On becoming native

I speak 2 languages at a native level. I mean: fluent English and Spanish. I understand 100 % whatever I read and listen at almost any level. I even write poetry in either language.I almost never hear/read a word that I do not understand. I make mistakes here and there when I either speak and write in English or Spanish. I really do not care. I begin a sentence in English and, sometimes, I end the sentence in Spanish, or vise versa. I really do not care because the people I relate share this experience. How does it happen? It feels so easy. How come? I remember when I struggled with English -I was 24 and 40 years ago. Today I find English to be totally transparent. Not a big deal. The only difference between both languages is the feeling that Spanish is closer to my heart. When I write in English is like is a different personality writing. English is not an old friend but a new friend who is part of what I am. Is it possible that learning an unknown language changes who/what we are? I am not aware of anyone discussing the psychological effects of learning a new language. Today I study Polish. Is it learning polish also learning to be polish? Is is possible that being bound to our original nationality creates a barrier on language learning? Is this the toughest barrier to crack?


I hope one day I feel about Spanish the way you feel about English. I can see it coming but I still think it is probably a few years away yet. A big change for me is when reading, writing, listening and speaking in the language all become something I do purely for pleasure. That’s a big step in the right direction. It happened with reading a year or so ago, with listening more recently and is true of writing and speaking from time to time depending on what I am doing.

The psychological side of language learning is really interesting. I’m also interested in its effects on well-being and happiness. I’m pretty sure the achievement of learning a new language has definitely made me a happier more confident person. I liken it to gaining a super power! So it definitely changes you in all kinds of ways.


I am watching my child grow up in a german immersion school, that is in San Diego, CA where she of course speaks english almost all of the time outside of school. She just finished third grade and after 4 years of German school instruction, german classmates, teachers, cultural events and many more language exposure and cultural exposure opportunities, she is quite good at using the language. She is not the same kind of fluent as a 9 year old native german, but i see her use the words she knows, and understand the words that she knows with fluency. I am newly married to a Geerman woman and i get the privlede of lsitening to her and my daughter talk at home and (this is to the point of your comment), and when i here her speak fluently with my wife in german i catch myself thinking, is this my child? it is a strange feeling, and i think it speaks to the identity question that you bring up, but from another perspective. My relationship to my own child has a differnce to it that it didnt before because my child has this whole other language group that she is disseminating, bonding with and bringing into her core. Of course this is the nature of the parent anyway, as we always marvel at our children as they grow and become something we didnt expect, always surprising us with thir talent and beauty. Anyway, just wanted to share, i think the identity question is at the heart of language learning. I am learning German now too, and i find that i am much more motivated to learn because i want to make it a part of me, i want to activley immerse myself in the culture, it is not just an assignment, a class in school, or some feel good project, it is so that i can truly undestand the woman i married in her own language, and so i can catch all the jokes her and may daughter tell about me, which is some serious motivation.