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The Bilingual Mind

How some students literally see the world differently

Maria Koliopoulos, Graphics Editor

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Through our attempts at learning other languages, every student knows that picking up another one takes a ridiculous amount of work, especially in a scholastic environment where practically no one is fluent and the language is not used. Knowing how to speak one language is often hard enough, so the concept of being fluent in two boggles the minds of many.

There are, of course, a select few Skutt Catholic students and teachers who come equipped with this trait.

In their lives, languages are blended one into the other.

“I speak Arabic and English,” says Skutt Catholic senior Talina Bahkit. “At home it’s a mix of Arabic and English. My mother is educated in English but primarily speaks Arabic. My father, sister, and I speak Arabic often, but mostly English. My brothers don’t know as much Arabic as my sister, parents and I so they speak English all the time.’

Daniela Zedillo, a Skutt Catholic junior, speaks Spanish and English.

“At home I speak Spanish, which is when I speak it the most. I obviously speak a lot of Spanish when I visit my relatives in Mexico too,” says Zedillo.

It often comes into question how the bilingual mind is wired to think. Different languages and different mindsets all play a part in this, and infinite combinations of results are derived.

“I think in both languages actually, it just depends on the topic,” says Zedillo. “For example, if I’m thinking about my childhood, relatives, & family, Spanish is what I think in. I think in English when it comes to school and my friends and every day life.”

Bahkit, on the other hand, primarily thinks in English. “In Spanish class, when the teacher asks the class what a specific vocab word or verb means in Spanish, sometimes I say it in my head in Arabic without even realizing it.”

“I generally think in English since it is my first language, however, growing up in a home where Spanish was spoken on a daily basis I feel very comfortable thinking in both,” contributes Skutt Cathokic theology teacher Mr. Bart Zavaletta. “I have noticed that when I do think and speak in Spanish there is a certain emotion that I tap into that’s not present when I’m speaking or thinking in English,” Zavaletta continues.

Being able to speak a second language has its special perks.

“We use Arabic a lot when we’re out in public, that way people don’t know what we’re talking about,’ says Bahkit. “I just think it’s really funny how when I speak Arabic with my mom in front of my friends they kinda freak out and are just totally amazed but for me it’s totally normal.”

Growing up in two very different cultures simultaneously creates a very open mindset.  “Being able to communicate in another language is like having the key that unlocks the doors of another culture, perspective, way of life and feeling,” says Zavaletta.

No matter how different, for example, Arabic and Spanish might be, people actually find unity within the United States upon the basis that they grew up differently. “I find it interesting that whenever I meet another bilingual person, our personalities and perspectives are quite similar,” says Zedillo. “We’re more open to diversity too, I guess. It’s quite cool actually.”

 

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Maria Koliopoulos

Maria became a member of The Flightline in January of 2016. She is a senior this year involved in show choir at Skutt Catholic and is probably climbing a tree or drawing outside of school. You can email her at [email protected]

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