When you start learning Spanish, few things are as intimidating as speaking in front of bilingual Spanish speakers.
Oh, the horror of these two-language speaking monsters. They hear all your errors, roll Spanish words right off their wicked tongues, and secretly laugh at your thick accent. Such evil!
Hang on. You know you have to have a sense of humor about the learning process. And you know that you will make mistakes. No big deal. You can shake laugh at yourself along with native Spanish speakers.
But nothing is worse than going through all that language craziness in front of bilingual Spanish speakers.
What’s the big deal? You would think that people who speak both English and Spanish would be super helpful to you. After all, they can understand everything you say and also help you identify the right words in Spanish. It’s win-win… right?
Not so much. (But there are some caveats.)
If you’re just getting started learning Spanish and have to practice around a bunch of bilinguals, they may seem to possess the pure evil of the dark side. Calm down. These tips will help you. And don’t sweat it – you will survive this awkward phase of language learning.
Find the bilinguals who want to help you.
First, the sad reality. Some bilinguals have no idea how to help language learners.
- They correct everything you say.
- They complete your sentence the moment you stop to think about your next word.
- They speak for you and express your ideas in ways you never would.
- And they’re arrogant about it, too.
Please remember, not all the bilinguals are evil.
You need to find the patient, empathetic bilingual Spanish speakers that will help you make linguistic progress. These are the people who
- wait for you to finish speaking
- only correct you if you specifically ask for it
- and never seem arrogant about it.
They are few and far between, but the good news is that they do exist.
One warning for novices: as annoying as bilinguals can be, you might be annoying them too.
Don’t turn bilingual Spanish speakers into 24/7 teachers
This will drive them insane and make them not want to interact with you. Especially in the early stages of learning Spanish, you need to accept that you won’t be able to fully express yourself in Spanish and that English is the right choice for interacting with bilinguals.
Yes, this will change. But don’t force it too soon. Just like language burning can burn you out, it can burn out your bilingual friends, family members, and co-workers too.
Do enjoy the benefits bilingual Spanish speakers can offer
- Ask them questions about grammar concepts that you don’t quite understand.
- Let them know what you are working on and how they can help you.
- Tell them about a verb you recently learned and want to work into your own speech.
- Let them know what you reviewed in class last week.
- Practice with them when you are in groups with native speakers and the majority language is Spanish.
Your bilingual friends are sure to be thrilled to watch you make progress and to be able to contribute to it.
Don’t be shy. Embrace the learning process. And let your bilingual Spanish speaker friends, family, and acquaintances be an aid to learning Spanish instead of a hindrance.