Language Learning and Identity

I mentioned in a previous blog post that I am currently studying French which I am doing through the Horizons program. It is going well, I think, my grades from my coursework are good and I’m starting to revise for the end of year exam. Speaking in front of other people in French still makes me nervous. It has been years since I’ve studied French at GCSE and having language classes every week had me thinking a lot about identity.

In my spare time, I also have been gradually learning sign language which is a bit harder in terms of finding resources and revising when you cannot really write any of it down to refer to, it is all in my head. I started learning very basic sign language in sixth form like the alphabet and introducing myself and continued at university. At first, I began learning so that I could communicate better with my younger brother who has Down’s syndrome and used to use Makaton more frequently. Learning sign language was something that opened my eyes to how much we communicate without actually saying anything but also made me very passionate about accessibility for the Deaf and hard of hearing communities. Seeing how this translated to accessibility in medicine resonated with me further and I definitely want to improve my sign language.

It may sound strange but I started to feel like a bad person for not knowing the language my Dad grew up with. I’ve always felt like I was straddling two identities one at school and one at home where food, language, music and culture were two opposite sides of a coin. It has definitely lead to awkward phone conversation with cousins I haven’t met, where we both use broken versions of languages to attempt to meet in the middle.

Here’s where I think societies can come in handy, there are lots of societies that centre on culture and identity. I also like watching youtube videos of people that self-study language like Leah’s Fieldnotes who grew up speaking English and Chinese and is learning French while she lives in Montreal. It’s okay to explore cultures other to your own. I’m definitely on the hunt for language learning resources though!

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