EVENT | Does our language shape who we are?

On the second day of the International Summit of Languages and Cultures, the debate was focused precisely on that, the relationship of languages and their cultural behaviour and consequences. How do languages shape our identity? Is it something that needs to be legally regulated or else should we believe in the power of its users? Can the use of a certain language be understood as a political act? These are some of the questions that arose during the discussion.

As an international summit, for me it was very valuable to know the stories of people with such different backgrounds; people whose mother tongue was minoritized, people who did not speak in what “should be” (in the sense of being born in the country where the language is the official one) their mother tongue, and people who understood language as a political tool. This environment truly reflected how something as common as languages is really a matter of discussion, perhaps not always given the attention it really deserves, since every single person has their own mother tongue.

For me, one of the most interesting topics were minority and minoritized languages. The difference between these two terms relies on the fact that the first one refers to a language whose users are a minority in terms of users; however, the latter term has a more political approach and refers to the systematically (by the government, associations, society, etc.) undermined and persecuted language. This has direct repercussions to users’ identity, and it is a complete violation of human rights. Languages are used to express emotions, contradictions, fears, dreams and to communicate with other people. Therefore, an attack on your mother tongue is automatically an attack on your cultural heritage and on your identity as a community; sadly, we have seen and we still see this kind of vulnerations in Latin America, in southern Asia and in several African countries.

At the same time, I believe the spread of technology, Artificial Intelligence and social media, in general, will help to raise awareness on these topics that should not only concern those affected but everyone as language users. Creating an online community could help users to develop their skills and to normalise and prompt their mother tongues. It is true that English has become the lingua franca par excellence and that its learning is important, but we should not forget to also boost the use of our mother tongue and everything it implies. At the end of the day, the more languages you learn, the more perspectives you have on life.