Where's She From? Oh, Really? How Come She Doesn't Speak Our Language?
I was born in an English-speaking country. My parents spoke English to me. I took longer than most kids to learn how to speak.
When I was four, my parents decided to move back to their home in Asia. My new country had a different language. Most people spoke a tiny bit of English, but the primary language was something else. Since I had been a slow language learner, my parents were afraid I would forget all my English and be effectively mute if they forced me to learn my country's language. They sent me to English-speaking schools. Outside, people would only know that I was supposed to be from that country, but I spoke the language terribly. I was embarrassed. I clammed up and never spoke in that language unless I had to. Plus, I had a sort of snobbery about how badly people spoke English there. Sometimes I wish I could go back and give my four-year-old self a good slap on the face...
I stayed in that country for eleven years before I left for boarding school in the country where I was born. That's where I work now. My parents didn't move, and every time I go back to visit them, I feel exactly as I did during my eleven years there: helpless, trapped in my own home, and disconnected from the people around me. I know it's my own fault. Foreigners who came to our country learned the language better than I did.
I was thrilled about going to boarding school. I was ready to find my home again. But when I arrived, I realized that the people were nothing like what I was used to. Even in my old school, where everyone spoke English, the culture was just different. I hated the superficiality of my new classmates and their bloated self-importance. I cried a lot in the beginning.
But then things got better. I stopped stereotyping the people in my school, and realized that there were many admirable people from whom I could learn. I started to see aspects of the culture that were helpful, though I was at first extremely wary of adopting those in my own life. Seven years later, I can say with confidence that I belong to the country where I was born. I have a home now. It's amazing.
Now I just worry about what will happen when my parents are older. I'll want to take care of them, but they won't want to leave their country. My mother says that if I ever need to come back, and get a job there, I'll learn the language with no problems. I'll be able to lead a proper life there. I hope she's right.