In preparation for our addition to the family, my husband and I have switched to speaking Spanish to each other nearly all the time. We even text in Spanish. This is a pretty big break from our pattern of communicating in English with each other and Spanish only with the other native speakers in our life.

I have always known that it’s difficult for me to use Spanish when I’m upset, angry, or otherwise emotionally out of sorts. However, I didn’t anticipate how hard it would be to have intimate daily conversation with my husband in my non-native language. No matter how well I can get across the details of the matter at hand, it’s the feeling that is sometimes missing.

When we have an argument, I hear myself repeating the same vocabulary over and over, but in a different tone of voice. I don’t feel that I have the breadth of word choice to really explain myself. When I’m trying to be funny or sarcastic, the result is not as funny to me as it would be in English. Worst of all, when I’m trying to comfort my hubby after a long day, I’m never 100% sure that I said the right thing.

What’s amazing to me is that no matter how long I’ve been speaking Spanish (over a decade now), I continue to find limits that I did not expect. I assume that everyone who learns a language after early childhood runs into a similar dilemma, but I still wonder what it feels like to be bilingual or multilingual from birth and feel a native level of comfort with more than one mode of communication.

In a way, this is what excites me about raising bilingual kids… but it also makes me feel disconnected from them, because I’ll never be able to use Spanish with the children in the same way I can use English with them.

Does your emotional connection to each of the languages you speak affect your ability to use it in varying circumstances?

{Image by Claire Burge}

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