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No one ever said that learning a new language was easy. I did expect it to be a massive challenge, and the experience has certainly risen to meet my expectations. But learning a new language has had a lot of interesting side effects that I had not expected upon my ability to speak English and on the manner in which I normally communicate.  

  1. 1. I can’t spell words in English anymore. In elementary school, I once won the spelling bee and have always found spelling to be natural for me. But the way things are spelled in Spanish is so consistent. Each letter makes the same sound almost all the time, and there aren’t any strange letter combinations like ch or gh, so there is little guesswork when it comes to spelling Spanish words. They don’t even really do spelling bees here, because it is not impressive to be able to spell words in Spanish. Now, I find myself second guessing each word I write in English and sometimes I find myself writing in a kind of Spanglish. (Ex. Consentracion?)

2. There are certain phrases that are just said differently in Spanish than in English. When you are hungry, you say yo tengo hambre, which literally means “I have hunger”. So sometimes, when talking to my cohort here, I’ll say in English something like “I have so much hunger right now” (and then they laugh at me for speaking Spanish words in English). Similarly, to introduce themselves, people often say “I am called…”, or “I call myself…”. But people think it’s very odd to ask “what do you call yourself?” in English.

3. In Spanish, there is no fast or slang way to do possessives. In English, you may say “Jenna’s shoes” but in Spanish you would have to say “the shoes of Jenna”. I find myself avoiding possessives even in English now. (Ex. “Erin, can we all go to the house of your mom?”)

4. The last one is more about the difficulty I have with speaking Spanish than the language itself. My Spanish skills are limited, so whenever I respond, I usually have to do so in a roundabout way in order to use the words that I know. So sometimes, when I talk to someone in English, I’ll be thinking about what words I know in Spanish to convey my thought. I plan my response with very simple, basic words. And then I realize, wait, this is English! I can use whatever words I want!

Learning a language is difficult, but very fun and rewarding! Just don’t forget to laugh at yourself for your mistakes.  Go ahead and try even if you sound like an idiot. Because people appreciate it when you at least try, and you learn 5 times as much that way (and are therefore investing in a future where you don’t sound like an idiot). But now, you can be aware that there are a couple of side effects that come along with becoming bilingual!


19 May 2017


Kortney Cena