The Bilingual Burden

As an International student it’s not uncommon to find yourself face to face with a culture unlike your own. In fact, International schools consist of, as the name suggests, a collection of nationalities. ISKL, being a fusion of distinct ethnicities, unites its students through one common ground, english. However, the majority of its students’ mother tongue is not English, so what is it like for these students to have to appropriately switch to a different language?

Nadine, ‘19, being Egyptian is quite familiar with the highlights and lowlights of communicating in two languages.  When she was younger, she learned both English and Arabic at the same time, but although having known each language for the same amount of time she has grown more comfortable with one in particular.

“I feel more comfortable with English as I grew up in different countries rather than my home country… Being brought up in an international school caused me to focus more on my english as it was the language I had to learn in and interact with people in.”

But she also shared that as a bilingual you get a sense of inbetween-ness,  “you seem like a foreigner in your home country as well as a foreigner in the place you live in.”

Natalya, ‘19, however wasn’t brought up around 2 languages. Instead, 6 short years ago, she began to learn Dutch and now she has reached a point where she is fluent. “I speak to my Dad in English because he’s Australian, and I speak Dutch to my stepmom and all my step siblings because they’re Dutch.”

However she remarked that some difficulties can arise, “it’s hard if you’re trying to think in both languages, and are having to constantly switch between them. You can get mixed up between spelling and the grammar.”

Alexia, ‘17, from Argentina grew up with Spanish as her main language but later on was forced to learn English due to her relocation to a different country. Like the other students, she shares the ease of speaking English as “I use it more socially than I do Spanish.” But within her family she resorts to speaking spanglish (a mix between English and Spanish.) “There are things you can say in one language but in the other cannot.”

Although being at a level of proficiency in two languages can bring forth some struggles, all students shared a common highlight:  Being bilingual allows you to overcome language barriers and connect with people you otherwise would not be able to communicate with.