Let me share with you something that made me green with envy as a child.
I was so jealous of people born and raised bilingual. They grew up with two cultures, could speak two languages easily and here I was… a 100% born and raised French girl.
I was dreaming about traveling, I thought I was bland and I that nothing made me special compared to those incredibly talented bilinguals. I was a Frenchie surrounded by Frenchies. Why was I so unlucky?
So I kept on working on my dream and slowly created my own non-French reality.
As a University student, I majored in both Law and English and I took a lot of translation classes. Most of my English teachers agreed on one point: you are not bilingual if you are not born and raised with two mother tongues. I felt sad that no matter how fluent I would become in the future, I could never call myself “bilingual” according to their definition. I could only become “fluent”.
I know, it is just a word, but it is still echoing inside me as I get older.
Now let me tell you, I erased the “with envy” in the expression “green with envy” and just decided to be green, because it’s a beautiful color full of nice meanings: it’s the color of nature and growth.
I can’t really say I am proud of being natively French, as I didn’t accomplish it by doing anything, and instead it was gifted to me through circumstances outside my control. But, as I grew up and traveled, I realized how lucky I am to be French, not only because French sounds fancy to most people but because I didn’t have to learn this troublesome language later on.
Now, should I be proud of being fluent in English, keep on dedicating myself to learning new languages, and improve my Spanish and Japanese? Definitely! I’ve worked a lot on these languages, and you should also be proud of your choice to improve your linguistic skills!
To all of you, feeling unlucky to be born with only one mother tongue or feeling impressed by multilinguals, I understand you!
The only thing you should do is take pride in your story. Because you can’t change your origins and your past, but you have the power to change your future. You are not responsible for what has been given to you, you are responsible for what you make of it.
Here are a few good things that made me grateful to learn a new language
➡ I feel sometimes limited by the meaning behind the French words, because some words have background, hidden meanings and I can express myself much more easily and comfortably in a different language.
➡ There are some non-translatable expressions in any language that can only be enjoyed in their original version! Like “dépaysé” in French (a deep feeling of homesickness / culture shock living in a foreign place) or “お疲れ様です” in Japanese.
➡ You can connect with even more people! The world is opening its doors to you and you can take pride in your native language as you help others learn it!
➡ You can gather even more information by increasing your skillset, I remember being frustrated when I wanted to play cute games online, but they were all in English and I couldn’t! Now I can play as often as I want!
“To have a second language is to have a second soul” -Charlemagne
Being limited to one language is also limiting your experience of the world. By learning a new language, you consciously choose to broaden your experience of life, your mindset and vision of the world.
To have more ideas on this topic, have a look at this inspiring speech from Lera Boroditsky: “How language shapes the way we think”
If you feel unsatisfied with your linguistic reality, I hope these few words have empowered you to change it!
Feel free to become a beautiful multilingual peacock and let go of the monolingual duckling you thought you were.
Olivia was born and raised in the Loire Valley in France, she majored in International and European business law. Passionate about languages and multiculturalism, she decided to take the opportunity to live in Tokyo for a semester as an exchange student in Chuo University. Once back to France, she worked as an in-house legal counsel in contract and business law. Slowly missing living abroad within an international environment, she then decided to build her own opportunity and go back to Japan in a move to become fluent in Japanese. This is when she joined Veritas, feeling highly motivated about the value it creates to its clients and willingness to contribute to the goals of Japanese’s ambitious leaders of tomorrow.