Exploring languages other than English can be a gateway to understanding different cultures, widening the perspective of history, and connecting more with one’s ancestors. Some multilingual parents raise their children to speak their own first language, as well as English. Yet, some families don’t maintain that cultural and linguistic connection. However, learning your family’s language can be a way to connect with another part of one’s history and ancestral culture.
Shrinath Sriram, a sophomore at Berkeley High School has learned Mandarin through his school classes, and is learning Gujarati and Tamil at home. Both Tamil and Gujarati are spoken in India, but are from very different parts of the country with entirely separate cultures.
“I was really into learning languages for a little bit…and I wanted to learn my parent’s languages because it made me feel kind of bad that I don’t know (them),” Sriram said. He explained further that learning to speak his parent’s language allowed him to connect further with his non-english speaking family members.
Learning another language can also have more benefits than just connecting to family. According to Cambridge University, learning another language can lead to better memory, better academic performance, and teaches people more about the world, as the more languages a person speaks, the more they can connect to different people and cultures.
Delilah Sophia-Siegel, a BHS sophomore, is learning Spanish and is able to get through a conversation.
“I wanted to be more in touch with the part of me that’s Mexican because I didn’t really have any connection to it beforehand because my mom didn’t raise me Mexican,” Sophia-Siegel said. “I was raised Jewish. And so I had a Bat Mitzvah, that sort of thing, but I haven’t really done anything on the Mexican side of my family or anything connected to it. So I guess I wanted to kind of be able to be connected to it more,” she said.
Other ways of connecting to a culture can be through religion, holidays, food, and even films. Yet it’s not quite the same as learning a language and being able to relate to a different culture.
Learning a new language can be beneficial for many reasons, and taking the initiative to start learning one can bring you closer to many different communities.