Being Bilingual

Growing up I learned Portuguese as my native language (the usual when you are born in Portugal) but was exposed to English from a young age.

Thankfully in Portugal it is not very common to have voice-overs in Portuguese on everything showing on TV and subtitles are the norm. This means that all kids are exposed to English when they watch TV. It helps when learning the language later on as we are at least already familiar with the sound of it.

Personally I started having English lessons when I was in primary school (private ones) and I had VHS cassettes and books with the basics for kids. My mom was serious about me learning English. Even enrolled me at the British Council (private English school) where all the teachers had English as their native language. At one point I was already getting English lessons in public school but my mom was adamant I should still keep learning it “properly”. This led to some issues with my English teachers as unfortunately they were in general not the best.

Vague memories of tests marked incorrectly and small arguments during classes with the teachers come to my mind right now. It was challenging at times as I was being taught the same language in very different ways. On a more positive note I was happy I could help my friends pass the tests. I would usually finish mine quickly and could easily let them copy from me.

At one point I no longer wanted to bother with the private classes and wanted to stop going. My mum still insisted on them. I found most of my colleagues there to be a bit stuck up and I did not identify with them. Most of them were growing up in rich families and thought they were better than everyone else. That annoyed me at times and made me feel like I didn’t belong there.

Nowadays I appreciate my mum’s efforts and the financial investment.

Before I moved to London I had not spoken or written in English for years so when I got here it was back to basics. It took me a little while to get back into it.

At first it was exhausting to have to speak English all day. It would drain all my mental energy. I remember having a Portuguese co-worker on my first job and really cherished my lunch breaks as I was able to “rest” and have an effortless chat in Portuguese.

With time it got less tiring and more natural to speak in English. After a few years here I started to forget words in Portuguese and occasionally responded in English when speaking in Portuguese! Even though I practice my Portuguese every day.

I have not read anything about how our brains deal with being able to communicate in different languages but from my experience it gets a little confused at times. If I am tired or with a close friend I have the tendency to accidentally say words in Portuguese. This can also happen if you ask me something while I am in the middle of something else.

Sometimes I forget how lucky I am for being able to communicate so well in two different languages and also understand a few bits from other languages like Spanish, French and Italian.

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2 thoughts on “Being Bilingual

  1. r i t a says:

    É normal misturares as duas línguas, passa-se o mesmo comigo…eu detesto isso, principalmente quando estou a falar Português…faz-me lembrar o Figo, mas é algo que não conseguimos controlar. Feliz Natal!

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