Why I'm Lucky to be Trilingual

“Do you ever think in globe-110775_150one language while trying to speak another?”
“Which language do you dream in?”
“Do you find it easier to express certain ideas in one language over the other?”
“How do you quickly shift from Dutch to English?”
These are questions people ask me when I say I’m trilingual (Dutch, Polish and English). Growing up in a multicultural household, I felt a strong connection to Dutch and Polish. The two languages continue to play a big part in shaping my identity to this day.
When I was little, my mom encouraged me to speak Polish when possible. However, there was a time in which I refused to speak Polish, or I’d simply reply in Dutch since the other kids “couldn’t understand me.” Luckily, mom persisted through this minor phase of stubbornness, and I’m thankful for it. If not for that, I wouldn’t be able to communicate to my Polish family, I’d miss out on a great language, and wouldn’t nearly feel as connected to the culture as I do.
I find that languages are enriching, and they affect our daily lives on a high level – whether people acknowledge it or not. Interestingly, a recent study from the University of Edinburgh suggests that “learning a second language can have a positive effect on the brain,” including delaying the onset of dementia by years and improvement in cognitive abilities.
Thoughts on Language
Some people may not weigh language use as all that important, because it can feel effortless and innate. Yet, what you say and how you say things affects those around you. There’s also much to be said for slang, which some may view as a ‘deterioration’ of language. I see it as a byproduct of the inevitable evolution of language – a simplification of it to communicate quickly and intimately by creating a common experience over a certain word (Gen Y’s use of the word, “selfie,” comes to mind). We live in a fast-paced world where instant communication is often deemed necessary.
Language can ‘suffer’ through abbreviation, but immediacy also forces us to think harder and be on point when we’re limited to only so many ‘characters’ in a text message or a tweet. Language connects us – it lets us express how we feel, it . Sadly, it can also isolate us, if we don’t feel we can express ourselves clearly (in case of language barriers), but we overcome that by immersing ourselves in language.
If you could learn to speak another language, what would it be? Any other trilingual readers want to chime in on what they value most about languages? Which languages do you find most fascinating? How do you think language connects you to others?

3 thoughts on “Why I'm Lucky to be Trilingual

  1. I could’ve been bilingual 🙁
    I am half Italian and both my parents are fluent in the language. I also lived in Italy until i was nearly 3, so you’d think I would be fluent in it by now. Sadly, I’m not because for some reason my parents didn’t think it was a good idea to continue to talk to me in Italian. My parents both blame each other for this. My mum says it was my dad’s responsibility because she thinks as the native speaker he should’ve spoken to me in Italian, but my dad says that because he wasn’t with me all the time, it was too difficult to keep talking to me in Italian.

    This makes me sad, but thankfully I decided to take up Italian for A level and I am studying it at University. I am also living in Italy at the moment on my year abroad (which I’ve just started a blog about as it happens http://justthealpsbetweenus.blogspot.it/) so I’m getting there with it! It’s so nice to be able to communicate with the other half of my family now and I am really enjoying going back to my roots and experiencing a different culture (especially the food!),

    Great Blog btw 🙂

    1. Thanks for sharing your story! It’s great that you’re reconnecting with the language now though, and able to communicate with your family. Studying Italian sounds wonderful. Thanks for stopping by and for your kind words. I’ll be sure to check out your blog for new stories from your adventures!

  2. Glad to see you back on your blog again! I followed it for quite some time as I have a similar experience in travel, culture and now languages. Loved your last post in particular because I also speak several languages.
    Some are more ‘active’, some more ‘dormant’ but I am glad that through the ability to speak/understand them I came closer to some people and their culture.

    My native language is Polish, so I still say an occasion prayer in Polish. I do count money in Polish. But I dream in English and use it everyday, as living in the US I feel that English is my dominant language now. Once I was quite fluent in French but now I would need a bottle of red to conquer my linguistic inhibitions. Haha!

    Having grown up in Poland I was also exposed to Russian and was able to speak it YEARS AGO. But if a language (or anything else) is pushed down your throat by the educational requirements in your country, you rebel! You reject it and don’t use it, if you can help it… Now, I feel so sorry that I did not keep up with my French and Russian. Both are beautiful, melodic languages with a literature/culture they represent to be envious of.

    I wonder how other poeple feel about the languages they ‘forgot/neglected’. Maybe someone will chime in? People write so much offensive stuff on Internet anonymously in a heart beat, and do not write anything positive any more. ANYONE?

    Let’s hear it!
    Dorota Dobrowolska

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