The Changes

Eyes closed and sitting. Thoughts about random things started to run in my head. Slowly, I opened my eyes and I squinted at the large mirror, seeing the reflection of the shower curtains and the tiled walls. I blinked a few times to get used to the extra bright light. Then the door opens, my sister comes in to wash her teeth. A message comes out of my mouth to her. It was spoken through a native language in the United States. I didn’t notice it at first when the words spilled out my mouth. But a few minutes later, I started noticing that I was thinking about things and saying things in my head in English as well. I was surprised, but I felt a little bad about myself. A part of who I am and where I come from was starting to become faint. It never came to my mind that I would have this conflict. I feel as if that actually might be one of the main reason why this is happening to me.

For most of my childhood years I’ve lived in India. However, I am Tibetan. My family comes from a country called Tibet. My family and I lived in India surrounded by two unique cultures. My own, the beautiful Tibetan culture and the beautiful Indian culture.

My life in India can’t even be expressed in words now that I think back about it. Surrounded my friends and families all the time, I was always connected to the environment. I had a strong foundation at which I’d learned about my culture. Even though I didn't lived in India, I went to a tibetan school and I wrote, read and spoke Tibetan. There were many Tibetans living in the village where I lived, so I never forgot my language and cultures.

We’ve lived in India for a long time, so we did have certain words which were always said in hindi. Some of the common words that I thought were in Tibetan, were actually in Hindi. An example of it is the word “shoes.” I’ve always thought it was a tibetan word. My parents and all of my friends said it in hindi all time. However, we never really mixed phases of hindi and tibetan together when we were speaking, unless it was on purpose. My whole family spoke fluent hindi but they never mixed the two language. On a regular basis, my family spoke in tibetan when they were at home and when they were talking to a tibetan person. My friends also talked in tibetan, so I was the same as them. I continuously spoke tibetan unless the person I was talking to didn’t understand the language.               

I’ve learned that the day I left India. The day I left half my family, my grandpa, grandma, aunts, cousins, and friends was the day I was a step further from my culture and language. It’s been about six and half years since I’ve came to America. Life here is so different and its crazy how much I’ve changed with it. Its also crazy how much my family has changed with it.

My sister speaks tibetan but she mixes it a lot with english just like me. As for hindi, both of us have difficulty speaking it, but we’re still able to understand. About thirty percent of the time my mom speaks english at home. She can still speak and understand Hindi very well, but she never uses it at home. My dad does not speak much english at home, he mostly always speaks tibetan. On the other hand, my little brother doesn’t speak tibetan at all. Luckily he can still hear and understand it. In addition to not speaking tibetan, he doesn’t speak or understand hindi.

I became distant to my language. I couldn't speak it anywhere because wherever I went, no one spoke tibetan. The only place I could speak it was at home. When I started school in America, I could only speak english if I wanted to communicate with someone. Thankfully, I was taught a little bit of english in India, so I wasn’t entirely clueless. I was able to build my vocabulary daily, I learned idioms, different ways to say things and I learned slang. I watched and listened to other kids speak to each other. It was one of my main ways that my new friends taught me english. Also, I remember my Esol teacher Ms.Kean. She was always cheerful and very supportive to all the students in Esol. She taught me a lot of new words. She taught me how to get through my first school year in America.

School wasn’t the only place where I learned english. My sister, Ngawang, would also teach me things. My little brother, Dzineon, Ngawang, and I would all bring new things from outside. As time passed, we lived with those new little things. They slowly changed us, day by day. Soon, Dzineon couldn’t speak tibetan anymore. When he spoke, he would say it in english and this somehow automatically made me speak back to him in english. So, I started speaking a lot of english at home and so did my sister.

In 2011, after being in America for four years, the tibetan society in Philadelphia decided to start Tibetan Sunday School for kids like my siblings and I. I learned that I had forgotten the most basic tibetan writing and I had forgotten how to read tibetan. So, I went to sunday school every week. Little by little, I started to be able to read and write in Tibetan again. As for hindi, I remember and understand the language by watching bollywood movies.       

“Through lack of practice and not having others who speak it, I’ve lost most of the Pachuco tongue.” This was written in a passage named From Borderlands/La Frontera by Glona Anzaldía. Just like me, others who speaks more than one language and or had spoken more than one language, experiences situations like this. When you don’t speak a language for a long while, you tend to forget how to speak in it or it gets difficult. People don’t take the time to practice the language they know. We’re lazy, we get lazy. But when you have others who speak it around you, you never forget it. You don’t think of it as practice but we think of it as just talking.

Work Cited: Anzaldía, Glona. From Borderlands/La Frontera. “Through lack of practice and not having others who speak it, I’ve lost most of the Pachuco tongue.”