Are you a receptive bilingual?, It’s all in the language

Do you speak a foreign language other than English? How hard was it for you to learn a new language other than your native one? If you were taught your mother language at a young age, did you retain it and use it to this day or did you become a receptive bilingual? If you’re not familiar with what it means to be receptive bilingual, well it’s being able to fluently understand a language but cannot actively speak it. I’m guilty of being a receptive bilingual and it’s been that way since I was young, from what I can remember I was around five or six when I started to learn to read, write and speak English and the language that was spoken at home (Somali) was starting to dissipate from my everyday speech. Having said that, being a receptive bilingual in my perspective seems to be a blessing, a curse, and here’s why. For one, I can understand a second language but I can only respond in English which makes it challenging when the person you’re trying to convey a message to someone from your culture who barely speaks English. Furthermore, language is a reflection of the culture and it cultivates unity for its people to identify commonality in one another immediately. Moreover, one thing I can say confidently that I didn’t stray from was the culture that the language (Somali) is within, even though I’m a born American and have been westernized to the American culture since I was a child. For some that are receptively bilingual, they probably have had to experience some shame from people of their culture chastising them for not being able to fluently speak their mother tongue and this might cause one to question how connected they are to their culture. So, I pose this question, do you think a part of the culture is absent in an individual if the person is still connected to it even though they have trouble with a vital aspect of the culture which is the language? Let me know down in the comments and thank you for reading.

3 thoughts on “Are you a receptive bilingual?, It’s all in the language

  1. I do think a part of the culture is lost in the person if the person does not speak the language. Humans connect a lot vocally and some cultures hold so much of what’s important to them within their language. In Haiti, a big part of our culture is story telling. When I was a kid, it was common for there to be a group of people on at least one porch in the neighborhood, telling stories and laughing so loud that the nearby neighborhood could hear the echo. That was culture, you know? But if you don’t speak (or worst, understand) the language, how could you immerse yourself in that part of the culture? Also, if you never learn the language, when you have kids, that’s a part of the culture that you can never pass on to them. Then generation after generation the culture will just get fully lost.


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