The importance of language


May 25, 2019

Many of my memories from when I was younger involve being surrounded by family speaking in different languages and dialects, I had absolutely no idea what they were all saying, but I knew that was what home sounded like.

Last week I was given an assignment in one of my classes to write about why language is important to me, and it really got me thinking. What is it about language that is special? Beyond the words which a phrase may translate to, I think there’s something inherent about language that carries something much deeper than a face value meaning.

My family speaks many languages, and for as long as I can remember in large family gatherings conversations could switch between three languages in just one sentence. Personally, I can only speak one language fluently at the moment, but there’s something about hearing these languages which makes me feel safe and comforted even though I may not be entirely sure what they mean. Language tells you about your past and your culture, it tells you the different parts and places of which a person is made up of.

Different dialects and interpretations can tell you what has impacted a person. For my family, our cultural language tells our family history about moving around and traveling throughout a region and then settling and intertwining with the local culture. Hearing words from my language instantly makes me feel calm and protected. Sometimes when I’m traveling and feel a little homesick, just hearing someone speaking in my language instantly calms me, as I’m sure it may do for some of you.

When I lived in England, before I became an expat, I used to be embarrassed about having a different cultural language than my friends. When I would greet my parents with a different phrase than ‘hello’ my friends would ask me why I did that. Not until I moved to a different country, did I fully appreciate having a cultural language. Especially for people who have moved around a lot, language can tell us about our roots and our past, it’s something that keeps us grounded wherever we may be.

I believe that language, even if it is just a few words strung together, can tell us something much richer than any other means of communication. It can tell a story much deeper than even the words it translates to.

What’s your cultural language and why is it important to you? Let me know in the comment section.

See you next week!

Little Miss Expat

  1. Mr. Ramdolfi says:

    I love this! Coming from a multilingual household I can relate to you and your initial embarrassment of not greeting our parents with a simple “hello.” Also like you, I grew to embrace my background. As an Angelino, I speak Spanglish with my family — or a mixture of Spanish and English. Alas, with time I’m beginning to forget my Spanish and focus on my English.

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