Sometimes dadkayga have a hard time accepting that for some of us Somali is no longer our first language.
At this point in the game, I’m 31 years old, and have been out of Somalia for 25+ years, and have been forced to learn other languages to survive and live. I think in English, and I dream in English. English is, at this point, my language. The way I can express myself in English, I am not able to in Somali. The different words I know in English to convey something, I probably only know one word in Somali that can convey or come close to conveying that same meaning.
So what do we do when we, as Somali Diasporans, want to discuss social issues in our immigrant community? We typically express ourselves in the language that we excel in, especially when many of us know that language, and we know that they will understand what we are saying, and where we are coming from. Many of us who were either born or bred in the West speak the language of our adopted countries more than our native tongue. For those who are born and bred in the West, is Somali even their native tongue?
I, too, am sad about the fact that our language isn’t being retained by us, but every day we are overwhelmed with the business of LIVING. The language that we do our work in, speak to our neighbors with, speak to our teachers (and students in my case) with, the language that we do our groceries in, pay our bills in, get directions in….do all our business of living in, is the language that our tongue is going to prefer. Does that make one a traitor? Does that make me,”mid dhaqankeeda iyo luuqadeeda tuurtay?” I think that’s an unfair statement considering that what I’m doing is natural. It’s adaptation. It’s a survival mechanism. It’s evolutionary.
Many times, a well-meaning brother or sister will tell me,” walaal waxaan ka sii fiicnaan lahayd inaad luuqadeena dhibkeena ku sheegtay siday gaalada noo ogaan.” “It would be better if you talked about our issues in our language so that these other peple don’t know about our problems. ” Excuse me? First of all, they have issues too, and every day they talk about those issues in English, a language that you and I understand. They don’t stop and think,”What if those immigrants judge us for the problems in our society?” They don’t. So why are you preventing me from speaking about issues near and dear to my heart in a language that I speak well and can express the issues with clarity to other Diasporans because THEY are my preferred audience? If I’m speaking about Somali issues, I’m speaking to Somalis. That’s it.
I have gone to several Somali events and it is evident that the preferred language of communication is English. We’ve reached a consensus that this is a language that many of us speak, and have adopted as our preferred language. It is okay. There is no shame in that.
I was just thinking about this as time and again someone shamed me about my preference for speaking in English about a particular issue in our community. However circumstances I may have acquired this language, this is my preferred language of communication now. Yes, I work with Somalis, and I do make an honest attempt to learn and speak Somali, but unless I’m in a country where the majority of people speak Somali, my tongue is not going to prefer Somali. It will resort to English even when I’m speaking Somali especially markuu hadalka iga dhumo. (when I lose my words )
Ah, I already hear some of you saying,”waaba lazy inantu?” (She is so lazy) LOOOL. I very well may be (Cue Gucci Mane in court ). However, there’s a limited amount of time in the day, and survival is more of a priority than relearning a language that is not a prerequisite for my survival right now. I personally try because I am interested in studying and learning about my heritage.
Sometimes, I can’t help but also think that people are purposely trying to derail the conversation because the topics at hand are uncomfortable and put us, as Somali people, in a very negative light. The thing is, though, that communities all over the world have issues that they’re actively working on. If you’ve been paying attention, and reading the news, blog sites, social media, you know the whole world is going to hell in a handbasket, so let people save themselves in the language they know best!
Anyway, drop me a note, if you have comments and/or questions.