Bilingualism is becoming more common within our day and age. Bilingual is defined as someone who is fluent in two languages. I grew up in a house where my parents spoke Urdu (most spoken language in Pakistan), but also English because they knew it would be valuable to my future education. As a child, you don’t learn a new language in the same way you do nowadays i.e. worksheets, verbal exams, reading an article, etc. When you are a child, the best way to learn a new language is by body language and listening.
In school, we would always have these tests that would determine what kind of a learner you were: verbal, kinesthetic, auditory, visual, read-write, etc. I would always get ‘auditory’, and surprisingly, so did my siblings. I did not dwell too much on the fact that we all got the same answer, it might have been a coincidence. However, now I am older, I know why I was an auditory learner. It was because bilingual children are most likely to be auditory learners because of the fixation of listening as a child.
Language seems to be another big idea in Adichie’s Americanah. Dike, Aunty Uju’s child has been living with Uju in America. There was a point in the book where Ifemelu speaks Igbo to Dike and Uju cuts in right away saying, “Don’t speak Igbo to him,” as if it was a crime. Ifemelu, confused, asks why as to which Uju simply replies with, “It’ll confuse him.”
There are so many things wrong with this scene that I had to stop and think about my how I felt in this scene. First of all, if you want to teach someone a new language, it is psychologically proven that the best time to do this is in their childhood/infant years. A human brain is still developing in that stage and when you feed it information such as a new language, the brain picks up on it quickly; whereas when you are old, and your brain is deteriorating all around, your brain does not pick up on a new language as quick as it could have done when it was still developing. So, in response to Uju’s concern, a new language might be confusing at first, but it is actually a good time to learn Igbo if he wanted to at this age. Yes, yes, I know that Uju does not want to teach Dike this langugae, I was only proving a point. Uju does not want to teach Dike Igbo because she wants him to fit in America. However, there is something gravely wrong with that which is the disconnection he might feel if he does not learn Igbo.
My parents have always encouraged me to speak more Urdu around the house, and I never really understood why. However, I do now. If I do not speak more Urdu around the house, I might forget the language and I won’t be able to pass it on to future generations creating that language gap. Without knowing Urdu, I wouldn’t be able to understand what my cousins are saying, I wouldn’t be able to understand Lollywood/Bollywood, etc. That disconnection goes as far as identity as well, holding your culture/heritage with you for as long as you live.
Also, statistics have shown that bilingual students do better in school. The reason being is that your mind is always working, picking which language you are using, therefore stimulating your brain tuning out distractions you might encounter during your day at school. It is a misconception that bilingual children get confused often. When Uju states that Dike might get confused is totally wrong.
Plus, being bilingual is awesome. 🙂
Read more facts on bilingual individuals by clicking on the link below: