Being Bilingual: The Social Challenges of Being Bilingual

being bilingual social challenges

Is being bilingual a super power or a natural talent?

Bilinguals, however, do face some social challenges around the world. We’re not universally loved, after all.

Prejudice

It seems silly, but bilinguals do face the challenges of prejudice. As children, a lot of bilinguals are targeted as being ‘different,’ especially if their parents are recent immigrants and have a strong accent and retain a strong connection to their culture. Children can be very cruel at certain ages, banding together for safety and lashing out at anyone perceived as different – as bilinguals often are.

Even as adults, bilinguals are often looked upon as haughty or overly proud of themselves, and some of their peers feel a certain amount of jealousy, especially if they have tried and failed to learn a second language. Certainly some bilinguals are ‘show offs’ with their language skills, but it’s still a challenge for us to not seem like we’re know-it-alls in social situations.

Education

Introduction of a second language in school is often greeted with hostility by parents who can view it as an attack on their native culture, or as an impediment to their children’s learning. The idea that learning a second language slows down learning in the native tongue or in other subjects has been disproved time and time again, but it remains a common misconception, and when it comes to your children it can be difficult to be objective. I do understand – after all, if mistakes are made in your child’s education at a young age, they can be difficult if not impossible to undo later. Thankfully, learning a second language will almost never be regarded as a mistake, and may just give your child the possibility of a career in medical translation or legal translation in the future!

Religion

Religions around the world often seem to regard bilingualism and translation services poorly, which is unfortunate. While some religions, like Christianity, regard high quality translation of their holy texts to be a useful tool in bringing their message to the entire world, other religions consider the original language the holy works were created in to be sacrosanct, and either outright forbid or simply disdain any efforts to translate those works, even if the original language has become antiquated and no longer in common use.

Of course, there are groups of people suffering much worse than bilinguals – this is merely an examination of some of the odd attitudes that still afflict those of us who speak more than one language. Certainly, I’m glad to be bilingual, and always will be!