Mixing Mother Tongues


I was raised in a bilingual household where my family spoke Spanish and Dutch to me all the time. Only when I started going to school I began to notice that it was only my family who was able to understand me when I spoke a mix of Dutch and Spanish. My parents decided to return to Argentina for a year when I was 7. Keep reading Shantal’s story.

In Argentina I attended a school where only Spanish was spoken. I was welcomed with open arms. Not only my family helped me understand the difference between my two mother tongues, but also the teachers and students. I never felt left out or excluded, even if I accidentally mixed the two languages or didn’t know a certain word in Spanish. I remember they were patient and encouraging.

Back in The Netherlands I became aware why it was that people couldn’t understand me when I spoke Spanish. After that I never had any problems of miscommunication or exclusion by peers in the Netherlands. I remember I only had to take extra Dutch classes during school hours which was mandatory for all bilingual students to help us keep up with the same level as the native speakers.

I am very grateful for my parents for my bilingual upbringing. My mother always told me that languages are like keys to open doors and I fully agree with that. Communication is a big part of being able to understand somebody else and therefore important in going forward in harmony with your surroundings.