Language Autobiography- Inhabiting Language

In this unit we mainly focused on language through different peoples eyes. We read many stories and watched a couple videos all sharing their unique perspectives on language. We went in depth talking about the person’s relationship to their language and analyzing the pieces of literature. During the unit we wrote two mini- scenes about language in our life that eventually led to our benchmark project, the language autobiography. Our autobiography is a story of the way we see language in our lives. The way we each portray language in our homes or with our friends, the advantages, and the disadvantages that come with it. We had to investigate the themes we had learned about in the unit and connect them to our autobiography in some way. The autobiography is both an analysis on language in our life and also a reflection of what we see happening with language in our daily lives.


I come from a very diverse family. My mother was born and raised in Italy, my dad in Iran, but my siblings and I were all born here in America. I was fortunate enough to be taught all three languages and be able to speak every one fluently. I am still exploring the advantages and disadvantages that come with speaking more than one language. It is very different when I speak English from the two languages I speak at home. I automatically associate Italian and Persian with family, not just my parents but also my aunts and uncles.   

English is more of the “proper” language for me, the one I speak at school and use for papers and projects. I have noticed that even when I speak English with my friends, I tend to speak pretty formally.

“I would rather be anywhere else right now…” I say. “I don’t have the energy to workout, I just want to go to bed.” “Today’s workout is 4 x 2500m! Go stretch and do your core workout and then hop on an erg and start your pieces.” My coach explains to the entire team.

I look around the room and see everyone’s smile slowly start to fade.

“Wow Nicole, are you trying to kill us?” I say jokingly to my coach.

“Oh man…This is gonna be a long day, I ain’t ready foh dis” I hear someone say across the room and everyone nods in agreement. We know the sooner we start the sooner it will be over so we quickly get to work.

The workout is finally over and my teammates and I are sitting on our ergs breathing heavily, legs shaking and sweat all over.

“OMG Why do we row? What is wrong wit us? Ugh ma body hurts! I hear these statements coming from all over the room. 

I do not use slang and I do not shorten words, like many people do when they are just talking casually. Maybe this is because of the fact that it wasn’t my first language and that I started speaking English when I was about 3 or 4. Prior to that I only knew Persian and Italian. I don’t have a clear explanation as to why I only speak English in it’s “standard” form but it is probably because I only use what was taught to me in school.  I already switch between so many different languages on a daily basis, there is no need for another an extra way of speaking.

It can get confusing and crazy for an outsider to hear how we talk at home because there is a little bit of Persian here, a little bit of Italian there and also some English. “Venite giu.” My mom called up to us from the first floor. “Ho detto venite!” “We’re coming, we’re coming!” We call down to her. My sister, my brother and I run down the steps, because we know that if we don’t go now she’ll keep calling us. “Apparecchiate la tavola per cena.” “Oh good it’s dinner time. I’m starved.” My little brother says as he gets the napkins from the kitchen. “Chiara, hurry up and get the plates,” I say. “And what are you gonna get?” My sister says accusingly. “Chill. I’m getting the cups.” Now my mom is annoyed because we’re bickering. “Ragazze.” Everyone was busy setting the table and cooking dinner that we didn’t even notice my dad came in the house. “Salam.” We hear his voice as he walks through the door, soaking wet from the rain. “Salam Baba!” we all say. “Chetori?”  I ask. “How was work?” asks my sister. "Khoob, let's eat!" responds my dad, but no one is as happy as my brother to sit down and have dinner.

Even though for others it may be confusing, to me it is an environment I feel comfortable in. People do not realize the impact of language; the way it shapes a person and their life. I could never quite place my finger on the exact feelings I have toward language.  After reading this quote by Emil M. Cioran, I knew I had found it and I automatically fell in love with it: “You inhabit a language rather than a country.” (Cioran) Location does not make you who you are but culture does and language goes hand in hand with culture. Yes, it is true that people adopt habits and ways of life from where they live. Language though, is more of who you truly are inside, what makes you who you are as a person. We will always be connected to that deeper thing inside of us, the real us. Even when other things become a part of us and new experiences change us, we always hold on to that instinctive origin.

Language has definitely been a big part in shaping who I am today. Many people do not realize that language is more than just a bonus on a job resume or college application. They think language is only about using it to get to a higher, better place. It allows me to be different. Language has much more depth and personal connection than just that. It allows me to talk to many different people and to travel to unique places. I really love to travel and luckily I am able to do so very often. The experiences I have had traveling internationally have truly grown on me and taught me numerous valuable lessons. I love it so much because of the fact that I am very diverse and we have family in many parts of the world. I feel like it has made my mind very open to different cultures and languages. It hurts to see people being judged only because of their skin color or cultural differences. If everyone were the same, spoke the same language and had the same traditions, our world would be lifeless and boring.

Works Cited:
Cioran, Emil. Rumanian- French born philosopher. Anathemas and Admirations, “On the Verge of Existence” (1986). Print.