I grew up bilingual, which means I speak and write two languages equally well (or maybe not so much!) and both feel like my native language to me. I often can’t tell what language I’m speaking, writing, hearing. It’s a bit tricky sometimes when I’m working on my posts as foreign words slip into my texts and I just can’t see it. The second language comes from my mother. My grandparents moved to the states when she was 12. They never spoke english at home, but my mother picked up english fairly fast. However, she still has an accent. We spoke my mother’s language at home unless dad was home. We also spoke it in public unless dad was there. Actually, we only spoke english with my dad. I have a partial accent in both languages. It’s quite funny because I actually don’t have it, it just comes out when I’m talking fast or when I’m confused, not sure which language to speak. I have this accent in both languages, in each from the other.
Growing up this way in the movement was strange to say the least. Us kids faced a lot of comments and challenges that the others didn’t.
The very first problem was the fact that we as kids were so used to not speaking english with each other in public that we never even thought it might bother anyone. After all, some people spoke spanish in public, so why shouldn’t we speak different as well? It seemed alright. But a lot of times, it wasn’t alright. People talked to us in a strange way, as if we didn’t speak much english. When we went to fundamentalist conventions, we didn’t really find many friends. I think a lot of times parents kept their children away from us as they considered us Amish. We had a hard time finding friends. And when people were nice to us, they seemed to try to convert us to their beliefs and away from our supposed Amish environment. In fact, we were never Amish and I have never even talked to an Amish person in my life (that I know of).
On other occasions, we were told by other people who knowing a second language was great as it would make missioning so much easier. My dad lived in the mindset that the American way was the only way Christ said things should be done. If you weren’t American, you weren’t a christian. And in reverse, if you weren’t a strong christian, you weren’t a real American. I know this hurt my mother a lot as she loved her European home and until this day wishes she could return at some point, retire there, buy a little house and die where she felt home. There were days were she was very homesick, even 20 years after leaving, and she would tell us kids stories about her youth at home. I tried to balance my mom’s stories with the view my dad had on other countries and the fundies had on those people needing to be missioned, but it never added up. What was I supposed to do, sell them glass pearls and show them the truth? I always struggled between loyalty with my mom and my dad at the same time.
I’m not saying we were cast out by society and everybody looked down on us. Not by any means! We could integrate very well (at least into the fundamentalist movement, haha) and we were mostly accepted as just another family.
After I left the movement, I had a great desire to find out more about my mom’s home. We still had (and have) family there, my mom’s sister lives there and has a family, so we always had contact to people back home.
I quickly developed the same dream my mom had: Return some day, buy a house and just live merrily in a place that sounded like “home”, like a safe haven, far away from the troubles with my family. I think I’ll have to write an entirely new post about that…