How bilingualism shapes you : What students say
Essay | Hirad Marami
Bilingualism doesn’t just mean that you can speak two languages fluently; being bilingual means that you are aligned with two different cultures, it means that you are exposed to two distinct schools of thought, arts, and lifestyles. By being assimilated into two different cultures, by being at the same time in the heart of France and the United States, bilingualism profoundly shapes you.
A clear example of how bilingualism draws you into a different culture is shown through reading or watching films in another language. For example, when I’m reading Asterix et Obelix, a French comic book, I get an unmistakable taste of French humor that I would not get if I were reading it in English, for the touching hilarity of its jokes are lost in the translation. This phenomenon, if you will, cannot be scientifically proven yet it is very present. By being a bilingual of French and English, for example, one is exposed to both their distinct musical, literary and cinematic mindsets, which ultimately shapes one artistically.
Being bilingual not only influences one’s artistic side, it also influences one’s way of thinking or philosophy. A bilingual student of French and English knows proverbs and quotes of the two languages, and these reflect upon their respective culture. For example, the English saying of “The pen is mightier than the sword” is synonymous with English culture. The English are more of a negotiating people, a people who prefer to settle differences through writing and debate, and this quote clearly demonstrates this. The French quote of “C’est cela l’amour, tout donner, tout sacrifier sans espoir de retour” from Albert Camus (roughly translated as “That is love, to give away everything, to sacrifice everything, without any desire for anything in return”) shows the romantic aspect of French culture. By being bilingual, one experiences the philosophies, the schools of thought of two different cultures which influences one’s way of thinking, shaping them.
In conclusion, by adding to your artistic culture and by influencing your way of thinking, bilingualism deeply shapes you.
"Bilingualism has given me much more than the ability to speak two languages. I owe my rising awareness of the broader world to my bilingual and bicultural education. I hope to use this gift to better understand and respect the diversity of other cultures and people in our world, 2 wherever they may be. My aspiration is to shape my identity as multi-cultural – as someone who can view and make sense of the world with different points of view and most importantly as a “global citizen of the world.” - Hannah
"The ability to express oneself clearly and precisely is crucial to being understood and to understanding others, so speaking two languages doubles one’s ability to connect. Being bilingual has shaped and defined me. (...) I consider myself fortunate to be bilingual. I have the power to see a wide range of attitudes and personalities. As I grow older, I hope to use this gift to live a fuller life and to make a difference to others" – Maxime
"Bilingualism is an opening towards biculturalism; in fact, it is hard to disassociate them, for they are inextricably linked. I have learned much about France and its people, though I have always 2 lived in the United States, because I grew up reading French novels, thereby accessing the personal experience of the French-speaking world. (...) I therefore contend that bilingualism is not just a state of mind, but also indicates a force of mind. It is bound with critical thought and broad horizons, but also with the possibility to break down the walls which separate humanity into isolated communities, and isolated individuals." – Calvin