I was born in India but brought up in the UK. I mother tongue is Telugu, but i was brought up in the state of Tamil Nadu and also can speak Tamil. English for me was very easy to learn and soon it became like breathing. Before I used to think and talk in Telugu. But since I have spent the majority of my life in the UK, I feel english has taken over me and due to that, my ability to speak Telugu and Tamil has been slightly decreased. I think being bilingual is easy for anyone, but it becomes very natural depending on where you are brought up no matter what race you are. If an arabic boy was brought up with french parents in France, he will understand no arabic but only french. It is all in the surroundings.
Risto Alvarez Helsinki
I grew up in the USA to a Cuban dad and Peruvian mum. We travelled all over, from Texas to Maine. I became bilingual in English and Spanish. The ability to speak these two langauges has opened up the two vast worlds that these languages inhabit. Now that I am in Finland, I am picking up Finnish and working on reducing my accent. A language is like a window onto a new dimension, a new landscape. English is definetly not enough for. I hope to become fluent in many more languages to view the world is some many wonderful ways.
Sue from Texas
I am of Cuban descent. Even though I was born in California the first language I learned was Spanish. The reason for this is that my baby sitter,until I was five years old, was a family friend and she was Cuban too. My parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, etc, were all speaking spanish around each other and to me, so that is the language I picked upon and communicated to my family members. My parents then realized that I would have to learn English too and they continued to teach me both English and Spanish. I learned English when I started school because you have to speak English in school and also if you are involved in many community activities in the United States. I think I forgot how to speak Spanish for a while because I was more intent on being able to communicate in English. I have perfected my Spanish because most of my elders have a limited ability of speaking english. My grandmothers have always been able to carry on a conversation with Americans, if limited, so I have become fluent in Spanish to communicate with the rest of my family members. It is always neat when you meet other people that you can speak Spanish too.
Adam Scott living in Paris
I've been living in Paris for about 8 months now. I live in a foyer (residence) for young workers, and there are many different nationalities here. People are always keen to practice their english, but the problem that i have is that i have become so used to thinking in french, even when people speak to me in english, I automatically reply in french, even though english is my mother tongue. The problem is that you never forget how to understand the language, however, you do get so used to speaking one over the other that in situations where you don't expect to use one language it is difficult to use it, even if someone else is using it.
mohamad ibrahim from lebanon
well being bilingual or trilingual is completely advantage and not disadvantage even if exist.here in lebanon we speak three languages fluently.Arabic,French,and English,both the american and british accent..you might guess what is the reason for this..i 'll tell you..arabic as the official lang.as you know.We learned french after we had been mandated by france..we learned english coz it became a global language and everybody needs a key language to communicate with people from the whole world as i am ding know.it is not necessary to speak it fluently but at least you should understand.In lebanon we use the three languages in daily life for example:hi kefak ca va!!!! hi is english word ,kefak is arabic world in latin alphabets(it means how r u doing),ca va is french word as everybody knows what it means.i advice u to learn languages as much as u can.
chiannia from chicago, illinois
I myself am african american and i've always wanted to learn other languages,such as spanish and french i have always been around people that could speak more than one language and I think that is very cool. i think that they will be a more eligible person to hire for a job simply because they offer more. those who are bilingual should be truly happy.
John Elder from Edinburgh
Nick P from Dorset says that a multilingual UK is "a bit false". Are you considering the entire UK Nick, or just your own area of England? There is Scots, Scottish Gaelic, Irish and Welsh (to name a few) of the regional languages still spoken by natives around the United Kingdom. I believe we have a much richer linguistic heritage in these islands than we often give credit to.
Yolanda from Many Places
Learning other languages and cultures opens a child up to the many possibilities he/she may encounter in our global society and gives the child the tools to handle such encounters with enthusiasm and open-mindedness. This education provides the child with a much larger perspective from which to experience the world and other people. They become more sensitive to the viewpoint of others and, in my opinion, grow up to be more empathetic individuals. From my own experience, it is difficult to remain 'elitist' when one has had a multi-cultural, multi-lingual and multi-national upbringing. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been given the opportunity to choose a multilingual and multicultural education from early childhood. In a world where most people are bi- if not multilingual, I think it is a real pity to hold back English-speaking children from the possibility of a richer and fuller future. They will end up being the ones who considered 'lesser' citizens of our ever-growing global society due to their continuing 'elitist' attitude.
Andy from London
i am fluent in french, spanish, italian ,german, english, dutch and arabic. at no point have i ever found any of them to be a problem with learning another language. having said that, i think that if i tried to learn another language then i might find it hard because of the interference from the languages i am fluent in as these have been more aquired than anything else.
Daniel from Inverness, Scotland
I'm a fluent bilingual in both British Sign Language and English. I use both of them all the time and I am proud of being British and bilingual! My mother on the other hand is a fluent trilingual - she speaks Bikol, Tagalog and English. The first two mentioned are just two of around 100 regional languages and dialects of the Philippines. I can speak Tagalog but I'm still at a basic level and I try to use it with my mother as much as I can. Being bilingual fluently has allowed me to learn another language without much of a hassle. I can't think of any disadvantages of being bilingual. To me, bilingualism is definitely a positive thing!
Nick P from Dorset
The idea of The United Kingdom as a multi-lingual nation is a bit false, because it doesn't look realistically on how the situation has arisen today, and what will probably happen in the future. For example in the 17th century large numbers of Huguenots came to this country, speaking French. None of their descendents will speak French as a first language now, as they have become totally assimilated, as have the Jews who came in the 19th & 20th century. The children of Polish immigrants of the immediate post war generation usually spoke Polish, but my guess is that their children, and certainly their grandchildren won't. It's not quite as clear cut as that as there will be some sense of identity retained, but I don't see that in the future it will be any different for the more recent immigrant groups. In three or four generations they will be monoglot English speaking. If you don't believe me, just look at history- here and anywhere else where there has been mass immigration.
Dave from Bangor
A disadvantage with being bilingual is that a biligual person often think they will have an advantage over a monolingual person in learning a new lanugage because they already know two languages. However, as the bilingual person never sat down and learnt either of their languages (they just picked them up) they will find it just as hard as someone who knows one language! I know this from experience learning Japanese with bilingual Welsh speakers.
Chloe from the Cotswolds
It was not cool at school or university (1970s - early 80s) to be clever or interested in learning; I learned French and German easily - great teachers! - and because my parents travelled a lot and had French & German friends/colleagues. But to reveal how much I enjoyed stepping into other ways of speaking and thinking was to invite merciless teasing about showing off etc. Worse, I spoke 'posh' English and liked to work - the ultimate crimes! I hung on and did French at uni, only to be told at the end of my course that having just one foreign language was useless for employment; you needed 2... Never used French from the day I left; never travel 'cos too busy scraping a living; BUT somehow still have fluency and good accent. Now as a professional storyteller I'm tentatively experimenting with bilingual telling. C'est bizarre mais c'est vrai!
christine robinson Edinburgh
A lot of people in Scotland are unaware that they are bilingual in Scots and Scottish English. Because a lot of the vocabulary and grammar are shared, most people speak a mixture of both at the same time and are often criticised for speaking 'bad English' when they are actually interspersing their English with good Scots. If their bilinguilism were recognised and properly supported, they would be more fluent and confident in both languages. Scottish literature has always been obsessed with duality and an acknowledgement of their bilinguilism would enable Scots to celebrate and exploit their dual natures. We think very differently in Scots from the way we think in English. I challenge any Scots speaker to translate some of the written outpourings from Holyrood. Executive-ese is completely unthinkable in Scots.
Stefan from the Balkans
From the age of four, I too was raised to speak in two languages. I was born in Yugoslavia in a town which is now a part of Serbia & Montenegro. I would call Serb-Croat my first language but the political situation and the divisions have deemed this term unsuitable and so my first language is whatever they speak in Montenegro (to me it's all the same). My parents came the the U.K when I was five and so I had to speak English as a national language for what became my home. Like Spain, with catalan and Galician, Yugoslavia also had nationally recognised minority languages in its other republics outside of the Serbia and Croatia zone. Over the past ten years I have taken a greater interest in other languages and I speak Swedish and Dutch both quite well. I have a good understanding of Greek as well as a few bits and pieces in dozens of languages as for me, this is my favourite hobby!
One DISadvantage I have found with having a multitude of languages is that my vocabulary is smaller that I think it would otherwise be; I often find myself hunting for a word that I can only think of in one of the other languages. As an ADvantage however, and with a few languages under my belt, I think it's been easier to pick up the basics in a new language, both vocabulary-wise and sentence construction.
David Andrews BA-status, PgCertSpEd, in Finland
Until I moved to Finland in 1998, I had experimented in learning other languages - mainly for my interest in folk-songs and singing them - and had taken basic courses/studies in Goidelics (Irish and Scottish Gaelic) for that purpose. In my life here, however, I had to learn Finnish, and - in order to understand some issues - Swedish as well. In my work, I can actually use three languages in order to get at what someone means, and this is an awesome advantage. My daughter is bilingual, as am I now; and her speaking Finnish to me whilst I spoke English to her may have seemed hilarious to many who heard us (both in the UK as well as in Finland), but without that happening, I may not have been so quick at becoming bilingual myself.
LETY WICKS from Gerrards Cross, Bucks.
I'm Mexican. At school we learnt very little English, and then had no opportunity to practice it. We have a son, Michael, who was brought up bilingual. It was fantastic to see how little children just 'absorb' concepts and their vocabulary just grows and grows. He did not mind switching languages when needed. Then my husband's job took us to Brussels, where I HAD to learn yet another language. Luckily, because the French grammar is similar to Spanish I learnt quickly, Michael, on the other hand, learnt and mastered French extremely quickly! Living in Brussels was fantastic, one minute you were at the supermarket talking to your child in Spanish, dealing with the cashier in French, when suddendly a friend would call at you in English! We came back to the UK 5 years ago, and this is what I miss most; the opportunity to practice other languages and therefore a bit of the culture that goes with that language. I now teach Spanish privately, and I can see the great need that in order to learn other languages it is very important to start as early as possible.
Teresita Martin-Browning from Nottingham
Tagalog language originally from malay and has been influenced by the Spaniards as they occupied Philippines for 500 years. I recognised that some tagalog words can not be translated to english words or if I do the deep meaning & feeling are lost.Sometimes the my sentence can be back to front like spanish or french language.The advantge I can understand & picked-up what the Italian, French and Spaniards conversations and written work at times. I think it will be easy for me to learn another language.
Fabrizio from Shepherds Bush, London
I was brought up in a bilingual environment when I was growing up in Quebec: I spoke French at school and with friends but all the conversations were mainly in Italian at home. I found it irritating how my French-canadian mother would use Italian so she couldn't be understood by other people outside. We moved to Italy and I had to 'relearn' my Italian but I was teased because I had a French accent (I couldn't roll my 'R's). I always felt that no matter where I was, either Italy or Quebec, I'd be considered an outsider. I finally found freedom when I moved to the UK and again 'relearned' my English (I had an American twang). After 15 years in London, people can't tell where I am from. I like it because I don't stand out: I'm finally home ! 8-)