Native tongue

Why keeping your native language is Important


Graphic by Victoria Van

Story by Misty Lopez, in-depth editor

The United States of America, being one of the most diverse countries has transformed into a melting pot of culture, religion, and language. Each day, more people are settling and redefining the generalization of what an American is.

According to the data collected from 2000-2010 by the Census Bureau for the Center of Immigration Studies, the nation’s legal and illegal immigration rates reached 40 million in 2010, 14 million of that being immigration settlements.

Unfortunately, with the increase of foreign-born children and second generation children, there has been a loss of desire for learning their native tongue, even though it typically guarantees job opportunities and greater social interaction.

With the dramatic rates of the nation’s growth, it is very significant that the desire to learn one’s own language doesn’t die out, not only for the benefit of others, but for the benefits of the individual as well.

Language is more than just someone’s opportunity to obtain a dream job; it’s more than just being able to translate a few sentences. There is more meaning behind learning a language than just ‘looking good on a resume.’

Language itself is the basis of communication. It’s the root of all understanding and the core foundation to establishing relationships. It’s all about learning who people are along with their cultures and beliefs.

Speaking the same language as someone else will usually always create stronger ties with that person since it’s closer to what they know, which can open a door of opportunities for personal growth.  

With the dramatic rates of the nation’s growth, it is very significant that the desire to learn one’s own language doesn’t die out, not only for the benefit of others, but for the benefits of the individual as well.

— Misty Lopez

Speaking certain languages can also have different impacts on emotions. I’ve noticed that when I speak English, the words and articulations don’t seem as dramatic than when I speak Spanish unless I’m feeling emotional. This can apply to other languages as well. Each language brings various sets of morals, values, and expressions. It also places more emphasis on the thought of an idea due to the fact that languages can be chosen to fit with a particular situation. With this, people can gain the qualities of patience and empathy.

Of course, not everyone has the privilege of learning their native language. Some parents try to stray away from teaching their kids their first language in hopes that they’ll go farther than they did or simply to not reminisce on the past. Younger generations sometimes avoid trying to speak a different language because it’s unknown or makes them feel uncomfortable.

For those kids who are learning their parents’ native language, studies show that bilingualism can have an immense effect of the development of the execute control portion of the brain. This section controls multitasking and the process of multiple thoughts, leading to a wider spectrum when it comes to intellectual activities. It is also said that kids who learn multiple languages have the ability to read at an earlier age.

Aside from the educational benefits, keeping one’s native tongue alive is significant to keeping culture alive as well. I know that for myself sometimes I feel a disconnect from my culture even though I do speak fluent Spanish. I’ve also felt a disconnect from both my Hispanic side and my American side. I’ve felt too assimilated to hang out with the kids who spoke both English and Spanish and too different to hang out with the kids who spoke only English.

It also keeps ties between ancestors and descendants. There have been thousands of languages and cultures that have died because they aren’t passed down to future generations or because they’ve been assimilated. Not only learning to speak, but write and read multiple languages can lead to numerous possibilities.

When young adults develop a passion for a culture and its language, music, and food there’s sort of an attachment there that helps them identify who they are and what they wish to represent. I grew up speaking Spanglish in my Hispanic household because of my parents.  Growing up speaking Spanish daily really helped me grasp the beauty of the language and gave me a better understanding of my culture and who I was as well as where I came from. I could have easily given up on practicing my mother language, but once I started growing a love for it, it became a part of me.