What Language Do You Speak At Home? One, Two Or More

When we are home, the language we speak may come naturally to us. Or not. Depending on who we’re talking to at home, we may switch between speaking multiple languages and that can either be easy, or a bit of an effort.

I was born in Australia, and English is the main language of instruction in this country. It is my first language and that was what I spoke to my teachers and classmates at school. But behind closed doors back then and up until today, I speak a mixture of English, broken English and broken Cantonese; Cantonese is my Chinese-Malaysian parents’ first language.

Behind each door can be one or many languages spoken.

Behind each door can be one or many languages spoken.

It can be tricky defining “first language” and “mother tongue”. In general, the terms refer to the language(s) we speak at home, and/or the languages spoken by family. As there are more diverse families around and we get opportunities to live in different places, it’s becoming more common for many of us to speak more than one language at home.

The language we speak at home might be one that we call our mother tongue, the language that has been spoken throughout generations in our family. It can be the language most of our family speaks and we try our best to go along with that whether we are fluent in it or not.

When I lived at home and dinner was ready at home, my mum never failed to yell out in Cantonese, “sek fan” (吃饭), meaning “let’s eat” or literally translated, “eat rice”. When relatives come around, I let them know dinner is ready by saying “eat rice” in Cantonese. They don’t really know English. For my older aunts and uncles who have seen the days of World War II, Cantonese, Hokkien and Teochew are the languages they know best. Therefore, when we are home, we might speak a number of tongue-twisting dialects.

We might speak a broken or mangled language at home, either because we struggle to speak that language or it’s the kind of language others at home understand. Lani at Life, Universe and the Lani suggests we may speak broken language with an accent, either an accent not usually associated with that language or an accent that is typically associated with that language.

When we read and think, we "speak" as well, so to speak.

When we read and think, we “speak” as well, so to speak.

When I speak English with my mum, I tend not to speak grammatically correct Australian English. After all, she struggles to understand the news on Australian TV, constantly asking me what the newsreaders are saying. Malaysian English or Manglish comes more naturally to her, that is English with Malay (and Chinese and other dialects) words thrown in the mix. As such, sometimes we speak a “shared language” at home so we can all get along, which may not necessarily be anyone’s mother tongue.

To some, English is a classy language that arguably gets one ahead in this world, and hence spoken at home. When my dad overhears me speaking Manglish to my brother these days, he goes, “You’re Aussie. Speak proper English. Or else the Australians will laugh at you” (which is ironic given Manglish is what I often speak to my mum). Sometimes we are taught and spoken to in a certain language at home because our parents want us to learn a language that helps us fit in with the outside world – we speak a language at home because we have to.

At home, we might be comfortable swearing and letting our language rip. We might let curse words fly behind closed doors in the language that comes most naturally to us. As Marta Lives In China pointed out, in China euphemisms shape insults. Growing up, I heard my Chinese-Malaysian parents openly insulting family at home using the Cantonese phrase “Zam lei gor sei yan tau” (砧你個死人頭, trans. “cut off your stupid/dead head”) when the latter did something wrong.

Depending on where we are and where we’re at, we can pick up languages over time and the language(s) we speak at home can change. Based on the 2011 Census, today Australians speak over 200 languages and more than 650,000 speak Chinese languages at home. On discovering ourselves, writer Rita Mae Brown said:

“Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going?”

Language connects us with those around us, and connects us with our home.

Language connects us with those around us, and connects us with our home.

There is every chance the language we think in at home – and anywhere else – contrasts to the language we speak. Perhaps we silently go back and forth between languages in our heads every day at home. When my mum speaks Cantonese, in a split second my head translates what she says into English, and then I take a second to formulate it all into Cantonese before verbalising my response slowly.

Similarly, reading is akin to speaking. When we read, we essentially translate the words on text in our heads to make sense of them. We silently speak in our heads with our inner voice if we aren’t whispering the words out loud – we still unconsciously “speak” texts in accents that we are most comfortable with. When I read English texts, the words echo in my head in a Malaysian voice. Sometimes a language rubs off on us more than we think.

Unless we’re monolingual, the language we speak at home may not necessarily be a language we’re comfortable speaking outside. It could be because we stutter speaking it or no one outside our family speaks it, so it’s common sense to speak another language and get along with the world. Sharing David Bowie’s sentiments on moving around, artist Edmund de Waal said:

“With languages, you can move from one social situation to another. With languages, you are at home anywhere.”

Sometimes we go back and forth between languages at home

Sometimes we go back and forth between languages at home.

Some feelings are better expressed in certain languages, and the language we speak in a given moment says something about us. No matter how bad I am at speaking Cantonese, I don’t think twice about speaking another language to my mum. I’ve also never felt embarrassed speaking Manglish, grammatically correct English at home or in public. It’s what makes me, me.

Switching between speaking different languages at home, and outside, can be challenging. But you get used to it.

What language(s) do you speak at home?

Related articles


265 thoughts on “What Language Do You Speak At Home? One, Two Or More

  1. Smashing shots, Mabel – and an interesting discussion as usual! In quite some of the comments I can trace the “necessity” feeling to learn the new language as fast as possible…to blend in. I can understand that. And this certainly is essential. We have many immigrants here nowadays, and if they shall get the best opportunities for a successful working life here – they must learn Swedish. Fast.

    Scientific research says that bilingual people are fast learners in other subjects as well, and if you move to another country, marry a person from another country or have parents from different countries (different languages spoken) you should be very particular about teaching your children ALL languages involved. (Two or maybe three…or more?) Every subject in school will be easier to learn and your brain will be more flexible than monolingual people’s brains. Many of my students speak Only their mother tongue at home – which leads to slower learning in Swedish. Their parents often never learn Swedish properly. There surely is a difficult balance to be kept.

    What science also tells us is that by the age of 18, it is almost impossible to learn a new language to perfection. Especially the pronunciation. That is a struggle – but unfortunately it is true. We take languages at school – and we can learn them rather well. In Sweden we start learning English at the age of 8-10 in school, the results of which are very good. The second language at the age of 13, and then more languages – if we choose to do so. Remember – after 18 it becomes more difficult to get really fluent and perfect.

    I grew up with Swedish, learned some Danish and Norwegian from the age of 10, English from the age of 10, French from the age of 13, Spanish, Latin and Greek from the age of 16 and lastly Icelandic at university. I find that Latin, Greek and Icelandic are the basics and of much use to understand many of the European languages.

    In my house we speak mostly Swedish, but my children and I often speak and write poetry in English, write lyrics and sing in English. We read mostly English language literature and as we travel extensively, English comes natural everywhere.

    Now i am being a bit long here…but I must write about the conflict of letting a lesser used language die and adopt a higher ranked language instead of keeping the old language alive. I saw in your comments writings about culture – and that is what it’s all about. Never, never let a lesser or a minority language die! With it dies the whole culture it belonged to. Special words and sayings that cannot be translated into the “newer” language. As an example, the Inuit language has more than 50 words for “snow”. If they should use only English for example – they would never be able to explain the weather- or ground conditions to each other.

    Thank you for bringing up all these interesting thoughts to discussion, Mabel. Have a great week!


    • What a well-structured, thought out post. It all lead to such an important point – ” the conflict of letting a lesser used language die and adopt a higher ranked language instead of keeping the old language alive.” and “Special words and sayings that cannot be translated into the “newer” language.”

      You said it so well, much better of how I described English as a classy language. Til this day, there are some things I can only say and feel in Cantonese, never in English.

      Agree with you it can be harder to learn a language the older we get. For one, our brain gets used to twisting and articulate pronunciation in a certain way that it becomes second nature to us, something hard to reverse.

      So interesting to hear about language learning in Sweden. Encouraging to hear that high school over there encourages second-language learning – this is not the case in Australia, at least not compulsory. Good on you for learning quite a few languages yourself, Leya. Would love for you to teach me some Icelandic words some day!

      I really appreciate you reading the other comments, and thank you once again for stopping by. I love writing, and I love sharing what I see about this world.


      • “I love writing, and I love sharing what I see about this world.” And you are a brilliant writer and communicator, Mabel! Your perceptive eye and the way you get us all thinking and discussing – a great talent and gift! Keep writing! We are all (I do believe I might speak for us all here…) grateful members of your philosophy group! ♥
        And here is one useful Icelandic word for you: “végabref”(pronounced with a v-sound for the ending f). Icelanders do not use loan words if they can avoid it – instead they combine old words or reconstruct with their help. Vég means road (väg in Swedish) and bref means letter (brev in Swedish). So Végabref is the word for passport! As a result of their combinatory technique, Icelanders can still read their books and texts from the 12th century. No other country in the world can do that. Exciting!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This is such a cool topic and in a sense a great research project. For me, it is easy: coming from a small ranching/farming town in America, English was the only language (although we learned the very basics of Welsh, where my maternal grandmother was from). Living here in Hong Kong, I would bet the vast majority of the people I know have a situation just like you. I often have dinner at my best friend’s home (they are from mainland China), and I will speak to them in Mandarin 90% of the time, I will speak to their daughter in English 95% of the time, and then they will occasionally speak to each other in Cantonese (maybe 20% of the time, Mandarin makes up 80%).

    With this, I always marvel at their daughter bouncing between these languages effortlessly. There is always a bit of Chinglish thrown in as well, which I like quite a bit…it is informal and to me seems so warm and personal (I’ll speak it quite a bit more these days as it is such a relaxed way of speaking among friends). Multi-lingual households are a gift, and I think there is such a great amount of learning within such households whether people are aware of it or not. I’ve always felt that way…

    However, one of my friends from grad school had a very different take on it. He said at his home it was 100% Cantonese, and when he was very young, this put him behind all his classmates in terms of English fluency, but that was easily made up. What was difficult, he said, was that we would often speak English using Chinese phrases and words that while spoken in Cantonese would make perfect sense but in English were not common and thus awkward. He said he hated it as a kid, but really likes it now 🙂
    Great post Mabel, and wishing you a great week ahead.


    • Sounds like many an interesting dinner with many of your friends in Hong Kong and from China. Many languages going round the dinner table…and conversations come together at the drop of the hat in different tongues. It is such a fascinating thing, and from your example about your best friend’s family, that would seem exactly this way. And everyone understands one another – that is ultimately the most important thing.

      I too have felt that there is such a great amount of learning when it comes to having different languages spoken at home. When you speak different languages at home, you come to be aware all of the time that no one language really rules the world. It is a reminder that we are all different and we all have different means of getting along.

      As for not speaking English or any other language from when we are young, we might find it hard to pick it up when we are older. Yes, some words in Cantonese sound awkward when translated to English – some things can only be expressed in a certain languages. Sometimes, maybe not really at all and language only expresses only half of what we want to say. The rest is probably shown…or felt with the heart, if it makes any sense 🙂


  3. I like your way of picking up topics that arouse interest among the audience (as gauged by discussions)!

    I speak a mix of Hindi (mother tongue) and English at home. English because i am not comfortable with Hindi in its entirety. And, as i work in the English-rich environment (as most of us in the west), it inadvertently shows up in my day-to-day talks too.

    I guess we speak a mix of languages at home because of diversity there (either because of parents being from different locations or we getting comfortable with new locations).


    • Very good points you bring up there. Work can have a big influence on the languages we are comfortable speaking. Work is work, and if we have to speak a certain language at work, then we better. If we aren’t comfortable with this language, this is one way we can get better at it.

      I am sure you are good at Hindi, Alok. You are just humble 😀 Thank you for the kind words.


  4. Interesting post, Mabel. And some wonderful images to go with it. Like you rightly pointed out, economic factors also influence our choice of language. In India, English (being the language of the rich and upwardly mobile) is often associated with notions of success and well being. This could well be attributed to our colonial past. Another reason is that English is the language of science and technology and modernity, and so it attracts the youth. However, this also has stifling effects upon regional languages. Today, there is a dearth of young writers producing quality literature in regional languages.
    Mabel, I love how you see language as something we ‘wear’. While in the safe confines of our home, we don’t care so much about how polished or grammatically correct our language is. At home, we speak the language we are comfortable in just like we wear what we feel comfortable in 🙂


    • You said is perfectly and much more simpler than me, Uday. “language as something we ‘wear’”. So true. Language is something that follows us, if not the words that come out of our mouth but our body language, which is another language altogether that never really lies.

      Colonial past, technology and the English language. What a great connection. No wonder English is seen as progressive. All of us certainly are into being successful as this is a means where we look forwards and try to improve ourselves. Speak English, you gain opportunities Then again, there is always much to learn from our mother tongue and many dying languages today 🙂


  5. Interesting topic, Mabel! I speak a mix of Dutch and English at home, and of course, when calling my parents in Indonesia then I am speaking the Indonesian language. I am continuing Spanish lesson here and I hope I can polish my fourth language… The problem, though, I notice that my English is degrading when I learn a new language but not my Indonesian language 😀 Perhaps that because English is not my mother language. I don’t think we will ever lose our first language(s) by learning other languages, or do we?


    • Such an interesting question you pose there at the end, Indah. I think so. The first language we learn I think helps us see and understand the world around us, so it will probably stick with us for a long time to come, if not for all of our lives.

      Good luck with the Spanish lessons. With practise you will be fluent in it in no time…and maybe you should talk more at home in English so as to keep being fluent in it 😀


  6. A thoughtful and thorough article Mabel. I think families hold onto their culture when they retain their “home language.” I dont know why some families (like mine) let the language go.
    Happy April to You!


    • Thanks, Leslie. I think sometimes we get caught up with the times and forget the language we speak at home. But if we slow down and relax at home, no reason why we can’t pick it up again. Happy April right back at you!


  7. It is always fascinating to me to learn the different languages people speak. Usually I can tell if English is not their first language when talking to them. I am an English speaker but have learned a bit of French through school over the years. I recently read an article about endangered languages and that one language dies every 14 days! Let’s keep the communication going through blogs that exist in a range of languages 🙂 Thanks for another great post, Mabel!


    • Very nice to hear you picked up some French at school. I’m guessing you remember it now…or if you start reading and speaking it again, it will come gushing back to you. Memory is a strong muscle, after all 🙂 Didn’t know that one language dies every 14 days. Now I do. In Australia, a lot Indigenous languages are dying out. But thankfully there are programs in place to preserve them. Thanks for your kind words, Christy. Much appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Like I told Lani, my husband and I usually speak English at home. That is the language we have always spoken with each other as he spoke pretty fluent English when we met. I never speak Chinglish with him and always say when comes to my mind, so he now sounds even more like a native speaker. Plus, I can speak Chinese anywhere.

    However, with a baby on the way, we have been putting a lot of thought into languages. My husband is tri-lingual and we want our child to be as well. My friend’s daughter is trilingual and has been since an early age as she learned all three languages naturally and we hope that we can also provide the same environment for our child to learn multiple languages when he is young.

    From a teaching perspective, I notice that young children learn a language way faster than older children and adults. Children are not afraid to make mistakes and nothing is ‘too hard.’ They just need the ideal environment to learn it.


    • It is great to hear that you and your husband agree on a language to speak to each other. That would aid communication between any couple in a relationship.

      It sounds like your child will have friends who are bilingual to play with. How nice is that 🙂 You said it so well with children, “nothing is ‘too hard'”. If they pronounce something “wrong”, chances are they will think it’s funny and laugh it off – and either try again or say what they said again with no shame 😀


  9. Your posts are always intriguing and thoughtful! I enjoyed the diversity of thought in this one. As a fan of languages and dictionary myself, this was a very pleasant read!
    Take care!
    Dajena 🙂


    • Thanks so much, Dajena. Dictionaries – I remember having quite a few bilingual dictionaries around my house when I was a kid. They certainly helped me learn a few Chinese and Malay words. Fond memories.

      You take care too ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Language is situational if you are multilingual. I can speak 1 language fluently, and 3 other languages “conversationally”. Rarely do i feel the need to speak other than English, mostly.


  11. What an interesting topic, Mabel. I admire your ability to use your mother language Cantonese mixed with English. What a rich background you have. I’m so boring. I only speak English. Of course, I’ve learned French and German in school but I am not even close to being fluent in either. I only can say words and a few phrases. As you say, language is an art. How beautiful! I wish I was better at it 🙂


    • Thanks, Lisa. I don’t think you are boring, or anyone who speaks English is boring for that matter. We all have different capacities of the English language. For instance, you might be good at certain words like idioms in English. Or you might be great at expressing your stories in a certain style of the English language. think poetry or non-fiction 🙂


  12. Hey ! just love the blog & pictures so much. I l glad if you can check mine and give your valuable comments .

    My blog is at classifiedbird.wordpress.com.

    Much love ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  13. As always, your posts are beautifully written and thought provoking, Mabel. I am impressed by those who are multilingual wishing that fluency in languages other than English came more naturally to me. I think the images that you chose for this post are a brilliant pairing to your text.


    • Thanks, Jane. I too wish I was more fluent in Cantonese and Chinese. I think sometimes it’s all in practising the language we want to speak. Choosing the images was hard for this post. But luckily I rediscovered these street art photos I took a few months ago in my hard drive 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  14. First of all, amazing photographs, I am particularly partial to the first one and what wonderful graffiti !

    The subject matter of your post and how you have structured your content is quite intriguing. Language and culture are inseparable. I think, in today’s world, an acceptance of a person’s linguistic differences and diversities, is a very important aspect of accepting cultural diversity, as well. Your insights into the language/cultural superiority given to English is on point.

    I speak mostly tamil, a bit of English and hindi, at home with my husband but when I was growing up, it was tamil at home and English at school. I have to tell you about my school. I studied in an all girls catholic convent, where it was mandatory to speak English and those who spoke in their mother tongues were obviously discouraged.

    The school even had an elaborate system of shaming those spoke in their mother tongues. This is how the system worked, During the beginning of the month, the class teacher would give a black button to the class monitor who would then pass it to the person who was caught speaking in an other language and the person would then pass it on to another ‘miscreant’ and so on.

    At the end of the month, the class teacher would collect the names of all those who disobeyed the rule and send it to the principal. The principal would then call out these names, during the next day assembly, where she would pin a black ribbon as a sign of shame on to their chests and the students had to wear this mark of shame throughout the whole day. Phew. I have even known schools imposing fines on students who did not speak in English at all times.


    • Thank you so much for sharing. I’ve never attended an all-girls school and have always wondered if such schools had strict codes of conduct. It is so interesting to hear about your experiences with language there. I’m guessing the school wanted all girls to speak a common language, in your case English, so everyone could get along and build teamwork skills from a young age.

      But I can’t really understand why anyone would shame someone for speaking in their mother tongue or not the stipulated language at school. It could be as you said, that was “how the system worked”. Imposing fines sounds like an extreme method of getting students to speak a common language. Perhaps over there English was a second language and the schools thought it would be best if the students kept to learning English for opportunity’s sake in the future.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I grew up in a small town in Tamilnadu, where, everybody outside school spoke mainly in Tamil. Most people in such small towns from my parent’s generations were in fact monolingual and the children from my generation learnt the usage of English language mainly at School. The desire behind imposition of English, even today is associated with the prestige and sophistication associated with English as a language, a colonial hangover. Private schools(catering to the middle and upper classes) use English as the medium of instruction and the government schools(catering to the lower classes) use the regional language, as the medium of instruction, reflecting the class division in society.A person who is fluent in English is seen as someone who is knowledgeable and well educated. So, it is seen as ‘the language’ that will get yo ahead in life. This sadly results in the assigned cultural inferiority of other languages and dialects.


  15. This is a very good article, Mabel. I can really relate to this. However, not from when I was a child, but for the last years. With my parents I always talked norwegain, and so I did outside the home. But the challanged started when I moved to Bolivia. I spoke english with my husband, since I did not know spanish when we met. After a while I learned, but we still mostly talk english, but outside I had to talk spanish. Now, that we are back in Norway it is english and spanish in the house with my husband, and norwegain outside as he is just starting to learn norwegain.
    It is as you say challanging, but you manage. We should be happy we know more languages. It is like a new world opening up when you know another language. It is fantastic 🙂


    • It is great to hear you and your husband have common ground when it comes to communicating with each other. Very nice to hear that each of you are leaning each other’s languages, and with moving from country to country, that must have helped in some way.

      “It is like a new world opening up when you know another language” Agreed. You said it so well 🙂


  16. As always Mabel, a very interesting post. I agree with every word of it. We were raised in an English-only home because I think my dad was a bit embarrassed by his first-generation parents who spoke Hungarian at home and with him when they visited us. My mom used to resent it terribly because she didn’t speak the language. But largely because of my exposure to and curiosity about it I developed a keen interest in language and ended up majoring in it in college. I remember how thunderstruck I was the first time I found myself thinking in French – the true mark of knowing a language I think. I studied German and Spanish as well, and love to use any of them whenever I get the chance. I do know when I travel when I speak the local language, no matter how well or poorly, the local people genuinely appreciate my efforts to speak to them in their own tongue and are much more welcoming and open to understanding another culture.


    • I hear French is one of the harder languages to learn. Good on you for learning it, and learning German and Spanish too. They are all rather distinct languages.

      It is so heartening to hear you speak the local language wherever you go. Doesn’t sound like you are embarrassed to speak it wrong – it is trying that counts and no surprise the locals warm to you 🙂 Better to try to speak a language than not trying at all – you never know what doors that can open.


  17. As I only speak English, that is all I can speak to the family, Mabel. However, we do have lots of different accents here in the UK and I love hearing the different ways English is spoken. Some I can bearly understand even though English is being spoken. Being Welsh, I have a Welsh accent which has become much stronger since moving back to Wales. 😀


  18. Wow! Those pictures enhanced your post and the idea it conveyed. The part of India I was born, Hindi has been my mother tongue. The one I speak at home and comes to me most naturally. School and then learning, at work and everywhere outside – English is the one. Recently I started learning the local language Kannada and it’s delightful to see how languages blend in. How rules stay same and of course only practice can make us perfect. Enjoyed reading your thought provoking post Mabel.


    • It is great to hear that you are learning another language. Kannada. I don’t know anyone who speaks it, and if we ever meet, I hope you can teach me a few words, and a few words in Hindi too 🙂

      Practise certainly makes perfect…though perfect is really hard to define and achieve! As long we try, especially when it comes to language, we will continue learning.


  19. Great picture, I love it, the art in the walls calls, crawls, swims in my veins of the teapezoid in my heart. I’ll be honest, I have a few stories and your input or opinion would be greatly appreciated. Some of the stories are touchy subject matters, but in all honest I’m trying to branch out and get the comment or review of a successful blogger who is Asian, gastradamus is my blog, perhaps you’d be interested in my art, keep it up and you’ll be going places.


      • Everyone on my blog loves you, I just keep hearing these things about your comment on the African American workers. If you don’t mind I have a few more stories that need to be reviewed. If its possible for you to review the others, in the same way, that would really mean a lot. Like I said my followers at gastradamus are beginning to want more from you. This is where it all takes off

        Liked by 1 person

  20. Its a nice topic to pick and I loved the way you expressed it.

    I speak in total 3 languages – Hindi (Mother Tongue), Punjabi,and English. Mostly Hindi is used but sometimes Punjabi or English takes its place. It all depends on the situation and person I am conversing with!


    • That is quite a few languages you speak, and it must have taken some time for you to speak all three of them well. Sounds like you can switch between them quite easily. Good on you. Thank you for the kind words, Saurabh.


  21. I’ve always find the ability of people to switch speaking from one language to another fascinating. As you have said, we sometimes do it involuntary, hence, there’s a point in which we know we are doing it already.

    In the Philippines, most people speak at least three languages: the two national language Filipino and English, and another regional language (in my case Bicolano). Regional languages have further variations, sometimes more than 100 dialects. I, for one, speak two dialects of Bicolano, since my parents came from two different areas of the region. So while growing I am comfortably switch between two dialects. On the dinner table, I found it sometimes funny when I would ask my or mom or to pass the rice or give me cold water in two different dialects.

    It’s becomes harder to practice the use of these dialects now that I live in the capital, Manila. It’s very hard to come across people who could speak the same language and understand me. Which is why when I “speak” to myself, talk to my family over the phone, or go home during long breaks, I make a conscious choice of speaking in my mother tongue–Bicolano. Some people are surprised when I do so and I would get a “Wow, you still speak Bicolano” reaction. And I can’t help but thinking that moving away does not mean one would also need to forget her mother tongue.

    Sorry for the long post. 🙂


    • This is such a great comment, and thank you for taking the time to read. I haven’t heard of the Filipino regional dialect Bicolano, and it sounds like a soft drink 😀 It must be in your culture to learn and be fluent speaking a few languages. I suppose it also has to do with Filipino culture too. As you said, you use different languages at the dinner table.

      I think it’s great that you make an effort to speak your mother tongue. It sounds like it is a big part of you and makes you who you are, little by little 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  22. I love the subject, Mabel. I can so relate to it not only because I’m an expat but I really speak more than one language.

    In my home country, I’m married with a Bicolana, a native of Camarines Sur, who speaks a different language (i.e., Rinconada). I’m from a different province, Isabela, and I speak Ybanag. But we used the national language, Filipino/Tagalog, together at home because we haven’t learned each other’s language after years of living together, yet. Well, not exactly. I can already understand her language but I’m hesitant to speak it because I feel like I don’t speak it in the way I want to. Not sure if I’m grammatically correct. I do love to try speaking it though at home but not in public. The wife is very happy when I do that.

    On the other hand, she never tried learning my language. According to her, it’s the hardest local language she ever heard.

    Now that I’m in Saudi Arabia, I needed to add English and Arabic to my “keyboard”. I didn’t struggle much when it comes to English but I have to adjust myself when I’m speaking to the locals. They understand broken English a lot better than Standard English. And, Arabic which is similar to French based on how my local friends teach me. You have to perfect the sound. I usually think I can easily do but not to them.

    Anyway, I don’t find it hard to switch from one language to another at this point. English is the medium of instruction in high school and college back home so it’s been the case since. I got used to speaking a few Arabic words but I still am hesitant on a regular basis. Besides, my biggest bosses here are all British. It’s a lot of an advantage though if I get to learn Arabic. Wish I could really fulfill that one this year.

    Thank you, Mabel, for this another perfect topic regarding multiculturalism. Each time I read an article here, my knowledge about said subject expands.


    • It is very nice of you to try to speak your wife’s language. But it is also respectful of you to not speak the language in public for fear that you might embarrass her then – which is a good thing because something when you are not too familiar with a language you can accidentally say something insulting without realising it. Your beautiful wife not bothering to learn your language? Maybe she loves putting her time to better use to show her love to you 😀

      Your written English on your blog and wonderful comments like this is flawless. If you didn’t mention it, I would have always thought English was your native language, or your were always fluent in it from a very young age. But from the sounds of it, using English in college must have helped a lot. Here in Australia, over time I have stopped speaking broken English like I do in Malaysia and Singapore, because when I do, sometimes Australians give me odd looks.

      Thank you for your kind words as always, Sony. I do what I love – I write. And I share what matters to me and hope it inspires, even if it is just one person.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. I think most migrant families are like this.. I speak Jamaican patois and standard British English.. When my mum was growing up,one grandparent spoke to her in Spanish! She only understands the language to this day.. But because grandpa was a Jamaican, more English was spoken with a Jamaican accent! Then,I came along, and used to talk to them in patois! I also use patois as a lingua franca to speak with Nigerians, because their way of speaking broken English is similar! There are so many ways to express/explain yourself.. In Manglish,Spanglish,or otherwise.


    • It is fascinating how some of us can speak only one language and other people many languages. It could be in the way we were brought up, and where we’ve been. It sounds like although your mum speaks only Spanish, she gets by – which is amazing. Patios reminds me of creole…the beauty of language mixed together.

      Liked by 1 person

      • True.. My mother speaks only English and Jamaican patois. My abuela, or grandmother spoke Spanish.. She(mum) understands though! I speak nearly fluent Spanish due to school… I miss my old area where there were more Latinos there.. I could practice more!


        • It is interesting how that even though we speak different languages in the family, somehow we all get along. Good to know your grandmother and mother understand each other. Maybe that way of communicating runs in your family.

          Liked by 1 person

  24. your account of spoken Cantonese in your home in hanyi pinyin just put a smile on my face, and i can connect with it immediately. the culture/habits/language(s) that we pick up through our lives stay within us no matter what happens, they may lie dormant, due to lack of use/practice, but upon a trigger, it just comes back like a lost friend.


  25. Pingback: What Language Do You Speak At Home? One, Two Or More — In Down-Town FREESTYLE

Share your thoughts. Join the discussion

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.