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Buenos Días from Buenos Aires: A world of bilingualism

Hola, chicos! Thanks for checking in to see how my Argentina experience is going. My classes are going well, and my Spanish is improving immensely. I am trying to use it as much as possible, although I still speak in English with other students from the United States.

What I like about Spanish, and I guess any second language an international student learns, is that it is a great connector with other people from around the world. In my oral production class, I talk with a student from Japan. He knows little English, and I know zero Japanese. Spanish is what we have in common, and we use that to communicate. It’s like a knot that can tie two separate strings together. I have always known bilingualism was useful, but I always assumed I would be using it to speak with people whose primary language is Spanish. I never thought about having the opportunity to speak with other international students from different countries who also are studying Spanish.

Bilingualism is a way to connect and network. Imagine a world in which everyone knows at least two languages. Think about how much easier it would be to understand different cultures and different perspectives. Perhaps taking the time to learn another language is a stepping stone to learning about customs different than your own, and maybe there would be less fighting if we could learn to communicate with each other better.

There’s no truly accurate data that shows how many people are bilingual in the United States and the world, but multilingual people outnumber monolinguals in the world, according to the New York Times. Eighty percent of people in the world speak an average of 1.69 languages, according to the article.

According to Forbes, 18 percent of people from the U.S. report speaking a language other than English in 2010, whereas 53 percent of Europeans can speak more than one language.

Although there’s no exact data that reflects how many multilingual speakers there are in the world and in the U.S., I think there’s always room for improvement.

Some ways I’m working on improving my Spanish (other than the whole study abroad thing) is that I have decided to start thinking in Spanish instead of English. So far it’s a slow process. I tend to think simple, concise thoughts in Spanish. Hopefully, I’ll get to the point where I’ll sound less like a kindergartener and more like a third grader.

I’ve also been watching my favorite shows on Netflix with subtitles or with Spanish voiceovers. There are a couple of Spanish shows that I’ve started watching as well. I occasionally notice discrepancies with the subtitles and the dialogue, and I think that is a good sign of improvement.

I plan to continue learning Spanish until I can comfortably say I’m fluent. I think I’m at the stage where if someone asks, “Do you speak Spanish?” I can say “sí” instead of “un poco” (a little). Once I get this language down, it would be super to move onto another language. 

Jessica Hill is a sophomore studying journalism and global studies. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Are you bilingual? Contact Jessica at or tweet her @jess_hillyeah.

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