Your web-browser is very outdated, and as such, this website may not display properly. Please consider upgrading to a modern, faster and more secure browser. Click here to do so.
Yesterday morning, I was sitting in a Pret A Manger on the street on which I work. I get into the city about an hour earlier than I need to arrive at my internship (because that is the time at which I can be dropped off at the train station in my town), and thus, on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday morning, I spend thirty minutes or so at this Pret. (It’s across the street from a Starbucks, but I went there once and it was awful, so never again, where that’s concerned.) This is all a very long, digressive way of saying that I was at this particular coffee shop on a Monday morning.
I was reading the Russian copy of Master and Margarita that I got at Dom Knigi back when I was in Petersburg, because I am trying to not lose my Russian. (Do not worry: I hate that phrase, too. Like, if I lose my Russian, what am I going to do, check under the couch?) And I was sitting there reading and thinking of how much I love the Russian language, and how good it felt to be reading it again, even if it was—is—difficult.
Two men sat down at the table next to me. And I kept hearing one say “bilingualism.” Just over and over again. “Bilingualism.”
When I got up to leave, Bilingualism was staring at me. I sort of nodded, and went to put my book in my purse.
“Is that a Russian book?” he asked.
“Yes it is,” I replied (politely—don’t worry).
“Are you Russian?”
“No, I’m not. I was a Russian lit major, and I just graduated, so I’m trying not to lose it.”
“I’m asking because—this is so funny—we were just talking about bilingualism. And about this article that says that bilingual people are torn between two languages. And he”—he pointed to his acquaintance—”he’s Russian.”
The Russian nodded.
I smiled. “I’m not bilingual.”
“But you are,” the Russian protested in English. “According to this article.”
“I simply try,” I replied in Russian.
There is a certain satisfaction—pride, if I am honest—in seeing a Russian person who does not expect you to speak Russian hear you do so.
“Very good,” he replied in Russian. “And what are you reading.”
“Master and Margarita.”
“Master and Margarita. Do you like it?”
“Very much. I’ve read it before in English, so it’s not so hard.”
“And do you like it better in Russian or in English?”
I smiled. “Of course, much better in Russian.”
He beamed, nodding.
“Da svidanya,” I said to him. And then, nodding to the non-Russian, I left Pret.
I cannot say exactly why this conversation made me as happy as it did, or why, a day later, I still want to blog about it. But I think it has something to do with the fact that I’m not bilingual. I didn’t grow up torn between two languages. Three years ago, I couldn’t have switched into Russian. Two years ago, I wouldn’t have. And now I can and will. And that’s not being torn. That’s feeling a little more fully together, somehow.