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Jakarta Post

Languages that divide; languages that connect, unite

New Delhi   /   Wed, February 21, 2018   /  03:33 pm
Languages that divide; languages that connect, unite Feb. 21, is celebrated as International Mother Language Day (IMLD). It was first announced by UNESCO in November 1999 “to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and promote multilingualism”. (Shutterstock/File)

What was the first language that you heard when you were born? Probably that of your parents’ right? I am ethnic Sundanese Indonesian, so you would think that the first language I heard was either Sundanese or Indonesian. Wrong. It probably might have been Hindi, or one of the hundreds of languages that exists in India. India? Yes, because I was born in New Delhi, delivered by an Indian doctor, and it’s quite possible that he said, “It’s a girl!” in Hindi or English — while slapping my bum to make me cry. But what is certain is that in my first 20 months of life I was surrounded by a multitude of languages: Indonesian, Sundanese, English and at least a few of the hundreds of languages in India. Being multilingual continued to be an aspect of my life as a diplomat’s daughter. I learned English at the age of 5 when my parents were poste...

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.