Assignment #1: WLLN
18 September 2022
To me, my language brings back many interesting and significant memories. I only recognized its significance later on and how it made me different from my American peers in the classroom. A specific moment that comes to me would be one of the earliest moments I can recall, in my early years of schooling. While I was learning to interact in two completely different languages. Which were English and Sinhala, and constantly facing confusion while learning them. Although becoming bilingual now seems easy I see how difficult it truly was for my past self. While other kids growing up only had to figure out one language. Whereas I, just like many other first-generation ethnic kids, had to figure out but also become fluent in their second language. To be honest I at one point was jealous of that but now I see how the struggles of growing with two languages are such a blessing. When it comes to growing up bilingual, it is a blessing in disguise, with both positive and negative effects.
A specific moment that comes to me vividly when thinking about languages would be when I was about four or five. Whereat home my mother would talk in a mix of English and Sinhala to teach me both languages. Then when it came to outside of the house such as school, I would hear and interact with English alone. Which as a little kid would create a lot of confusion. Later my parents told me that I would not speak at all no matter if it was at home or school. Then resulted in me was a speech and language therapist from five to seven years old. During this experience I remember feeling not only confusion but embarrassment. It made me embarrassed of culture and who I was. Languages for me made me ashamed of who I was, it created unneeded confusion and grit. This was a significant memory to me because later I recognized how different I was from my white American peers in the classroom. It further clarified to me how if I were like the kids, I envied I would not have these struggles at all.
It might seem easy to grow up bilingual, but it is difficult as a kid. Something many first generation or immigrant kids understand far too well. I cannot speak for all but at least for me in my early years I had a lot of confusion. I recall frequently as a kid reading and while doing so, I would translate a sentence in my head slowing down the pace I was reading at. So, where it would take other kids five minutes to read a paragraph it would take me 10 minutes. Something I was constantly annoyed by and later fixed. This was another significant memory for me because I would wonder why the other kids were not reading like I was, then I realized going to schools with little to no diversity was why the other kids had less confusion. The confusion I think stems from growing up as American but then also connecting to another part of you as well. As a kid, I would say I was embarrassed of my own ethnic background, but now I see it as something to be proud of. What I mean by this is that for me language is not just a way to communicate but it can be a part of one’s identity.
Language now can only be seen as an advantage for me. It connects people to their culture and heritage, which is something important to people of any minority growing up in this country. Language helps people of any minority connect with the food, smells, and traditions in their culture. Language helps eliminate the difference you feel about yourself in this country. Language not only gives you a deeper understanding of your culture and heritage but also one of yourself and your identity. Now I see how language is such a crucial aspect in anyone’s life, especially those of minority people. My development in languages would be because of my mother as a child she not only made it her responsibility to make sure I understand English, but also the Sinhalese language. She made sure to teach me to read, write, and speak English outside of school while also on the side teaching me all about pronunciation and writing of Sinhala. She was able to teach me all of this from an early age and did so because she knew it would be easier to become fluent in another language if you started early on. She understood that although I was American-born, I was still different from what people consider as an American. It helped my present self be in touch with my ethnic background while also still being American.
The ways I see my capabilities in language, reading, and writing impacting my life would all be positive. My two languages allow me to be in touch with both cultures I grew up with, American and Sri Lankan. I get to have the advantage of connecting with people through either language. My experience truly gives me the ability to connect with my race and family, I get to communicate with other people of my culture and learn more about my history. Being fluent in two languages now I only can be seen as a positive impact and allows for a particularly important understanding of oneself. Language not only gives me a way to communicate but a way to identify with myself.