LAMC 2012: Ximena Sariñana: Interview

In this interview, Ximena Sariñana, a talented singer/songwriter with a successful bilingual career, gives practical tips on expressing yourself in a second language, gained from her own experiences of learning another language. She also talks about the challenges and joys of making music in two languages and how learning about other cultures gives a person “a bigger perception of what reality is.”

LAMC 2012: Ximena Sariñana: Interview

Do you have any tips for me and also the students that are learning Spanish about how to express yourself in another language?

    I think it’s just a question of practice. You don’t have to be completely correct all the time. I mean, it’s what we all strive for; I want to be grammatically correct every time that I speak. But, sometimes it doesn’t need to be that way. When I speak in Spanish, I say a lot of stuff that is not “correct”, but it’s part of the personality that I have in that language.

    So I think, first, the most important thing is to try to be as comfortable as possible. Don’t worry about either your accent or about how you’re coming across because in the end, if you have an accent or if you say things that maybe are incorrect or don’t make a lot of sense, that only means that you speak two language, which is a plus!

    So, I think that you just have to be comfortable and practice. Practice a lot. Try speaking with friends. Try to express things, maybe not like an instruction or not direction, but more like a concept. Try to talk about your feelings or your view of certain things in life. That is when you really are put to the test and just practice.

What are some challenges and joys of making music in two languages?

    Well, I think the hardest challenge for me was to find my own personality in both languages. I tried at first, when I was writing my first songs in English, I tried to kind of almost translate what I was doing in Spanish or how my style was so put together in Spanish and try to do the same thing in English. But I realized that it’s a different language and the way that you build sentences and the way that you describe things are different. That was one of the biggest challenges. And also trying to keep everybody happy, the people who speak Spanish or the people English, they want to hear songs in their own language and that sometimes is hard.

    But, one of the great joys is that I feel that when you learn, I don’t know if you’ve felt this now that you’re learning Spanish, but when you learn a different language it’s almost like you learn a different reality. Culturally it’s so enriching because you get to perceive the world in more than one dimension. And that is what I’ve found refreshing. Now that I’ve been working here and I’ve been writing songs in English and I’ve been touring in the States, I can listen and understand so many concepts or so many jokes or so many things that I didn’t, couldn’t quite grasp and that tell me so much about the culture, about people that come from other countries. The same thing when you learn Spanish, you learn a lot about the humor and what that means about the culture. I like that, that it gives you a bigger perception of what reality is.