Linguistic Background (Arushi)

I migrated to the US at the age of 12 with my family and only spoke my native language, which is Bengali. Back in Bangladesh I studied English a little bit—mostly learning the alphabets and spelling words. I was first fully exposed to English language when I began school here. However, I did not begin to speak English then; it took me few years. While I was learning English at school in New York, I continued practicing Bengali. At age thirteen, I wrote my first poem in Bengali, and since then I realized I have fully developed the way I read, write or speak in Bengali. During my conversation in the early days in America I used to translate English to Bengali first in my head, think in Bengali what to say in response, translate it to English, and then respond. I still do that sometimes. English is foreign to me and no matter what other languages I learn the feelings that I get while reading Bengali literature is never the same. It is sweet to my ears and I feel content reading it. English as my second language is definitely an advantage for me to be able to communicate with the students, teachers, and community. I was selected to be the president of a Bengali Student Association in High School. I was hired at HSBC multinational bank simply because I was bilingual in addition to my experiences.

At home I speak a dialect of Bengali language known as Noakhali with my family, and with my friend I speak standard Bengali. Over time I realized when I do not practice my native language on a regular basis it takes me some time to recall certain words. Usually when I speak Bengali people from the community cannot tell by my accent as to what part of Bangladesh I am from. I sometimes play around and make jokes telling otherwise. Bengali poets are astonished to discover my Bengali poems. They say the feeling and emotion my poetry contains are simply breathtaking. They simply cannot believe that I was able to hold on to my native language so well. Despite many other priorities in my daily life I yet managed to learn a little Spanish, which helps me to navigate in a Spanish speaking countries when I travel.  Thus, language is a powerful tool anywhere in the world.