Reflection on language

2nd Blog: by Lotte von Hofacker - Saturday, 14 January 2023, 7:55 PM

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As someone who grew up both in Germany and in Norway and having to deal with multiple languages at the same time, it was a bit of a surprise to me that dealing with the Swiss accent would be an issue. To be honest, I didn't really know how the Swiss language would come to me and to my learnings I found it quite challenging to understand at times. Born in Germany, my mother tongue is split between German and Norwegian since I was only learning to speak properly when the family migrated to Scandinavia. Besides that I learned English and Spanish in school, which altogether makes a good pool of languages to choose from. During my childhood and up until this day I constantly had to change between English, Norwegian and German and I remember using German phrases in my Norwegian everyday talk because I found it hard switching that much back and forth.  It must seem like the more languages one knows the better you'd understand new ones, but I guess for me it was like that to some extent. Already managing German at a high level I was already living out a true advantage. Very often when talking to someone with an accent I understood bits and pieces of what they were saying and from that I then drew the conclusion of what they were saying. Sometimes my understanding was right and I could follow along, and sometimes I looked like a confused donkey. I must say it has brought me into some funny situations. 

However, living in a dormitory with international students from various countries and backgrounds has made it difficult to decide which language to use in different situations. It can be confusing to choose the right language to use depending on the people who are present and can lead to feelings of exclusion. I have found that defaulting to English in most situations is the best solution as it avoids these issues and ensures that no one feels left out. However, speaking different languages can also have an impact on one's internal perspective and self-identity. According to linguistics, a person who speaks different languages may switch personalities depending on the language they use. Each language carries with it the culture, history, and values of the society that speaks it. For me, switching between languages can feel like swapping glasses with different lenses and can change how I perceive the world. This process has been further intensified by my time in Liechtenstein and my exposure to different cultures. Finding one's identity and merging different cultures is a process that requires reflection, and it is important to use language in a conscious way, understanding the different meanings and implications of different expressions and phrases.

In my experience, learning new languages has broadened my perspective and deepened my understanding of different cultures. It has allowed me to appreciate the nuances and subtleties of different languages and cultures, which in turn has helped me to better understand my own language and culture. It has also helped me to develop a greater level of empathy and sensitivity towards people from different backgrounds, as I am able to understand and relate to their experiences in a way that would not have been possible without the knowledge of their language.

Furthermore, being exposed to different languages has helped me to become a more effective communicator. It has taught me to be more aware of the way in which language can shape the way we think and express ourselves, and has helped me to develop the ability to adapt my communication style to different audiences and contexts. This has been particularly useful in professional settings, where the ability to communicate effectively with people from diverse backgrounds is essential for success.