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,



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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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