There are so many articles regarding studies and research on the advantages of being bilingual and I agree with them all. When I was younger I never thought about all of these advantages. It was just who we were and what we did as a family. We spoke Spanish with my family and we spoke English in school and to our friends. I am grateful my parents knew about all of the advantages that people are speaking of now, way before it became a topic of discussion.
My parents knew that being bilingual would help us get further in our education. They knew that working our minds in two languages could improve our ability to learn new things easier. There are many research articles that praise being bilingual and multilingual to improving ones cognitive skills.* All of my sisters and I finished high school and went on to finish college. Each of us decided where our education would take us and I think we are all happy with the choices we made. I loved learning then as I do now. I do not regret anything about my education choices (other than I should have studied more and partied less at the beginning of my lets-all-be-free-and-have-fun-every-night college years). It did take me five years to graduate college, but I did graduate with two degrees and I am proud of that. And now I get to write this blog, another in Spanish and do many other creative things. I think it may have worked out just fine. I hope my children can say that they are proud to be bilingual, too.
My parents knew that being bilingual would help us find better jobs. The demand for people that are not only good in their field, but are good in two or more languages is amazing. We were all able to proudly say at any interview that we could work with Spanish and English speaking people. It didn’t matter what the job was, we would always have that advantage to show. I even have one sister that speaks five or six languages. I lose count, but it’s something I deeply admire.** How cool would it be if my kids could decide one day to go and learn another language, then another and then another. Their successes would be immeasurable!
I’m not sure if this next advantage was one my parents were aware of at first, but they found out about as life went on. It is the ability to socialize between groups because you can communicate with more people. When I was growing up, everyone in my school wanted to be part of the English speaking group. I remember working so hard to get out of the ESL group (English as a Second Language) so that I could fit in with the cool kids. Although I was never one of the cool kids, I was able to become close to some of them. At the same time I could still go to my Spanish speaking friends, that had their own little group, and feel completely comfortable with them as well.
One thing that I find interesting is how social media has helped bilingualism grow. I see people I have met throughout life that only speak in English in public that are now posting in Spanish and declaring how proud they are to be of Latin decent, and I am one of them. I didn’t even know some of them spoke Spanish when we were in school; it just wasn’t something we did. I remember practicing and practicing my diction in order not to show my accent; only to realize once I was in college that I wasn’t very successful at it. I am now proud of my little Mexican accent. It may not be as distinct as someone like Salma Hayek’s but people I meet for the first time always ask me where I am from. Sometimes it’s because of my name (Malu) and sometimes because of my accent. Either way, I will take the uniqueness that is me as a compliment.
The last advantage I will share with you on this post is being able to pass on your bilingualism to your children. Once I understood the benefit of this great gift my parents gave us, I knew it was not something I should let go off. Although it would be so easy to just assimilate to the English speaking world around me, I would be giving up a large part of myself. If I did that then they would not see that part of me. I can’t let that happen. My children will now know about my life in two worlds. And I will show them advantages of being bilingual and hopefully grow from them. Mostly I hope that they will be proud to be bilingual and proud to pass that on as well. I hope that their bilingualeyes will always shine bright.
* Advantages listed here were found in a great article in Spanish Playground that you can link to here http://spanishplayground.net/9-hidden-advantages-of-being-bilingual/
**Way to go Mara!
(If you would like to share my blog, I would be so grateful. You can also find it in Spanish at http://www.bilinguazo.worpress.com and on Facebook under http://www.facebook.com/bilinguazo. Thanks a bunch!)