language in the background. This  explains why I am really bad in translating! I think either in English, or Dutch. I separate the two. More and more psychologists and neuroscientists think that language is so interwoven with thinking and reasoning that people behave differently depending on the language they speak at that time. That would certainly be consistent with my own experience, people say that I come over differently when speaking English than when I speak Dutch. I also feel different when speaking English or Dutch. In other studies it was found that value judgments and emotions differed too depending on the language the subject predominately spoke at that moment. This I notice a lot! My value judgments and emotions differ from the ‘others’. This might explain why I often don’t feel as if I fit in and why I am ‘shunned’.

I’m grateful for being bilingual. It has brought me a lot. The only thing that I don’t like about it, is that I often feel I’m not being understood. What can I do to change that?

Do I continue to try to participate or withdraw? I’m inclined to say, withdraw Striaght Face and concentrate on something else. I really can’t wait till the ‘others’ try to understand me! I need to find a place where the ‘others’ will accept me for who I am and don’t try to make me like them.

Lucky for me, there are some people who do understand me but their IQ, EQ & SQ are way off the charts. One of these persons, is my hubby Blushing

Had to voice this! Leave a comment to let me know what you think.

2 comments:

suz said...

this is an interesting concept. My dad was bilingual (German and English) but he rarely spoke German. His mom put her foot down when they first came here to the USA that English was the language and that's what they would speak (she was multi-lingual). It would make sense because the language would also probably be connected to a culture. I wonder if people who learn a 2nd language in college have the same issues. I suspect I would react the same way you do, but you do, fortunately, have your husband to "have your back" so to speak and fortunately quilting crosses language barriers. As I write this, I'm thinking of a close friend who is French Canadian. She's lived in the States all her life, but French was spoken at home and she does speak it with her sisters. I've always had the impression that it's easier for her to speak French. Her English sometimes sounds stunted, as though she just recently learned it. She is an accountant and extremely artistic (she makes the most amazing quilts). I think I'll run this by her at our next quilt bee! It would explain a lot.
I love reading your blog-it often leaves me with a lot to think about.

Linda C said...

l for one would love to have grown up bi-lingual. Living in an english speaking country, with an english speaking family, we had no option. l always envy those who can teach their children a second language at home. As far as l am concerned, l understand you completely!! You are right. Don't waste time on those who don't understand. Life is too short!! Surround yourself with those who love you for who you are and not how you speak!! Hugs from Australia.