I have a super power.

Noit’s not quite as cool as being able to fly or having X-ray vision. But almost.

I’m fluent in both Spanish and English.

It might sound pretty ordinary, but you’d be surprised at just how complex learning another language really is. People tend to think that one click of Google Translate will do the trick, but I’m here to tell you that machines will never replace human translators (phew!). While its algorithms are getting more accurate by the day, languages entail many human elements–such as grasping the concept of humor and sarcasm, double meanings, etc.that machines just aren’t equipped to comprehend.

While it took me several years, I can now confidently say that I’m able to maneuver any conversation, whether it be about the weather, sports, politics, business, or even my latest favorite Mexican soap operas (I highly recommend the Netflix series La Casa de las Flores).

But by becoming bilingual (try saying that five times fast), I’ve found that linguistic knowledge is only half of the journey. What else have I learned along the way?

Keep reading to find out.

5 Things I’ve Learned From Being Bilingual

1. A whole lot of patience.

If you scroll through social media, you’re bound to see ads claiming that you can “become fluent in a language in just thirty days!” Well, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but…that’s far from accurate.

The truth is that learning another language takes a ton of time and countless hours committed to perfecting your craft. Plus, a language is practically a living, breathing thing, in the sense that it’s always evolving and changing. This means that there’s always something new to learn, but try to think of this in an excitingand not discouragingsense. It’s no easy feat to master another mother tongue, but it’s most definitely a satisfying one.

2. The cliché holds truedon’t judge a book by its cover.

I grew up in a strictly English-speaking, square-mile town (I’m not exaggerating!), but I’ve always been drawn to the idea of different cultures from a young age.

About 90 percent of the time when I open my mouth and start to speak en español, people ask me how-in-the-heck I know Spanish. Since nobody in my family speaks the language, and I look stereotypically “American” (whatever that means, anyway!), I think it’s the last thing anyone expects.

But this bias goes both waysI was once talking to my co-worker in Spanish about my upcoming travel plans, thinking that none of the customers could understand me. Before I knew it, a Korean customer walked up to us, joining in on the conversation! It was a nice little reminder to me, as well, to not make assumptions and to dismantle any unconscious biases I may have. After all, you never know who might share your secret little talent.

3. There’s not always one right way to do something.

In high school, solving math equations felt more like getting a root canal than anything else (thank goodness I tested out of math in college).

I think part of what made them so difficult for me was the fact that there was only one correct way to solve them. Many peoplemyself includedare non-linear thinkers, meaning our thought processes look more like a jumbled ball of yarn than a straight line.

But part of the beauty of languages is that, in certain cases, there are nearly a million different ways to say the same thing. And the plot twist? They’re all correct.

Take the phrase “I’m embarrassed,” for example”tengo vergüenza” and “me siento avergonzado” mean exactly the same thing, just in different words. Speaking a language is kind of like baking: you don’t have to follow the recipe exactlyyou just have to know how to end up with an edible cake!

4. A little slice of humble pie.

If I told you about some of the cringey mistakes I’ve made in Spanish, you’d feel a rather hefty wave of secondhand embarrassment. So what’s the number-one tip I tell my students when it comes to learning a language? That you have to not only throwbut chuckpride and perfectionist tendencies out the window.

Yes, your accent is going to sound like a garbled mess in the beginning, and you’re going to make facepalm-worthy grammar mistakes… but that’s both a normal and necessary part of the process. Learning a second language has helped me to embrace my human imperfections rather than resent them.

5. The saying is true–it really is “a small world after all.”

For me, the coolest part about becoming fluent in another language is the fact that it allows me to connect with so many people.

When you learn another language, your world (literally) opens up. Suddenly, you’re able to focus more on the similarities we all share, and less on all of the perceived differences.

For example, I found out by having conversations with friends in Spain that the whole pineapple-on-pizza debate is just as heated of a topic in Spain as it is in the U.S.! I even saw a meme the other day that said “Todos sonreímos en el mismo idioma,” meaning “We all smile in the same language.” As sappy as it may soundit holds a lot of truth.

I could go on and on (and on), but these are just a few of the realizations I’ve had while learning a second language.

But I should put a disclaimer here: learning a language is kind of like eating Oreosit’s hard to stop at just one! I’ve since started studying Italian (and even a bit of HIndi), only to find that the learning process never ends. Ever.

It’s a long journey, but heyit’s an exciting one at that.

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