I've been thinking a lot about being bilingual lately. In June, my sister-in-law visited, and at the beginning of the visit I tried to speak mostly Spanish, later it was more Spanglishy-English because I was tired. My brain got tired, and also, I'm going to be honest, I got lazy. For those of you reading this who are bilingual(ish), you know what I'm talking about. I'm grateful that my husband lets me be lazy. (Also, it's hard to talk to someone in a different language if you're used to speaking in another. Try it. It's weird.)
I have a friend who is Puerto Rican, and I while I envy the ease in with he seamlessly switches back and forth between the two, accent free, I doubt my discipline in practicing enough to get there. I want to. I really want to. I promise, but it's like going to the gym or eating better, everyone is always better in the beginning.
Last week, my editor and friend in chief sent me a text with a translation project suggestion. I didn't understand where she was coming from until she said, "You should do more with your bilingualism." Así lo dijo. No, beating around the bush. Just there, do something, Yasmin. That's the thing though, right? I take for granted that I understand a whole other language because it's how I grew up. That was/is my normal.
In the age of Trumpism, my kind of bilingual isn't special, though. Spanish is being spat upon. If I spoke French, Swedish, or German, I'd get the special treatment. Intelligence and skill are being shadowed by willful ignorance. And in this age, I realize I have to stop being lazy. Even if it's in little ways.
One of those ways to combat my laziness and lack of knowledge of accents in Spanish is that I added the Spanish keyboard to my phone. I can switch back and forth between languages with a quick slide of the button. Easy, right? Nope. In my haste to type a funny response to a dog meme my sister-in-law sent me, I often forget to switch the keyboard. So I type tiendas and my phone's auto correct makes it turns. Turns? I'm not sure how it got there. I understand the switch of fuck to duck, but not turns. (How many times do people type duck, anyway?).
But, there's a metaphor in there, isn't there? Even with the necessary tool to assist my Spanish skills, it's a simple flip that hinders my fast response. At Lowe's this weekend a woman stopped me and asked where I had found a plant on my cart, and my brain froze. How the fuck do I say aisle??
"Lo encontré contra la pared en la primera," I said gesturing with my hand.
The woman smiled and nodded. She was polite and didn't point out my loss for words. I walked to the car and racked my brain for the word. How many times does one use the word aisle in any language anyway?
My husband told me about a student he has from Iran. He is taking Spanish class with him. Spanish will be his fifth language. It begrudgingly made me look at myself. No mames, Yasmin.
So where is this all going? I'm not sure. I thought it would come together here, somehow, but it really hasn't. Has it? Maybe that's the thing. It's almost like having two differently formed thoughts, and it's sometimes hard for them to come together. In my head, I speak super good Spanish, but then ladies come up to me a Lowe's and I forget the word for aisle.