Say what?! There are problems with being trilingual? What might those be? As someone who has achieved a certain level of trilingual-ness, I am still working on perfecting French, I have found a few problems when knowing three languages.
This article is written from the view of someone who has learned two languages on top of my native English. I do not know the experience of someone who has learned multiple languages while growing up being native in those multiple languages. I believe many of my problems don’t apply to them, but maybe!
As a native English speaker, Spanish and French are my second and third language respectively. However, they are very similar for my brain. In fact, they are siblings or cousins since both are romance languages.
My brain has a hard time separating them. Often, I will mix words from both of those languages into a sentence and often I forget if the word is French or Spanish or some made up English word. I feel a bit dumb as I speak, but it isn’t my level or my ability, but more my brain struggling to pull them apart.
It is easier for native romance language speakers (native Spanish and native French) to separate them because to them, they are completely different. One is their native language and the other is a language they learned. They cannot turn off their native language.
Can’t stop listening
This being said, when I hear a language I understand, I understand it. Often, when you hear a language you don’t know or don’t understand well, it is easy to tune it out so you can focus on whatever you are doing.
I cannot anymore when it comes to my languages.
If I am reading or talking in English, I will get distracted when I hear Spanish or French around me. This isn’t a problem problem, but sometimes I just want to tune people out.
Most people speak 1 or 2 languages
As I mentioned in my article about benefits on being trilingual, there are many opportunities to express yourself when you know multiple languages. Each language offers different expressions, sayings, and phrases you can use to fully express what you are thinking.
However, this only works when the person you are talking to knows the same languages you do. This being said, most people only speak one or two languages. There are very few people who speak four or five languages and if they do it might be languages that are specific to one country (for example multiple languages in India).
So, you know all these expressions and you would like to express yourself more in depth, but you cannot. It is very frustrating.
Depends on languages for jobs- English vs Czech
Knowing multiple languages is an asset, but it depends on the language. I believe everyone can agree that knowing English in our current world is very beneficial when it comes to job opportunities.
However, if you speak lesser known languages, it is absolutely amazing that you know those languages, but also, realistically, it isn’t very helpful when finding a job.
For example, if you speak Czech and come to Montreal, this language will not help you and it isn’t needed in the job market. Unlike Spanish or even Italian and Portuguese.
Still always learning
As a non-native speaker, I will never be fluent in the same way a native speaker is. This meaning, I am always learning, always learning new vocabulary and perhaps grammar.
This isn’t a problem problem, but it is something to keep in mind. Being trilingual doesn’t mean you are perfect when you speak a language.
For example, in Spanish, there are so many differences in speaking Spanish between Spain, Argentina, and Mexico. Or in French, there are differences between in France and Quebec. As a native English speaker, I understand the differences with England and America straight away (for the most part), but I don’t intuitively know in Spanish or French.
What do you think? Are you multi-lingual? Have you come across these problems? Other problems? Or do you think I am completely wrong? Let me know in the comments, send me an email, I totally want to know your thoughts! As I mentioned, there are not many people who speaks multiple languages and I would love to get your opinion.
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