Lost in Two Languages.

[media-credit id=3 align=”aligncenter” width=”533″][/media-credit]Last year, I was working on my Art fund application and you know what the most common mistake I made was? Combining Dutch and English in one sentence. Yes. I had to type my essay in Dutch, but my brain is automatically programmed in English, so I found myself switching to English without knowing I did. Personally, I would say that it’s quite interesting to read an essay with a mix of Dutch and English. As for the fund, unfortunately I did not get it.

So I figured to share a peek from my past and why English plays such a big part in my life. When I look at my parents, English wouldn’t be a standard choice in my household. My mom grew up with Dutch, Hindi and Sranang. She can understand Hindi, but can’t speak it. Sranang is a dialect in Surinam and she lived there till she was 13, before moving to the Netherlands. Surinam was a Dutch colony, so Dutch was the primary language to learn and the language they spoke while growing up. My dad knows Creole, Portuguese and understands bits and pieces of the Spanish and Italian language. While I was growing up, Dutch was the only spoken language and I only know a tiny bit of a few other languages. Back to English. Very often, after talking to people for a while, the following question is asked: “TJ, how come you are so good with your English?

First of all, I don’t consider myself that good. I’m learning a lot from you guys every day. The thing is, I’ve always had an affinity with the English language and I constantly looked for ways to get to know the language better. I suppose that’s why I probably have a larger vocabulary in the English language than most people I know in the Netherlands.

When I started blogging, writing in Dutch never even crossed my mind. It only made sense to blog in English and I didn’t even know what would come out of blogging in terms of illustration and the career switch I would eventually make. In general, I don’t like to limit myself and I wanted to share my ramblings with the world, so it wouldn’t make sense to blog in Dutch.

If I look a bit more in my past, I would say I started to read literature in English when I was 11 or 12 years old. During and after high school, I read more books than we had to and I wrote little stories in English. For some reason, I could translate my thoughts and feelings better in English than in Dutch. Also, a lot of things are simply funnier in English. I kid you not. During the second year of my first study, Human Resources, I was seriously planning to quit. However my third year was a year of internship and I was lucky enough to get hired by Eastman Chemical, an American company where corresponding and conversing in English was a must and done on a daily basis. In my fourth year, I applied to get placed in an international project by the European Union and wrote my final thesis completely in English (and I made it a tad difficult for my coaches). I didn’t thoroughly enjoy my studies, but I’m no quitter, so I searched for ways to keep things fun for myself.

I notice a big difference in how the people here use social media and blogging. The Netherlands is quite slow with picking up trends or having chocolate chips normally available in the shops. Yeah. I would be shocked as well. I’m not sure if I would be where I am now if I started blogging in Dutch, but this quote couldn’t be more true in my case:

One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way. – Frank Smith

Leaving the many doors in my imagination aside, knowing a second language definitely opened a huge door in my life.

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About the Author:

Tahira Lubrano, also known as TJ, was a Master Sociology student, but now she is chasing her dreams as an artist. You can find ramblings and observations surrounded by her own illustrations at her blog A Look in a Creative Mind. Everything is magical there and you are most welcome to float along and wander around her imaginative world. View My Profile

  • SweetViolet

    TJ, English is the biggest language in the world--it has more words in it than any other language. That’s because English speakers are shameless pirates--we steal words from other languages and add them into English if those words better express a nuance than existing English words. Here’s an example: “bunch of flowers” vs. “bouquet” (stolen from French). There is not single English word that translates to “bouquet”; not only that, “bouquet” conjures a different mental picture than “bunch of flowers.”

    Because English has so many more words than any other language, it is a natural choice for expository writing--you just have more words to choose from than in any other tongue. My husband is a native English speaker, but he is also fluent in Afrikaans, which is quite similar to Dutch, and I often find myself laughing when he translates Afrikaans words for me: instead of stealing words from other languages, Afrikaans follows the German practice of sticking words together into a single long and unwieldy word to get its point across!

    As a native English speaker who studied English at university, I have to compliment you on your mastery. I know native English speakers who cannot express themselves as well as you do, despite having the whole, huge English language at their command. You are going about improving your English the right way--lots of reading. From that you learn vocabulary, syntax, punctuation, grammar, even colloquialisms, and you can then use them in your own writing. If you hadn’t revealed that English wasn’t your first language, I would have been hard pressed to tell just from reading you.

    You are doing well--keep doing what you have been doing and you should soon have full mastery including an extensive vocabulary. You’re pretty close to that already!

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    • http://tjlubrano.blogspot.com/ TJ Lubrano

      It’s so lovely to see you here :) Thank you for your comment and compliment as well. English is indeed one of the biggest languages in the world and the amount of articles I had to read in college was huge. The thing is, they don’t prepare you for the academic level of English when you go to college. I had the advantage of knowing more in English than most people I know and it made my life easier. However, I did learn it by myself and by reading a lot of things in English.

      It’s so cool about Afrikaans as well. I saw a show where people spoke Afrikaans and I was so happy that I could follow it haha. Dutch has become a mix of languages as well though. When you hear me speaking Dutch, I can have a Sranang accent and use a few Sranang words as well haha. This is only informal though, I can make a switch if I have to be professional.

      Thanks so much again, I’ll keep on doing what I’m doing! Thank you for strolling by!

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  • http://www.tiredofpreviews.com Katy Kern

    I am going to have my son read this. He’s hell bent on NOT learning Spanish in school. Says he won’t need it because he’s going to be an artist. I try to explain that knowing a different language is a good thing and that it could help his art…it falls on deaf ears.

    See, this is why I love this place -- articles that help people, show different cultures and all these creative minds contribute important things to the world. :-)

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    • http://www.tiredofpreviews.com Katy Kern

      TJ: My son read the article -- Here’s his response directly to you :-)
      a: I loved the art!
      b: I will try my best in Spanish
      c: You sound like a cool person to hang out with.
      Kaden

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      • http://tjlubrano.blogspot.com/ TJ Lubrano

        Hey Kaden!

        Thank you SO much! I’ve seen some of your art and you’re really good yourself! Also, good luck with your Spanish classes. Spanish is a language spoken in many countries as well, it’s really cool to know you can fall back on this when you are e.g. traveling.

        Keep on drawing, keep on creating and who knows maybe one day we can draw together :)

        Oh! When can we read a new poem from you? :)

        Take care!

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        • http://www.tiredofpreviews.com Katy Kern

          Thanks, Ms. Lubrano:

          If it is okay with my mom, I may be able to put a new poem on within a week, okay?

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          • http://tjlubrano.blogspot.com/ TJ Lubrano

            Ah lovely, lovely! Looking forward to it. Oh and please, you can call me TJ or Tahira :)

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            • http://www.tiredofpreviews.com Katy Kern

              Okay, but I have to call you Miss TJ -- my mom says so. :-)

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              • http://tjlubrano.blogspot.com/ TJ Lubrano

                Okay! Deal :) *shakes hand*

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    • http://tjlubrano.blogspot.com/ TJ Lubrano

      Hi Katy! So so sooo happy your son liked the article :) I’ll reply directly to his message in a bit haha. Knowing a second language helped so much and Spanish is a lovely language. Cilla, my sister, she has quite a big vocabulary in Spanish, though she doesn’t use it that often anymore. She used to randomly tell me a Spanish word. Sounded so cool, until she told me it meant e.g. toilet paper…hehe.

      Thanks so much!! :)

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  • Cher Duncombe

    I would think that English would be a very difficult language to master. We have words like knew and new, or laugh, not spelled with an f! Sweet TJ, I truly commend you for all your accomplishments. Not only are you a brilliantly creative artist, but your intellect and tenacity also are impressive. Add to that your natural ability to relate so well to many people, and you have the one and only Sweet TJ in the world. You are a joy!

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    • http://tjlubrano.blogspot.com/ TJ Lubrano

      Hi Sweet Cher! I think because English became a way to express myself, I didn’t find it super difficult to start learning it. In fact, I wanted to learn more and more as I hate making mistakes haha. Plus, if I find something interesting I tend to make it my own as much as I can. No slacking here haha. As always, thank you so so much for your wonderfully sweet words. You always brighten up my day :) Xoxoxox <3

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  • http://sipsofjenandtonic.com Jen and Tonic

    English is a hard enough language to master for native speakers. I am constantly blown away by how well you speak it…especially idioms that are unique to American culture.

    You are impressive on so many levels. Can I be you when I grow up?

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    • http://tjlubrano.blogspot.com/ TJ Lubrano

      Haha! Thanks soooo much! Like I said, I’m learning from you all every single day :) You can be me if I can be you! You are awesome and you know what will happen if you disagree…O_O

      ^_^ <3

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    • http://www.firkroy.blogspot.com/ Dan LaFollette

      I totally agree, I’m a walking idiom and TJ gets me :)

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      • http://tjlubrano.blogspot.com/ TJ Lubrano

        Too funny :) Well, I didn’t get you when you were trying to do a mind trick with the muffins hehe.

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        • http://www.firkroy.blogspot.com/ Dan LaFollette

          I think that had more to do with how familiar you are with all things Star Wars. It’s more of a nerd thing :)

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          • http://tjlubrano.blogspot.com/ TJ Lubrano

            Ah you’re right! I am not THAT familiar with Star Wars :) I do know a few things like the light sabers and the whole shocking “Luke, I am your father” situation…I probably know more, but this pops in mind on the early Sunday haha.

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  • http://www.garrycrystal.blogspot.com/ Garry Crystal

    Wow what a great mix in your family, that would make interesting family tree research indeed.

    Your English is great, I wish I could speak another language with your fluency. I have a ‘learn French’ book and cds sitting on the back of my couch, and it’s been sitting there unopened for months; I know enough to get by but still not much. But one thing i’ve noticed is that I watch a lot of foreign films, French especially, and these must be helping somehow as sometimes I see something written in French and I can pick up what the meaning is. I’ve also watched quite a few Swedish/Danish/Norwegian tv shows in the past year as they get shown here quite a lot but those languages seem very hard to understand, although they sound similar to Scottish in some way.

    Anyway you seem to have your own rambling language, keep it up.

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    • http://tjlubrano.blogspot.com/ TJ Lubrano

      Hello and thank you so much :) My dad did start with a family tree research and I saw so many names floating by. Lots of names in Portuguese and Italian, not sure how far back he can track it down as information isn’t kept that organised in the past. Lots of stories that went from family member to family member and you never know how much gets missing over time. This is only from my dad’s side and I left out the African part from his mother. My mom has Arabic influences. I’m getting confused just by typing this haha. I suppose now the only thing left is “hearing” me speak English!

      High five for watching foreign movies! I think this is an excellent way to pick up new languages. I have a Japanese study book, hardly looked into it. I do watch a lot of anime and because of this I have a very random Japanese vocabulary. So will you ever open up your French book…or will it just keep you company on the couch? Hehe.

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      • http://www.garrycrystal.blogspot.com/ Garry Crystal

        Random japanese word -- kappuke-ki

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        • http://tjlubrano.blogspot.com/ TJ Lubrano

          Haha! It never even crossed my mind to look that one up :)

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  • http://www.momsarefrommars.com Janene

    How interesting, TJ! Such exposure to so many languages! Your family must have an affinity for them. You write English very well, I don’t care what you say! I used to be fairly fluent in Spanish and German (not at the same time) but have lost most of both. Makes me sad. I should brush up again!

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    • http://tjlubrano.blogspot.com/ TJ Lubrano

      Hahah you don’t care what I say huh? :) Hehe. I shall ramble on!!! Spanish and German? How cool! Even though people say that German is similar to Dutch…I had a hard time learning it in high school. I was much more fluent in French. Though my French is almost non-existent now hehe.

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  • Anya Pham

    TJ, I enjoyed this, because code switching was one of my favorite topics in my linguistics program. My parents do it all the time -- slipping English into their Vietnamese. I experienced it right after I started learning Russian -- one day, I asked my dad, ‘C’est une ?????????’ But I haven’t yet done it with English, and besides, I’m not half as good in any foreign language as you are with English. :)

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    • http://www.tjlubrano.com TJ Lubrano

      Hey Anya! Thanks so much. So pleased you enjoyed reading this :) My parents were pretty straightforward with teaching us Dutch and they hardly used a different language. My dad only spoke Creole when he got mad haha.

      Russian?! How cool is that! Ohhh thank you again. I think I only got to this level as I only focused on English. I wish I had a bigger French and Italian vocabulary though!!

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  • http://www.davidhardingrme.com David Harding

    I am super jealous! Your life and ability to communicate must be so deep and exciting knowing your languages so well. I am so boring just having one.
    Great post!

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    • http://www.tjlubrano.com TJ Lubrano

      Heey David! Haha. You know it’s better to know at least a language than none at all right?! Still, so kind of you! Not sure if my life is THAT exciting haha, but I definitely got a great opportunity to pursue what I really want and knowing English helped tremendously.

      Thanks so much for strolling by! It’s lovely to see you here! :)

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