“Which language do you dream in?”“Do you find it easier to express certain ideas in one language over the other?”“How do you quickly shift from Dutch to English?”
These are questions people ask me when I say I’m trilingual (Dutch, Polish and English). Growing up in a multicultural household, I felt a strong connection to Dutch and Polish. The two languages continue to play a big part in shaping my identity to this day.
When I was little, my mom encouraged me to speak Polish when possible. However, there was a time in which I refused to speak Polish, or I’d simply reply in Dutch since the other kids “couldn’t understand me.” Luckily, mom persisted through this minor phase of stubbornness, and I’m thankful for it. If not for that, I wouldn’t be able to communicate to my Polish family, I’d miss out on a great language, and wouldn’t nearly feel as connected to the culture as I do.
I find that languages are enriching, and they affect our daily lives on a high level – whether people acknowledge it or not. Interestingly, a recent study from the University of Edinburgh suggests that “learning a second language can have a positive effect on the brain,” including delaying the onset of dementia by years and improvement in cognitive abilities.
Thoughts on Language
Some people may not weigh language use as all that important, because it can feel effortless and innate. Yet, what you say and how you say things affects those around you. There’s also much to be said for slang, which some may view as a ‘deterioration’ of language. I see it as a byproduct of the inevitable evolution of language – a simplification of it to communicate quickly and intimately by creating a common experience over a certain word (Gen Y’s use of the word, “selfie,” comes to mind). We live in a fast-paced world where instant communication is often deemed necessary.
Language can ‘suffer’ through abbreviation, but immediacy also forces us to think harder and be on point when we’re limited to only so many ‘characters’ in a text message or a tweet. Language connects us – it lets us express how we feel, it . Sadly, it can also isolate us, if we don’t feel we can express ourselves clearly (in case of language barriers), but we overcome that by immersing ourselves in language.
If you could learn to speak another language, what would it be? Any other trilingual readers want to chime in on what they value most about languages? Which languages do you find most fascinating? How do you think language connects you to others?