Spanoodle: Struggles of a Polyglot

Being bilingual is great, isn’t it? Now, imagine knowing six different languages. Seems amazing, right?

Well, the fun is over when you’re trying to find the correct word for something, and you go through all the pages of your mental glossary but have no success in find it between all the languages.

I never thought that was possible, but my own brain fools me every time!

Thursday, I was working on a translation and I almost lose a neuron trying to find the word in English for “clima”. I could have just looked the word in a dictionary, but I was being stubborn with myself because this is a word we use daily! How could I forget it just like that?! I kept thinking harder and harder but the only translation I could think about was “天气 (Tianqi)”, to the point that I had to open my Chinese dictionary and look for the word to finally remember that it was “weather”.

You probably would be thinking “You could’ve just searched for the word in a Spanish-English dictionary, why did you go through all that trouble?” To be honest, I didn’t even think about doing that, I was entitled to find what “clima” was.

The mixing of languages is something normal between language learners. Sometimes we catch ourselves talking in three different languages in the same sentence, or if someone asks something, we might answer in other language unconsciously. It’s pretty much the same as code-switching, except you are processing a whole range of codes. But you know what? You shouldn’t feel bad. That means you have a powerful brain; you are a genius! You are capable of thinking in different languages and that makes you special.

This is something I must deal with every day. My curiosity has led me to learn different languages to understand what’s happening around the world and see it from different points of view. This is how I travel: through languages. I haven’t had the opportunity to travel yet, but I am amazed with exploring different cultures, and what better way than doing it through their languages. To study their way of speaking is to almost be a newborn. You have to learn the structure, new vocabulary, the conjugations, the grammar rules, the syntax… EVERYTHING! In the case of Chinese, you even have to learn how to draw, because if you make a mistake on a stroke, you could be saying something completely different. Let’s not talk about the conjugations in Korean where even the adjectives are conjugated!

Another peculiar thing about people who know more than one language is the different personalities. Yes, you read that right. There’s a different persona for every language you speak. I’ve noticed my voice gets sweeter and high-pitched when I’m talking in English than when I talk in Spanish which sounds mature and a little deeper. I get bubbly when speaking Chinese or Korean while when speaking Italian or French I get more serious. It’s something incomprehensible, I feel like there are tiny different versions of me just sitting somewhere inside of me, waiting to get picked. Something Lizzy McGuire-like.

There are times where I need to stop for a second and think about what to say because I might be saying things that make no sense. I might come off as someone who doesn’t know how to speak but I’m just trying to organize my thoughts, finding the right words, and making sure I’m not saying something in other language. My brain becomes spaghetti and you can almost hear the Windows startup sound. The worst part is when my tongue ties because I noticed I mixed pronunciations. That’s when anxiety strikes. I start talking fast to stop looking like a fool and I make it worst. In my mind everything is on fire and I’m telling myself: Wow, you really need to go back to school and learn how to talk.

I sometimes underestimate the power I hold when talking different languages. I used to think it wasn’t something impressive or important, but many people have proven me wrong. Every time someone asks me “So, what do you do?” And I say, “I can talk in different languages,” people usually gasp or their eyes go wide. That’s when I finally realized that it’s something interesting and as important as any other career.

Languages are fascinating. You enrich yourself with so much culture. Idioms, jokes, even swear words! Seeing people faces when you’re talking in another language with a friend is hilarious! Probably they think you’re talking about them but they can’t understand, lol! Plus, what’s cooler than to understand memes in different languages! You can laugh in jajaja, hahaha, 哈哈哈, or ㅋㅋㅋ!