The difficulties and struggles of becoming moderately bilingual are REAL. Knowing if an item is male or female. Trying to keep up with a conversation that has 10 people talking over each other can really make my head explode.

I have a bunch of phrases and words that I can rely on some situations. But when faced with something that’s not in my comfort zone, it can send my anxiety levels through the roof!

Sure it’s cool to know another language. But the path to get to reasonably sufficient is a long and hard road. My problem is that I try to reach for perfection. I am self-conscious whether I’m pronouncing words right or using it in the right context. I have all the words in my head but sometimes it’s harder to get them out especially when there’s nagging self doubt.

It’s been a few years, and I’m still learning, and still getting things wrong. Being bilingual is awesome, but not without its struggles. I would love to share with you just some of the difficulties (and small triumphs) that I’ve encountered over the years:

Pronouncing The Correct Accents & Using Tildes Matters

Apparently I can’t say ‘Feliz Cumpleanos’ (Happy Birthday Anus). But I can say, ‘Feliz Cumpleaños’ (Happy Birthday).

Be Prepared To Become A Walking Intercambio

Wanting to be surrounded by Spanish speaking people so that I can finally practice. But sometimes I don’t get the chance. Spaniards still speak to me in English! Apparently, they want to practice too!

Saying That ‘Hablo Un Poquito Español’ Translates To ‘I Speak Spanish Fluently’

I can finally pronounce the correct accents. I know the difference between my ass to my years. At times I can speak a whole sentence without running out of words. To Spaniards, this is a sign that I’m fully conversational and fluent. So they crank up their speech rate to 500 words per minute. Leaving me perplexed and completely lost. I usually respond with an empty expression followed by, ¿Puede repetirlo más despacio por favor? …and repeat.

I Sound Like A 3 Year Old In An Adult Conversation

I might be sufficient in usual everyday conversations, but sometimes I can only express myself in the present tense. I don’t like talking about the past.  Anyway, it gives me that air of mystery. Let’s just leave it there shall we?

Once Valenciano Is Thrown In A Group Conversation, I’m on my own

Valencianos have a habit of switching from Castellano to Valenciano. A sentence that I might understand in the beginning becomes completely alien at the end of the conversation. Nope, I have no idea what you are talking about. Shall I leave now?

Alcohol Becomes A Fine Educational Tool

Amazing how fluent I become after a few glasses of wine. I can approach strangers and ask them about themselves. I tell them about myself. I can even tell them what my cats have been up to. Damn, I’m so good! An easy road to becoming an alcoholic, but hey, at least I’ll be fluent!

I’m Shit Hot At Ordering Food

It’s all about survival. No matter how tricky the language is, this girl ain’t going hungry! My vocabulary and understanding is to the ‘t’ when it comes to the food and wine menu.

I Hone In For The People Who Speak Two Languages Like Me

The Dutch, British, Germans, French, Italians. Ahh, come here, my people! We have the feels for the struggles. It’s all about camaraderie and here, the use of Spanglish is perfectly acceptable.

You’re From The Philippines? YOU MUST SPEAK SPANISH!

Nope, I don’t! We don’t speak Spanish even though some Filipinos widely claim that they do. Some words are familiar and have similar meanings, but that’s about it. They usually give me the look of disappointment. ‘We colonised your country for over 300 years for nothing!’

I Don’t Get Spanish Expressions

‘Me cago en la leche, me cago en la puta, me cago en….’ which literally translate to ‘I Shit In The…’ whatever they decide to ‘shit in’. Shitting in things is a popular expression in Spain. Vulgar as it may sound, it’s perfectly acceptable. I still haven’t used any of these expressions, I just can’t bring myself to.

Final Thoughts…

Are you learning a new language? How are you finding it? Do you still come out in cold sweats even though you know you’re more than capable in asking for a loaf of bread or giving someone directions?

Even though some Spaniards have said that my Spanish is ‘good’, personally, it’s still not enough. Am I being too hard on myself? Maybe I am, but I believe there’s always room for improvement. ?

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British/Filipina now living in Valencia, Spain. Mum, wife, designer and illustrator. I am also the author of Ohla Living where I share my lifestyle, travel, recipes and creative ideas.

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