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Being Bilingual

I have always been able to speak more than one language. I was born in a multi-cultural family; with a French mom and a British dad, always speaking both languages at home. I was born in France, but had to move to the United States for two and a half years, from approximately 3 to 6 years old, which helped me with the basics of the English language. We then moved back to France, settling in the South East.

Being bilingual is often a strange thing to be for many people who have always lived in one country, in a monolingual family. Children don’t always understand how it is possible to speak and understand two different languages and they make you the subject of many questions. I can’t even count the number of times I was asked to “say something in English”, leaving me in an awkward position and not really knowing what to say. I’ve also been asked to translate countless songs and complex sentences, often so that others could try and prove that I wasn’t “really bilingual”, and that I was probably pretending just to get some attention. Being bilingual does not automatically mean that you are good at translation; when both languages are learned independently, you never learn how to translate one sentence from one language into the other. Not being able to translate on the spot does not mean we are not bilingual, it simply means that we’ve never been taught to translate.

At 14 years old we had to choose a second language, and I chose Italian. That choice received so much criticism and judgement, as so many people consider it a useless language. Spanish was the most popular option, but to me it was more important to make a choice based on personal preference, rather than on popularity. I had
great professors over the years and it made me fall in love with the language and the culture; and I even decided to study Italian as a degree at university, adding Spanish along the way. I think it’s a shame that in school, learning a language is seen as a chore rather than an opportunity.

To anyone wanting to learn a new language, whether it’s just for fun or for professional reasons, do it. I highly recommend you to go for it. Some people may tell you that it’s a waste of time, that the language you want to learn is useless or that it’ll bring you nowhere. First of all, that is not true as people who speak multiple languages are often more highly considered for a job than monolingual people.

On a non-professional level, however, what do languages bring you?
First of all, they enable you to communicate with so many more people. They can allow you to make new friends and to have a better understanding of the country’s people. Every word you learn has its origin and its meaning; their specific choice of words reflect their history and the culture of the country/area, and it opens your eyes to another way of thinking. It makes you understand that your own culture is not the only one or the best one, and it gives you the opportunity to discover so much more of the world.

Of course learning a language takes time, energy, dedication and practise; you won’t be able to master a language overnight. But once you achieve your goal, you will be so satisfied and proud of yourself for not giving up. It can be very frustrating at times when you constantly make the same mistakes or you don’t feel like you’re making any progress. However, you must not keep that from stopping you or from making you feel less confident, because you are still doing amazingly.

At 18 years old I went to Italy for 6 months, and I was never satisfied with my Italian because I was aware of my accent and that it was nowhere near a native’s: but I realised that it should never be an issue. Having a foreign accent does not mean that it sounds any less beautiful. I always try to remember that I never think less of someone for speaking French for example with a foreign accent; on the contrary, I find it amazing that they’ve managed to learn such a complex language and be confident enough to speak it. Having an accent is something you can be proud of, it shows that even though you were not brought up with this language, you managed to learn it. Of course, you will always encounter people who will try and bring you down or mock you because of it, but most often the ones who do so are also the ones who do not understand anything about being a foreigner and who have little compassion. You just need to try and surround yourself with people who support and love you.

So I wish good luck to everyone learning a new language, and to anyone who wishes to learn one. It will open your mind and make you discover so many wonderful things, especially while visiting the country and talking with the locals. It’s not something you’ll regret!


  1. Great post once again Eleanor!

    I totally agree with you that knowing languages opens many new options, personally and professionally.

    Knowing English have brought me countless additional books to read in their original intents and styles, which loses in translations, just like tv shows and movies where original meanings, acting inflections and chosen dialogues can mean a lot more than their French dubbed versions (not to mention mistakes that occur).

    On personal level, it widened my friendship circles and I met not only my best friends online thanks to it, but also my wife.

    I didn't know that schools in France thought so badly of Italian, and glad that you stuck to your own wishes, and not popularity. Well done !

    1. Thank you so much!

      I completely agree, I much prefer reading/watching tv in the original language.

      Yeah especially with English, you can communicate with the world haha it's great. I'm glad languages have helped you meet amazing people :D

      Yeah, especially the students who always think that what they do is the best and look down on anything that is different haha.


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