Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind

I am a mono-linguist

4 Comments

I’m not proud of the fact that I can speak only one language. I live in a multicultural society, and yet I can converse only in English. My wife can converse in two languages. My daughter can converse in three languages and can get by in several more.

I’ll concede that in my formative years, and through much of my adult life, the general consensus among New Zealanders, including many Māori, was that as English was “the international language” there was no need to learn any other.

It wasn’t long after marrying a native Japanese speaker that I began to recognise how impoverished my life experience was by knowing only one language. So much of what we experience and comprehend is tied up in the culture and language(s) we live within.

Perhaps I’m more fortunate than many in the same situation in that being autistic, I have always lived within a strange culture with a strange language, and different cultures and ways of understanding the world are no more strange to me than the one I live in. In fact some aspects of other cultures make more sense to me than the one I grew up in.

Although my comprehension of other languages is very limited, I fully understand how language directly colours one’s world view. Knowing more than one language broadens one’s horizons at so many levels, and I regret that I have never taken the opportunity to seriously learn to use another language.

Why am I writing this piece? This week is Māori Language week – Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori, and I’m reminded that language and culture are closely intertwined. You cannot fully comprehend one if you do not understand the other.

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Author: Barry

A post war baby boomer from Aotearoa New Zealand who has lived with migraines for as long as I can remember and was diagnosed as being autistic aged sixty. I blog because in real life I'm somewhat backwards about coming forward with my opinions.

4 thoughts on “I am a mono-linguist

  1. I am always amazed at the European schooling where the kids come out with fluency in second languages. In Panama we run into travelers all the time. Many speak Spanish as well as English with their Norwegian, German, French, etc. pretty cool, and very useful in connecting with people.

    • There’s evidence that supports the notion that being multilingual improves brain function in multiple ways, so even if you don’t benefit in connecting with people, you’ll gain in other ways.

  2. I learned Japanese for one year or so, years ago. I really like the Japanese culture, the foods, and the people. Unfortunately, I had nobody to practice my Japanese with, so I lost my passion and I gave up (booo!). Now I forgot almost everything, including how to write in hiragana and katakana. Only one thing I never forget, I still know how to make sushi and I Do make sushi sometimes at home. 🙂

    Anyway, right now I can speak 2 languages fluently, and now am learning another foreign language. I hope, I will speak 3 languages soon enough. 🙂

    • The Japanese language is rather unique in that it is a very logical language. People who are good at mathematics are usually good at Japanese too. Rules of grammar are very consistent, and there are very few exceptions to the rules, unlike in English where it often seem there are more exceptions to the rules than there is that follow the rules 🙂

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