Kiara

Amartya

Language shapes our understanding of the world.


Language as a way of knowing reflects how certain societies and cultures perceives and think of the world. This idea was proposed by Sapir-Wolf, in which they claimed that a structure of a language reflects it's speaker's/culture's cognition/perception of the world.

This project arose from my personal experience growing up as a bilingual speaker. I spoke both English and Indonesian fluently since I was about 3 years old. I grew up in a bilingual school, but at home I strictly spoke only in Indonesian. In middle school and high school, the English language became a strict mode of instruction at my school (except for a few subjects, one of them being Indonesian language and literature). Eventually, I became more accustomed to think and express myself in English, even on a daily setting with friends from my city.

"You talk to your friends in English?"

I hear this being said to me very often, especially from my friends from KABK, who I assume would speak to their friends in their native tongue.

Initially, I never really though much of it.
"It's just easier to say things and express myself in English", or so I say to myself.








Fast forward to the present, which is October of 2020 as I am writing this. It is my 3rd year studying abroad in The Netherlands. I have exercised my mind in English like never before, and I can say without a doubt that English is the default language my brain is in. I think and dream in English.


"Why am I speaking in English?" became a question that I often ask myself, especially when making a work that required spoken or written language of some sort. I'm only writing and speaking in English because it's what feels natural to me. It's easy and effortless. But it's not my native tongue per se. It has nothing to do with my cultural identity. This becomes problematic to me because it doesn't feel entirely close or genuine to me. But whenever I try to use Indonesian in my work, however, it doesn't feel entirely honest either. It feels like a show. I feel alienated from my own language.


Language may be relative, but language is also a form of hegemony. Language is mutable. Language is political.

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