This week’s group blog is being run by Fned and I say kudos to her for such a great topic. Unlike most of the people who posted, S and I are not a bilingual couple. We were not when we met and we are not now almost 13 years later.
S and I met when I was an exchange student in high school. I came to Rancagua Chile with 2 years of high school Spanish under my belt as well as basic lessons when I was a kid. I didn’t meet S right away, in fact, I didn’t meet him until I changed schools 4 months in. Once I did, I spoke Spanish pretty well (although not perfectly). He was a great teacher as we was patient and speaks a more poetic Spanish than any Chilean I have ever met. He loves words and making sure that he chooses the one that has the exact nuance of meaning that he is going for. He doesn’t use slang; he shutters when I say “cachai” or “huevon”. He never ever ever swears– nor does he think that I should. He. Reads. Anything. And. Everything. He. Can.
After 12.5 years of going back and forth between the US and Chile, I don’t struggle to understand people. I think in Spanish. I dream in Spanish. In fact, the time that I passed out at art fair at Santa Lucia I was speaking in Spanish when I regained consciousness. I rarely have to ask people what they mean or to repeat. That is, everyone except S. He is constantly using new words (this may be on purpose) and he has the bad habit of mumbling. Still, I learn a lot.
He speaks no English. Or, rather, he spoke no English up until recently. He loves to read (I mentioned this above) and he does read in other languages simply because he can’t get his hands on translation. I am in awe of his patience as he will read articles–and books–on evolutionary theory, physics, or philosophy with a dictionary in hand looking up every third word.
To be fair, I knew the English teacher in high school. It is no surprise that he or any of my classmates never learned anything in her class. There was no way they could have in my mind.
Now, he is considering traveling with me and wants to learn English. He jokes that he wants to do so to be able to read– not so that he can talk to my parents or help raise bilingual children. No. Just so he can read. In the states, however, he really did pick up quite a bit. Now that he is back in Chile (and I am still in the states) we have been working on ways for him to study. We are reading Curious George together. He studies on his own and comes to me with questions. I have no doubt that he will learn English– but until then, we are a multi-lingual couple (I speak Romanian & Japanese as well) that is completely monolingual.
Check out some other cool takes on Bilingualism in Expat couples:
Natasha : The Ex Monologues (English / Spanish)
Arlet Grace : Little something about me (Filipino / Korean / English)
Lydia : Just smile and nod (English / Spanish)
Cherise : Adventures with Angelina (English / French / Thai and soon German!!)