4 Frustrations Of Learning Your Mother Tongue In Adulthood
Race

4 Frustrations Of Learning Your Mother Tongue In Adulthood

Learning your mother tongue in adulthood is frightening and a self-evaluation in a way.

403

All I can say is: it's about time. I'm 19 years old and my parents never taught me my mother tongue. Instead, they did that thing all immigrant parents do... speaking it when they don't want you to understand. My parents instead speak a combination of other languages in the house, mostly English. While I've resented them a bit for not speaking the language more when I was a child, I realized that at this point I need to teach myself. The truth is, I've made the decision several times to try to learn, but it's hard to commit to something that never truly has a deadline.

Summer is just around the corner, and I'm tired of making excuses. So I've decided to learn the language my ancestors spoke: Malayalam. It is one of the few Indian languages not derived from Sanskrit, and comes from the southern state of Kerala in India (aka where I'm from). Though I embarked on this adventure, it does come with a few not-so-fun side-effects.

Though the language Malayalam comes with its own difficulties, there are frustrations of learning any language in your adulthood.

1. Your family often and regularly teases you

Though your intentions are genuine and praiseworthy, your family will use the fact that you're an adult to point out all of your mistakes. After all, to them, you could have just learned it as a kid, but didn't. They don't understand how difficult it was growing up in a foreign country and having parents who only spoke English around you. If you have supportive family members, then you should appreciate the lack of judgment so many people feel when trying to learn about their culture. But this frustration is also partially in the mind. When learning any language, it becomes difficult to find courage when you're not confident. It's all about embracing the mistakes and not caring about what anyone else thinks because this is your journey.

2. Finding the courage to speak it, because you don't feel you've earned the right to do so

Finding the courage to speak any arbitrary language is difficult as it is, but when learning the language you should have learned as a kid you feel 10 times more fearful. This fear comes from guilt, from not having been enough "Indian," "Pakistani," "Korean," "Latina," and so on. The trauma of being singled out by your community for years still lingers.

3. People asking you to converse right away

This is one that gets my anxiety level through the roof. When I tell my parents I want to learn Malayalam, they ask me the next day "Speak in Malayalam. Why are you speaking in English?" The misconception is that all of a sudden I'm going to have the magical ability to converse in a language when language learning takes time and patience just like any skill.

4. Feeling like you've missed out on an entire childhood connecting with this culture

When you finally do start getting immersed in your mother tongue, and find yourself even enjoying it, you realize that so many years of exclusion and confusion could have been prevented if you had just taken the leap earlier. You could have immersed yourself further into your culture just a bit more if you had tried harder. But the truth is, the time is now so just appreciate your amazing decision to start learning now.

If you can relate, then I want you to know that you're not alone. Do not ever give up your mother tongue, because as the world gets more globalized, English is becoming more and more common. In order to maintain lesser-known languages, they need to be passed onto future generations. A huge factor in me learning Malayalam is this: I want to be able to speak it fluently to my children so they can speak it to theirs. No fear, frustration, or failure is going to stop me now.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Lifestyle

These 11 Face Masks On Etsy Support Small Businesses While Fighting The Spread Of Coronavirus

We're staying safe as states start lifting lockdown guidelines.

I, like most people who have had the luxury of being able to stay at home during this time, haven't spent much time outdoors at all. But when I do brave the great outdoors for a walk or to get to the grocery store, you won't find me without a mask.

My family and I were lucky enough to have family friends who were sewing some and had extras to give to us, but most of my friends and loved ones outside my immediate family have had to order some (or make a makeshift one out of scarves or bandanas).

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

13 Reasons We're Using Quarantine As The Ultimate Excuse For Online Shopping This Month

The one thing we haven't distanced from is our bank account.

Throughout quarantine, I've been FaceTiming most of my friends in a full turtleneck or the go-to cozy sweater I keep wrapped around the chair in my room. Either way, I always have tea in my hands to keep myself warm — till this past week.

For most of the country who hasn't had the luck of quarantining in 90-degree weather on their family's lake house or with a backyard pool, things began to change this month. Our favorite shows came out with summer seasons, the sun came out, and we started spending more time outside.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

I Sat Down (Virtually) With Morgan Wooten To Talk About Coronavirus's Impact On The Wellness Industry

Just because coronavirus has greatly impacted the wellness industry doesn't mean wellness stops.

Morgan Wooten

If you're anything like me, your weekly fitness classes are a huge part of your routine. They keep me fit, healthy, and sane. Honestly, these classes help my mental health stay in tip-top shape just as much as they help my physical health.

Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, gyms and fitness studios are facing temporary closure. Yes, this means my personal routine is thrown a curveball, but this also means the wellness industry is one of many that is looking at unemployment and hardship. Do I miss my Monday spin class? Of course. But do the wellness professionals whose worlds were flipped upside down have a lot more to overcome than a slight change of routine? Absolutely. Thankfully, if anyone can prove the ultimate flexibility, it's the wellness industry.

Keep Reading... Show less
HBO Max

If you are a normal person who spends most of their time streaming TV shows, you'll know that "Friends" was taken off Netflix early in 2020. Given that a global pandemic followed shortly after, many diehard fans of the show stuck in quarantine have been experiencing significant Central Perk withdrawal.

Keep Reading... Show less
Student Life

How To Interview A Class Of 2020 Graduate

What they've been through is truly unprecedented.

Odyssey

No matter how you want to spin it, the Class of 2020 will be the first class graduating amidst a global pandemic.

Keep Reading... Show less
Netflix

By now, it is safe to declare "Outer Banks" on Netflix as THE TV Show of quarantine.

"Tiger King" got out to an early lead, but since, the Pogues and the Kooks have owned pop culture conversations while everyone has been couped up this spring amidst a global pandemic. And if you are one of the very few people out there in the world that has not heard about "Outer Banks" and or haven't binged it yet, well...

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

I Spoke To A California ER Doctor About COVID-19, And Y'all, Our Healthcare Workers Know What's Up

In light of what's going on in the world, it's time to get some front-line perspective.

It seems like the only thing I do these days is scroll through social media in a desperate attempt to gain information. My phone has called me out on my screen time more than once, and I just continue to ignore it. You're probably in the same boat — stuck at home, scrolling deeper and deeper into a hole of conspiracy theories and possible "back to normalcy" dates, hungry for information.

While we know that the news is not our mental health's friend these days, getting reliable information is helpful and necessary.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments