The Monolingual Mind

What’s your native language? 

Whenever anyone asks me this question, my reaction is always – “You don’t get it, and never will.” 

I don’t always say what I think. But I’m still free to choose my thoughts. As naughty and as misplaced as they might be. 

For those of us who grew up in multicultural societies and families – there is no such thing as a first or native language. There are languages that we know and understand, and languages that we don’t.

papyrus_ani_curs_hiero

And when the words people utter make no sense – we rely on body language. End of story.

*time for another cliché sigh*

If only life were that simple…

If you’ve ever experienced complete confusion when someone babbled off to you in a tongue you don’t understand – you are not alone.

I’ve been there. Many, many, many times over. It sucks not being able to understand anything. 

I get it.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. 

In my experience, monolingual societies tend to be a little up themselves about people speaking their language and only their language. They also tend to be pedantic about grammar, accent and take pride in correcting people over minor differences in lingo. 

It is in that vein that I must ask…

Just what is so awful about being bilingual? What is really so wrong and inherently bad about learning a second language? 

I can’t think of anything.

If you have answers, please tell me. I just don’t get it. 

Do people really feel that superior when they make fun of someone else’s accent, or perceived imperfect use of a language that they consider theirs? Is it laziness, a lack of ability, or a misplaced belief that everyone should speak your language exactly how you know it?

In the current world we live in – an unwillingness to adapt is going to cost us. Can we really afford to be this inflexible in a world that’s constantly changing and presenting challenges that we’ve never had before? 

Languages are very much like people. They are alive. Always changing. Always evolving. And like people – they must one day leave this world. That’s why we have so many dead languages. 

My own name – derived from Sanskrit, which was once the lingua franca of Greater India, has now been relegated as a ceremonial language, much like Latin in the west. 

English currently enjoys status as the lingua franca of the world, but who knows how long that will keep up.

I grew up exposed to a lot of different cultures. Not everyone has that opportunity. I get that. I still have lots to learn. I doubt I’ll ever stop.

Papua New Guinea currently holds the top spot for the country with the most spoken languages in the world. Eight hundred and bloody twenty. 

papguinea-physical-map

And we thought bilingualism was tough. I doubt I will ever learn that many languages in my lifetime. 

Oh the futility of it all. 

As for my native language – I’m still not sure what it is. I currently speak 9 languages. All of them badly. 

C’est la vie.

Excuse my English. 

Author: Dipa

Tarot Tales from Japan

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