Week of January 7th: Citizenship and Language/Culture
“I speak 5 languages. I am 5 people.”
A speaker of Russian, Ukrainian, Arabic, French, and English, an international student at Duke describes each language as representing different versions of himself. The loss of one of his languages won’t feel like losing a part of him but rather the death of an entire person.
When discussing Language and identity, students at Duke university attached a rich history of culture and love to their native tongue.
A student from India remarked, “I appreciate Hindi more now that I am in America. I feel connected and familiar with people I meet who speak Hindi.” The connection he makes with others through his language empowers and validates his presence in the United States. “I met an Indian man in Durham who wanted show tickets for his family. He spoke Punjabi, and he immediately felt like family. I bought him the tickets through my student-discount price–something I wouldn’t normally do for any other stranger.”
He believes that native languages are powerful, because it speaks directly to the heart. “One shouldn’t be obligated to know English or speak the region’s accent,” he claims, “but maybe language is the only way to connect with your community.”
Language connects and polarizes, and is deeply intertwined in our everyday mannerisms. Duke provides the space for students of every background to interact beyond the traditional frame of English. But beyond the bubble, families all over are suffering, signing away rights, and compromising their goals under a language they cannot understand. We can connect and divide under the power of language.