16 Things You Experienced If You Grew Up Bilingual

I recently talked to my roommate who grew up speaking Spanish and English. We realized we share very specific similar experiences even though I grew up speaking Mandarin and English. Here are some of the things that we both experienced.

1. You automatically learn a third language-- the combination of the two.

2. Your parents don’t like you using said hybrid language, but they do it too.

In order to communicate with you.

3. They probably also gave you a bunch of non-English books to read and told you to practice writing in that language.


I hear this from my mom whenever we travel, when she gets mail from overseas, etc.

5. You find the perfect word to describe something to your friends….but it’s in a language that they don’t speak.


6. It’s sometimes difficult to speak to your English-speaking friends.

It's hard to switch grammar formats.

7. Your friends ask you to teach them foreign curse words.

And proceed to repeat them over and over. Loudly.

8. You have an accent in both languages.

English-speakers think I have a Chinese accent when I speak English while Mandarin speakers think I have an American accent when I speak Mandarin.

9. You may sleep talk in another language.

My roommate can testify.

10. You form an instant bond with people who speak the language.

After multiple rejections, an Uber driver was willing to drive me and my drunk friend home because we both spoke Mandarin.

11. You talk about other people...in front of them.

12. You get rusty in a language after not using it for a while.

Can I have a...wait.. 我要... omg what's the word...

13. And it’s been so long that you haven’t been keeping up with the slang.

I end up using slang from the 2000s.

14. Subtitles for foreign language films are hilariously wrong and do not capture the real meaning of what is being said.

15. You go through a couple of keyboards every time you want to type something on your phone.

16. You see your friends struggling to learn a second language and you thank your parents for bringing you up bilingual.

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