The opportunities and challenges of being bilingual

We all know that bilingualism is an obvious advantage in today’s society which is more than ever connected. In a globalized world, bilinguals can get excellent career opportunities in many sectors of the market, as more and more companies expand and move abroad into new emerging markets such as; the retail sector, transport, tourism, administration, public relations, marketing and sales, banking, the list goes onq. Researchers estimate that around 66% of the world is bilingual and this figure is increasing. The most obvious advantage is that you can speak two languages ! But being bilingual does not just help your career path, it can also have a positive impact on your social life; you are more open to new cultures and ideas, as you are used to change and differences in your life. This can define your personality and make you the person you are today.

  

Nevertheless having experienced it throughout my life, with a French father and English mother, being bilingual can sometimes make you wonder where you belong, as you are constantly switching from one language to another and quite often from one culture to another. Another obvious drawback is that since you are always changing languages constantly (depending on which country you are in and who you are talking to) you sometimes find it hard to find the appropriate vocabulary to best describe your thoughts or fully integrate into a discussion about specific subjects. This can be frustrating and can accentuate this feeling of not belonging.  Another obvious disadvantage is that there is always one written language that is preferred and quite often it is the one that you have done the bulk of your studying in (primary and secondary). Rare are the people who are fully at ease in both written languages as this requires constant reading in both languages (to widen your vocabulary) as well as an ability to adapt the idiosyncrasies of each language. 

 

 As well as this generally people have a natural tendency towards one language or culture (best suiting their personality) and that quite often not all siblings within the same family feel the same affinity. It is also living in the other culture that one can strengthen the weaker language through further study or work. They say that a child is never properly bilingual until the age of 12 and that up till this age if you do not speak the language constantly you will lose it.

 

So in all I think it is essential to personally experience the two cultures for yourself outside of the family unit and as an independent person in order to ascertain where one feels happiest and more at ease. It is clear that being bilingual is beneficial in an individual’s life and if you want to be fully bilingual, speak the two languages constantly !

 

 

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2 Comments

  1. when you say bilingual how far is your scope of languages for example will you be interested in a west African language?

    Reply
    • Hi Gloria, as we are based in Paris, our business deals mainly with clients requiring bilingual staff who are proficient in French and English. On occasion, there are job openings requiring other languages. Therefore, in the future, it is quite possible we could offer a job opening requiring the knowledge of a west African language!

      Reply

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