Misunderstandings about being bilingual

The post “Myths about bilingualism” at Life as a Bilingual brings up many misunderstandings about bilingualism. There are a few that stand out to me. One such myth is that bilingualism means that a person knows both languages equally well. I believe this is true because being bilingual means having learned each language in a different context. Therefore certain words will be used in a particular context. This determines the level of fluency in each language.

Another myth is that bilinguals are good translators. I think this goes back to the context that the language is learned. If the point of learning a language is to be a translator, then I think translation will come naturally. However, if languages were learned independently, translation may be very difficult. I’m never very exact when someone asks me how to say something in another language. For me, I have both languages on my mind. Instead of giving a word for word translation, I rethink the situation and put the “translated” sentence in that context. The meaning may be the same, but it’s not a strict translation.

It is a also myth that children raised in a bilingual environment will mix languages. I don’t think that’s possible because children will use a particular language based on the situation. They are very adept at languages. I think it’s rather simple to distinguish which language to use in which context. Becoming bilingual also means being able to switch between languages. I think the only time when I do use both languages is when I am in a bilingual environment when I know other people will understand my word usage.

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