What it’s like to be multilingual


I’m glad I got to read this post about how to get out of a creative rut because this is exactly where I was a couple of days ago. How was I going to tell you about what it means to be multilingual, above all when I’m boasting about it on my about page?! Then a bus trip – during which I found myself sat not far from two teens – was my moment of epiphany. At the beginning it seemed these two were speaking some unknown language, it was as if my ears were buzzing hearing them talking, when suddenly I realized: they were speaking a mixture of perfect italian – with a strong calabrian accent – and english. So what did I do? I just creeped on them (discreetly. This is when a magazine comes in handy!) during the whole journey til home. More than their conversation I was interested in the switch. Why would they use English to then switch point-blank to Italian? YES, WHY? Because this is exactly the situation I am in after living abroad for seven yeas now. Let me exemplify:

6.45 am Mannaia la miseria (Italian)…rhoo non pas déjà (French)

Translation: Oh God…Not already!

7.15 am Hi yogis! It’s Bri, thank you for joining me today!


8.15 am Ma vogliamo parlare di quelle code gigantiche per salire sull’autobus (Italian)…ça me sidérera toujours (French) !

Translation: Can we talk about the queing situation just to get on a bus…it will always blow my mind!

9.15 am Hello! How are you doing?

Translation: Me just being polite.

Yeap! even before crossing the office door, my brain is already at top speed and you know what? I don’t even realize it! It just happens. My mind switches to each language – quick reminder: I’m fluent in French, Italian and English – according to the situation. “Le bordel sans nom”, that’s how my best friend told me there must a freakin’ mess in my head when I tried explaining her the logic behind my brain. But to me it’s not a mess, it just appears that some things are better expressed in a language than another because there is a whole linguistic system and culture behind each of them. What I mean?

  1. Maybe my moaning in French is resulting from the very fact that we LOVE a good strike and demonstration in France.
  2. Maybe my outgoing personality  only switches on when speaking Italian because their culture to go “in piazza” (city center) have you chatting with people without even noticing.
  3. Maybe a more polished me – and God knows I’m not – comes out whenever I am speaking English because I’ve figured out being polite in UK is all about the tone and attitude rather than actually saying “thank you” or “sorry”.

To support the up above points and assure you I don’t have DID, all this  actually means:

a) I complain and debate in French

b) I joke, talk, joke, talk in Italian

c) I’m diplomatic in English

Are you multilingual? How is it for you? I would like to hear from you so don’t hesitate commenting!


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