hosted by: Rohit

EBGT Ep. 8: Being bilingual but still not know it

Today we’ll be talking about bilinguism in our podcast. Being bilingual is something that many people confuse. Let’s clear it up!

In today’s episode we’ll talk about one of the questions many of my students ask me and that is “Teacher, do you think in English or in Spanish?”.

Today we’ll take a look at the misconceptions people have when it comes to thinking about bilinguism. These misconceptions are usually created by people’s own ‘excuses’ to not learn and master a language. But don’t worry, we’ll talk about it in our podcast.

We’ll also talk about the advantages bilinguals have and how it benefits them daily.

And the last thing we’d like to talk mention are the secrets to becoming bilingual.

You may not know it yet, but one of the secrets is…well, it’s better if you listen to this podcast, which we created with a lot of love and care just for you.

Check out our podcast page to listen to more of our episodes of English Before Going to Bed.

Don’t hesitate to drop us a line at or in a comment below.

Hi and welcome to another episode of English before going to bed. If you’ve been listening to our podcast, you should know by now that what we want to do is to help you learn English by talking about the things we all love. 

Today’s podcast is somehow very special because it’s an issue that is inherent to me, or so I think. My name’s Rohit and in today’s episode I want to talk about being bilingual and why it’s more normal than you actually think. 

What is to be bilingual?

I think the best thing to do is to start by defining what being bilingual means. And well defining bilinguism in just a few words isn’t easy. This is mainly because different bilingual speakers have different bilingual abilities. So, let’s simply say that bilinguism is nothing but being able to communicate well in two languages. Surprised by how simple it sounds? Well let me tell you something, If you’re listening to this podcast, there’s a very high chance that you are bilingual. I’m not kidding. 

The main reason I’d like to take you on the bilingual journey is because it’s one of those questions my students ask me a lot. And the usual question is “Teacher, when you’re thinking in which language do you think?” And at first my answer used to be quite shaky, because even though I knew I was bilingual, I had never actually thought about it. So, I started thinking about it, and my answer eventually became. I think in both languages, English and Spanish, but it depends where I am and who I am with. I’ll tell you more about this later.  

Our podcast today will cover in first place some common misconceptions people have promoted about bilinguism. Then we’ll move on to see the huge advantages that being bilingual has. And then I can tell you the two secrets I have discovered that may help you become bilingual, as well. 

Well, then let’s get all those misconceptions out of the way at once. I’m sure you may have thought about these some time. So, Here we go.

The first misconception is that

Someone who is bilingual knows both languages perfectly

Well this one can be considered the cornerstone for all of the following misconceptions. Many people think that bilinguals have perfect knowledge and are proficient in all four skills. Reading, listening, speaking and writing and besides that, they have deep knowledge of the culture of both languages. As you can imagine this isn’t the case. Most bilingual speakers have a dominant language that they tend to speak. This preference for the ‘favourite’ language is mainly because of the place they live, their job, etc. But most bilinguals tend to use one language over the other. This doesn’t mean that speaking any of the languages is uncomfortable to them. It’s just that they talk one or the other out of convenience.

Misconception number 2

I will become bilingual in English by just listening to things in English.

People tend to think that by just listening to their favourite series or songs in English they will become bilingual. However research shows that it takes consistency, commitment, and creative reinforcements, inside and outside the home to actually not only learn, but also maintain a language.

Misconception number 3

Bilingual people are great at translating quickly.

Well, this is just partially true. As a teacher I find myself being asked to translate without context and on the spot more than you’d actually think. And many times people take this as a lack of proficiency in bilinguism. In my case, I’ve had the chance to teach for a very long time and I have translated for a long period of my life. This probably makes me a better translator, but it doesn’t mean that everyone who’s bilingual has needed to translate something as much as I have. If you ever somebody bilingual who isn’t able to translate on the spot it might be because that word doesn’t exist in the target language, or we’re not able to come up with the word at that momento. Translating requires a lot of concentration and focus, and when we’re asked to translate just give us a little time.

Misconception number 4

Being bilingual is soooo difficult. 

Well, most of the world is if not bilingual, trilingual or multilingual. Globalization and other historic and social reasons have enabled a large population to become bilingual. I must remind you that a level does not define you as bilingual. Your constant use and exposure to the language in our case English, is what will make you bilingual. So being bilingual is possible, and let me repeat it, it doesn’t mean you have to be perfect speaking both languages.

Misconception number 5

if you mix languages while speaking you’re not truly bilingual.

This is one of the most serious misconceptions and it’s totally the opposite of what I think is being bilingual. Mixing languages is something bilinguals do often. In fact it only happens to me when I speak to other multilingual people. It’s just much easier to jump from one language to another, especially when there are certain nuances that you can make which are typical to one language or the other. 

Misconception number 6

The only way to become bilingual is if you start speaking languages when you’re a child.

That’s again only partially true. According to a study from Stanford university, children spend 85% of their time learning. That includes learning anything and everything.Children are constantly learning that’s why it may seem that they learn languages quicker. Imagine spending 8 hours a day just listening to, reading, writing and speaking English. You would also become bilingual in just a few months. So, the question is not how old do you have to be to learn English, the real question is how long can you be exposed to the language DAILY.

Misconception number 7

If you have an accent you’re not bilingual. 

Accents are a sensitive issue. Many times people who have a great command of language are disregarded as proficient, because they might have an accent and it can’t be more unfair. Remember that your accent only tells the listener where you are from. Nothing else. Consider it your personal brand. So, if you can listen well, read and understand well, speak well and write well, then you’re bilingual. Your accent has nothing to do with that. If you do have an accent, remember American and British people also have accents., then we’ll know where you’re from. identifying accents is something I do with people all the time. I’m very lucky, I work with people from very different places and it’s always exciting to guess where somebody is from just by listening to them. It’s authentic. So, consider your accent a sign of beauty. Not an error. Pronunciation is a different thing. We’ll talk about that in another podcast. 

Misconception 8 this one’s for the mommys and daddys 

“I have a good level of English, but it’s not perfect. I can’t talk to my children in English, because they’ll learn thing the wrong way”

This sometimes drives me a bit crazy. If you’re able to communicate in English, and you feel that it’s important for your children to speak English then, do it. Speak to your English as often as you can. Play quiz games in English. Help them do their chores in English. Think of daily routines you can do with them. Like English bedtime story, or Saturday English breakfast. Whatever works for you. It would be even better if you spoke to them all the time in English. However, for this you need a lot of consistency and commitment. Never back down, keep going. Speak to your children in English even if it’s not the best English. You’re not teaching them English, you’re just talking to them in English. Like this you will make English a natural part of the family and that’s one of the secrets to becoming bilingual, which I will explain in a few minutes. 

The Advantages

Because now I’d like to talk about the advantages of being bilingual. The main advantage I see, and I personally think it’s the most relevant one. Is that being bilingual allows you think through different cultures. You learn how to appreciate the differences between them and you end up falling in love with the people, the food, the stories, the music. Everything. Being bilingual is the closest you’ll be to travelling to the places you want. 

Besides the romantic side of the advantages of being bilingual there are many:

Like better ability to focus, they carry out great mental exercises, it helps you become better at multitasking, of course that’s also besides the fact that it helps you get more  job opportunities.

I think these advantages are quite amazing. 

Now let me tell you the two secrets that can help you become bilingual. The first one is being born in a bilingual family, Sorry, it is the most not talked about secret. Sorry, sorry I’m just joking. The first secret to becoming biiingual is to stop pretending to learn English and really immerse yourself in English. Read all you can in English, take notes of the words you like when you read, Listen to all the podcasts you can, everyday. Speak to someone everyday, or if you can’t speak to someone everyday, have little conversations in your mind. Try to find sentences that you’d like to say in English and look for them. Write a paragraph in English every now and then. Listen and write down what you hear. This is what becoming bilingual means. 

The second secret I wanted to tell you is no secret, and it’s that you’re already bilingual. All you need to do is become a better bilingual tomorrow. 

Thank you so much for listening. Please keep writing on our social media and our email and let us know what you’d like us to talk about next. We have incredible suggestions from our listeners and we’d like to hear yours too. 

This has been another episode of English Before Going to Bed. My name’s Rohit and on behalf of the whole GoGetter Team we’d like to thank you for all your support.

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