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Feb 07 2018
by D.M. Carcamo

Things Only Bilingual College Students Understand, from 6 Bilingual Students

By D.M. Carcamo - Feb 07 2018
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Communication is essential. I'm sure you can agree. I mean, how else would you tell the cashier that you want your special Starbucks secret menu Matcha Pink Drink? Clearly, you couldn't live without it! Thus, it's always best to have a second language under your belt, just in case you enter an alternate universe where no one understands English. Nevertheless, even if you speak two languages, there are some things only you can understand, like that time you couldn't understand what your professor was saying because you were still in Spanish mode. Or was that just me?

Here are six accounts from fellow college students.

On Things Only a Bilingual Student Understand

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"It’s impossible to translate jokes. They always stop being funny." 

-Alejandra Arevalo, New York University


"Stopping mid-sentence because the word you’re trying to say in one language doesn’t exist in the other and you can’t find a replacement"

-Variya Tongtip, Skidmore College


"Having to think of a word in English that may translate to the word you are thinking of in the other language but there's actually no translation."

-Brizhay, Howard University


Taking notes using some words of my mother language is acutely easier than taking notes all in English.

- Ran Tan, University of California Riverside


On Bilingual Student Experiences

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According to my roommate, I am a sleeptalker. She told me that one night I suddenly woke up and started talking to her in Spanish. She just laughed because she couldn’t understand a word of what I said.

-Alejandra Arevalo, New York University


Speaking one language with your family, and then having to translate for your friends when they come over. And then them doing the same thing to you when you go over to their house!

-Variya Tongtip, Skidmore College


When I came back from Brazil I said "Understand?" after all my sentences because that's what the Brazilians said to me since I was learning their language. 

-Brizhay, Howard University


Working as a cashier and being insulted. I rang them out and told them to have a great day in Spanish. 

-Elana, Howard University


I unconsciously translate some Chinese slang/joke in English... And realizing nobody's gonna get it after I said it.

-Ran Tan, University of California Riverside


I’m one of the few bilingual people who was English first Spanish second so occasionally I misconjugate when I’m in Spanish and it turns running into ran and it makes me sound ridiculous.

-Moises Vera, University of California Riverside


On Bilingual Student Tips

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Try talking to native speakers of the language you are learning to improve your conversational skills and vocabulary.

-Alejandra Arevalo, New York University


Take a class with another language, why not add more languages to your list? 

-Variya Tongtip, Skidmore College


I take Portuguese since it's my major requirement & because I am already fluent but it'd be cool to have a club so I can talk with others who know my second language as well.

-Brizhay, Howard University


STUDY ABROAD! Watch movies in your second language. Use your second language every chance you get

-Elana, Howard University


Say you don’t get it if you don’t get it. Never assume you get it right. 

-Ran Tan, University of California Riverside


Definitely take a class and make friends that speak that second language, it helps you practice and embrace the cultural sides of the language which can make all the difference.

-Moises Vera, University of California Riverside


There you have it! Tips, experiences and even things only bilingual students will understand straight from the bilingual students themselves! Good luck to all you bilinguals out there! And if you aren't bilingual already, definitely start! It's one of the best ways to ensure you always can order your favorite secret Starbucks menu Matcha Pink Drink even if you enter in an alternate universe where nobody speaks your native language(s).

Lead Image Credit: Pexels

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D.M. Carcamo - University of California, Riverside

D.M. Carcamo loves animals, people and creativity. When not daydreaming, you can find her adventuring and creating @dmcarcamo_. She is Senior Editor on Fresh U.

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