Language is what binds us to our culture and ancestors. It’s what shaped our attitudes, beliefs, values, and understanding of what is truth. Our language is the ‘heart’ of who we are as a person. But language also depends on how your family interferes with it. How you expose yourself to it and how you observe and understand it. It can both isolate us and bring us closer together. But without our languages, would we all be with no identity?
Half my family speaks German, I do not. This has made me feel like I had no identity, when surrounded by Germans for many years, but have this also affected who I am overall? My father tried desperately to teach me German as a child, but as stubborn as I was, I simply refused to learn it. That, however, has had its consequences. When growing up, my parents and grandparents would chatter away in German, leaving me feeling left out. They would often “forget” I couldn’t speak it and ...view middle of the document...
But my lack of a common language announces me as an outsider. My identity is closely tied to language. It fuels my feeling of marginality in the world. I fit in two worlds, but belong to neither.
There are also really two sides of me in this case. There’s the side of me that everyone else perceives, and then there’s the side that only I know of. A language barrier that allowed me to say only minimal things to my friends in German, that prevented them from seeing the side that I know of, and also meaning that I would only be able to see the sides of other people that I could understand. But also preventing me from understanding their identity, and only understanding it as far as my vocabulary reached. However, there is a whole other “me” that only people who speak my language fluently would understand and perceive. So, language is tied to my identity in one sense, but not in another.
I started learning German in school and would often spent some time watching TV and movies in German, which improved my skills, to the point where I’ve become more confident in speaking it. Despite the fact, that I feel more confident, every time I talk to someone in German, and more particularly when I have to write something in German, I have the constant fear of sounding or looking awkward. After all, because I learned phrases from “Der Untergang”, doesn’t mean it’s okay to use them on a forum in a discussion about Second World War. And even in casual conversation, the punch lines I learned from all the kids movies could have been ‘oh-so cool’ to say back then, but could sound terribly out-dated today. So when I express myself in German, I’m almost always wondering if my speech sounds as rational and wise as it would sound in Danish, or if I just sound like some hardly intelligible moron.
So all in all, I do think language can make us feel a bit as if we’re losing our identity. But on the other hand, we’ll always be able to seek it in our mother tongue. We’ll always be able to find people, who understand our ‘whole’ identity and those who don’t. We’ll always have to learn how do deal with awkward language barriers, but those are the barriers that shapes us. That shapes our identity and reflects who we really are.