The Pros And Cons Of Being Bilingual

October 14, 2013 at 5:42 pm

My parents sent my siblings to English missionary schools for 12 years (except my youngest sister who went to Chinese primary school and later moved on to missionary school), where as I went to Chinese primary school and then Chinese Independent school for secondary education.

I spent most of my schooling days speaking Cantonese (thanks to TVB and KL culture), and then when I started work, it was almost English all the way. For the last 6- 7 years I’m conversing more in Mandarin since I have to work with Taiwanese and mainland Chinese, speak to the girls’ school teachers.

The first thing that gauge what is the language that you are strong in would be what language do your brain think in? Mine? English, Mandarin and Cantonese. Even when I pray, I use more than one language in my conversation with God.

So there, I seem to have an advantage over my siblings, and some co-workers who don’t speak Chinese, or mothers who can’t help their Chinese school going children with homework because they never learnt Chinese. But… I find there are some disadvantages too. Here is what I think are the Pros and Cons of being bilingual.

Pros
1. I have a wider range of books to read and reference. For someone who likes to read, cook and bake, this is really great!
2. I can guide the girls in their school work.
3. My Chinese speaking colleagues warm up to me faster, and tell me things that they won’t tell the English speaking colleagues (at least not until they warm up to them).
4. I can read Chinese menus, Chinese sign boards in restaurants, it helps even locally.
5. I have no problem reading Chinese notice from school, or communicating to teachers in the girls’ school.
6. I can google in Chinese. When it’s related to Chinese herbs, Chinese places, Chinese recipe

Cons
1. I’m never very proficient in either language. Sometimes knowing how to say something in English but not Chinese, and vice versa.
2. Because of 1, it sometimes takes a moment longer for me to form a sentence in either language, occasionally even having to use Google or Phone Apps to help.
3. I’m never as eloquent as a native speaker. Even Zara speaks better English than me now, she use words more efficiently and effectively. I’m always in awe of those who can say/write something so well or beautifully, while I may sound so crude and unpolished.
4. I have the feeling that people are less tolerant of your Grammatical mistakes or mispronunciation of words (“Neh, she’s from Chinese school, that’s why.”)

For those of you who are bilingual, do you feel the same?

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