bilingual suspicion
June 17, 2008, 11:55 pm
Filed under: departure lounge

We always hear the advantages of heteroculture.  Here is another view:  that to know another place significantly is to not be fully vested in this one.

Many years later when I was studying at the University of Kong – linguistics to be precise, after I’d studied Chinese, after I’d studied Russian and French, trying on languages like so many dresses – I came across a theory claiming that bilingualism can hurt you.  This was not one of those theories about the educational process or the capacities of the brain.  It was a slender little monograph, not particularly well written, which claimed that in operating as two distinct personalities with two distinct tongues, a bicultural person will be highly suspect to those who have only one culture.  The bicultural person seems so thoroughly one way in one language, so thoroughly different in another.  Only an imposter would hide that other half so well.  A liar.

–Marie Arana, “American Chica” Unrooted Childhoods, Intercultural Press


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