Growing Up With Trilingual Parents

Photo courtesy of Dribble.

Photo courtesy of Dribble.

Anjali Shah, Staff Writer

This is an opinion article piece. Anjali Shah is a senior at Mendham who writes for Arts & Entertainment. All opinions expressed in the following editorial are her own and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Patriot.

My mom and dad are both first-generation Indian-Americans. Both of their parents were born in India and raised there, bringing Hindi (for my mom’s family) and Gujrati (for my dad’s family) back to the United States when they immigrated. My parents were raised with these languages, alongside English. Both my parents are fluent English speakers, as this was one of their primary languages growing up as a kid in the U.S. However, their parents’ native languages were from India, so they were surrounded by both languages at home. Many years later after marriage, my parents joined the Peace Corps, where they were stationed in Honduras. Despite both of them taking Spanish in high school, they had to relearn the entire language and understand how to use it properly with native speakers. After their two years in Honduras, the two came back fluent, making them trilingual. 

Growing up with trilingual parents is like growing up surrounded by multiple cultures at once. This has undoubtedly changed my upbringing. It is normal for me to say “Salud” (Spanish for “Bless You”) after someone sneezes, to get yelled at in Hindi when my siblings and I were misbehaving in public, and to be pushed to conversate in English, when we were being shy around new people. Different aspects of each language were brought into my life. Being the oldest child, my parents spoke the most Hindi around me, leading me to have a fluent understanding of the language. While I can’t conversate in Hindi, understanding it has helped me strengthen my bond with my grandparents, whose first language is Hindi. 

Watching my parents use different languages in everyday life has helped me to understand the importance of learning more than just English. Even little things like watching my mom conversate with the contractor in Spanish to better communicate with him has made me appreciate taking a language in high school, something I hope to continue in college. My parents are proof that being bilingual, or trilingual, has its benefits in the workplace. Knowing a second language helps you reach a new group of people, one you possibly would have never communicated with had you not known another language. Despite it sounding intimidating, growing up watching my parents connect with others through language has inspired me to continue to pursue a new language with the hopes that one day I too will be able to connect with other non-English speakers on a personal level.