When people think about being bilingual, they often assume it involves simply translating between two languages.


Being bilingual is about adopting a new mode of communication, adding a whole new dimension to the relationship between yourself and the world.

Each language embodies unique natures and cultures, allowing you to consume diverse content and understand the world in a different light. Through this, you craft a new persona for yourself.

Of course, your domains of knowledge overlap from time to time. I mean, you’re still one person after all. You may integrate aspects of both languages into your life, but you can never completely replace them with one another.

Well, if you think about it. Adopting a new language can feel like assuming a new identity for a spy mission you see in a movie. It involves inventing a new backstory and fully immersing yourself in it while striving to keep your original identity intact. It’s almost as if two versions of yourself from another universe somehow coexist.

The reality is far more complex than swapping between identities, though. Since you do not have a double life you can switch all the context of who you are altogether. You have to somehow blend these two versions of yourself into one cohesive whole.


In my case, Thai is my native language, and English is my second language. Depending on the topic, I can switch between languages or use them interchangeably and simultaneously. For some topics I prefer to use Thai; for others, I prefer English.

In general, though, my Thai persona is like a boring old man, while my English persona is like an enthusiastic geek. (My Spanish persona would likely be an even more expressive self if I continued studying the language, but I decided I didn’t have time to develop another identity!)

I find that I express abstract concepts better in Thai, while English gives me a wider vocabulary for emotions and feelings. So, I often have inner monologues in English, even though I speak Thai in daily interactions. (You might wonder why I don’t exclusively speak English. I reside in Thailand, where English conversations are primarily reserved for online interactions and assisting tourists with directions. Moreover, my English-speaking skills are terrible! LOL. )

Switching between languages can be challenging, especially when your inner voice speaks a different language. As a result, I typically default to my boring persona in most interactions.

Being bilingual is a constant negotiation of how badly I can embody each persona (lol). At times, I articulate myself eloquently in Thai, while other times I get choked up in my native tongue. I may have profound thoughts in English, only to struggle with basic grammar at other times.

So, to expand the same analogy, I sometimes feel like an inept spy in my own life, grappling with a new identity while also faltering in my original one.

What a confusing combination!!


But despite the complexities, embracing a double identity as a bilingual opens up new possibilities and enriches your existence in ways you couldn’t have imagined. It allows you to grasp nuances you never thought possible and engage in conversations with people and yourself in more dynamic relationships. 

When you’re bilingual, your horizon expands, while your inner self also deepens.


So, even though there are times when I feel frustrated with my shortcomings as a bilingual, I wouldn’t trade it for anything (maybe a polyglot? LOL).  

Why settle for less when your life experiences are doubled twofold, or even more, right?