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Ayesha Sayed

Student, UAEU

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As a trilingual or bilingual, what role does language play in the creation of your identity? Which language do you think in?

I've grown up speaking 3 very diverse languages, I feel that they've created three distinct worlds in me. I find myself moving in and out of not only languages but cultures as well.
What role do languages play in your life? Do you find yourself thinking in more than one language?

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    Jan 29 2012: Language is tightly interwoven with culture, so it is inevitable that the culture will have an effect upon the manner of speaking. I am a native English speaker, but perfectly fluent in Italian, and have been living in Italy for over a decade. Some of my bilingual friends have told me that they "prefer" me when I speak in one language as opposed to the other, and I am also aware that I am quite different when I change language.

    I have noticed that INTERNATIONAL English is a unique language in and of itself, because in becoming international it has been stripped of a lot of the regional nuances that give a language its unique flair and generational/geographical/cultural context. Since I've been living abroad I speak primarily Italian and "international" English (with non-native English speakers), and I have to admit that when I do have the rare opportunity to speak with friends from my childhood in the U.S., I feel transported back in time and happily dust off some of the old slang that I haven't used in ages.

    If I had to try to classify it, I feel like I am closest to my "real" self when I am speaking either regional conversational English or Italian, because in both cases I am enriching my word choice with pieces of myself and the cultures that have helped forge me. When I speak in "international" English I feel more limited and formal, because it means I am speaking with someone who may or may not be able to understand some of the more place-specific slang or cultural references.

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