Loss of Language…Loss of Identity

Danish was the first language of my parents and older brother. When they spoke to other people, they spoke English but when they were alone or with other Danes, they spoke Danish.

I can remember how complete strangers could come into the bakery and if they were Danes and spoke Danish, my mother would get my father out of the bakery to meet them and they became instant friends!

Since my brother was only 4 when they came over(1947), the one wish he had was that after High School, he would go back to Denmark for a year and go to the international school outside of Copenhagen to perfect his verbal and written language skills. We still had a lot of family members back then(grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins). He managed to fall in love while he was there and a few years later, she came over and they got married(they recently celebrated their 50th anniversary). My sister in law’s family was a large one and we were so grateful that they embraced us as part of the family…her parents were like grandparents to me and her sisters and families were just amazing. If all in law families could co exist like this…what a wonderful place this would be.

When I was quite young, I loved when my parents would converse with each other and talk about the good stuff…you know, about birthday presents, Christmas presents and the incidents I wasn’t supposed to know anything about! I didn’t realize til recently that I was the only one who knew about a “scandalous” event in the family…our cousins and my brother had been trying to determine what had really happened. Being quite young, I just absorbed what my parents were talking about. My brother commented that they couldn’t quite determine what had happened because all the key players were now deceased. I looked at him and said, “What do you mean you don’t know” “And I guess you do,” he replies…”you were only 6.” “But I do know” ..and proceeded to tell him the events… He looked at me in total amazement and said, “I wonder what else you know….”!!! (heh, heh, heh…)

I always thought in Danish. I could speak it somewhat fluently(I never spoke it at home cause my brother always had to correct everything I would say…) My writing and reading skills were basically self taught.

My parents are both gone now and I don’t see my brother and sister in law often…and when I do, its with the whole family and they aren’t speaking Danish. I always wrote Danish in the Christmas letters to our remaining family over there and as I sat to write a card to my cousins this past Christmas, I drew a complete blank and it dawned on me that my Danish language was gone…and that also meant that a huge chunk of my identity was gone as well.

I cannot allow that to die in me…so I’ve made a decision to find a language course online and hopefully bounce back better than ever.

Is there some part of your childhood/heritage that has slipped away? It’s not too late to get it back…

til next time…Eva


5 thoughts on “Loss of Language…Loss of Identity

  1. I am thankfull I found your blog here! I would like to follow, but it takes two to talk. I was born 1951 in Denmark and study Words now that I am not forced to Work to make a living. Hope you are well.

  2. How cyber-spacey is that? Looks like you have an e-penpal already to polish up your Danish!
    I was born in Paris, but we left before I was 3. No idea how much or how little got imprinted by then, but I did take several years of French in high school, thinking I’d get to go back some day. Instead, moved to TX (think “Tex-Mex”), then N & S of Santa Fe (“Spanglish” and Norteno) and now my poor old brain goes from English to French to Spanish — with the occasional bit of Japanese thrown in from our time in Okinawa — and I get all tangled up. Always fascinating to me that there are rarely direct translations, and you actually have to learn the cultural concepts as much as vocabulary and grammar in order to truly speak the language.

  3. You have really had a varied life with languages, haven’t you! French, Spanish and Japanese! Hope you will get to go back to France someday!

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