The Transition Generation

The Language Barrier | June 21, 2011

So, apparently I was not a very verbal child.  It wasn’t that I didn’t know how to talk, because I did, I just didn’t see the need to express myself all the time (and, as you have probably realized from these blogs, I still have trouble expressing myself at times).  Anyway, because I didn’t like to talk, my parents were worried that something was wrong was me.  The doctor assured my parents that I was healthy, but that maybe I was confused by the different languages spoken in the house and that they should stick with only one for the time being.

We spoke Urdu and English in the house, and my parents proficient in both.  But when the doctor mentioned his idea, my parents picked English.  I think they did this in part because my brother was learning English in school, but mostly because we were now American and I would live and educate myself in English.  It was a conscious decision on their part to put aside their own culture, for a time, for the betterment of their child’s life – to make sure they succeeded. 

These days, many of my cousins, me included, are not fluent in Urdu.  Some of my cousins have had the opportunity to travel more to the “parent country” as it were, and are fluent and I do envy them at times.  But the language is slowly fading out as members of Generation T (or the Transition Generation as I call us), assimilate to a different country, America, and a different language, English.  Other ethnic groups do not necessarily face this problem, since in most schools for a language we choose between Spanish or French, or perhaps even Italian, and even Chinese is becoming more common which, if we follow the future depicted in Firefly, we will all need to speak one day anyway. 

The good news is that I can still learn to speak and read it – more and more universities are offering it as a language option (and I do hope Rosetta Stone takes the hint as well).  The bad news is that there may not be much of a language for me to learn.  Urdu itself is a mismatched language to begin with, and the name itself means “army”. It was created in the 1600s by an army, which consisted of Persian, Arab, and Turkish soldiers, while they worked to conquer India to allow for better communication between the soldiers.  However, these days there seems to be an English-Urdu hybrid, Endu or Urlish, which has taken over, at least in America. 

So it leaves one to wonder: when does a language die? Are we, as members of Generation T, the reason for the decline of particular languages?  Or are we just speeding up the process?  Are we making a conscious or unconscious choice to let go of this part of our histories to make room for new memories, experiences, and opportunities for our own children? And will our children be better for it, or will they experience a sense of loss they cannot fully explain?

Perhaps these thoughts are too deep for a blog post, but it is something that I wonder about.  Let me know what you think by commenting below.  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks for reading,

Mehv

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7 Comments »

  1. Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww…..Its perfectly ok if you think you are not fluent….as in…if you are not tooo good at the vocab, neither are we at English na…and then, I believe what’s important is, that we stay connected, we communicate well, and we love each other!
    That’s it….Language should be used to express oneself well…busss….no doubt…some people think, if we do not concentrate on the language, it shall die one day…but we ARE here to keep urdu alive…lol…so dont worry….

    P.S….did i mention earlier that i LLOOVVEEE reading to your blogs??? no wonder i know how busy you are with your daily schedule…but still….do write MORE…waiting for MORE…Express MORE…Say MORE…We all are here to know u MORE!!!

    Think of other things, that you never shared with ANYONE, all your life….express them now…Not that only you’ll feel better….saying things out….We’d love to listen too!!!

    Love you baji…
    Miss u!!!
    Do come again soooooonnnn ppppllllzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…..

    Comment by zzeshhsiddiqui — June 23, 2011 @ 4:01 pm

    • Thanks, Shani! But I do think that you speak English very well 🙂

      Comment by Mehv — June 24, 2011 @ 1:41 am

  2. Apparently, that doctor was not well aware that children who grow up learning multiple languages does no harm to children in any way. In fact studies have shown that children benefit greatly from multiple languages. The fact that you did not verbalize yourself as a child is not a serious issue, some children do not talk when they are young, but they eventually do become more verbal as they get older; its just that every person has a different developmental stage as they are getting older.

    Also, ya I did not grow up learning that much urdu and I believe because of our inability to learn the language we also distance our selves from the culture that comes with it. Language and culture are both things that are needed to become fully assimilated into a certain society. Without both of them we are either a FOB or an ABCD ;). Think about it, the more we know about language the more we can understand the people their behavior and various other factors about that contribute to their culture; observing can only help so much.

    Nice post!
    Aisha K.

    Comment by aisha k. — June 23, 2011 @ 10:29 pm

    • Great, reply! Thanks, Aisha! And I do think (or at least hope) doctors know better now. This was in the early ’80s and my doctor was pretty old at that time and retired not long after we moved away. Glad you didn’t have a similar experience 🙂

      Comment by Mehv — June 24, 2011 @ 1:45 am

  3. Masha Allah great writing skills. As for learning, you speak excellent Urdu and so does Omer. So it really doesn’t matter if two languages are spoken or one in the house when kids are little. Kids are smart they adapt very quickly and so did you…..

    Love
    Phoppo Jee

    Comment by Neelofur Hassan — June 24, 2011 @ 10:00 pm

    • jee

      Comment by Haseeb — December 2, 2011 @ 4:24 pm

  4. good

    Comment by haseeb — November 14, 2011 @ 5:00 am


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    First generation born and raised American, and member of the Transition Generation © (aka Generation T ©). Join me as I discuss the struggles and joys I have faced as an American. What's your story?

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