I have this vision where I am a little girl sitting on someone’s lap and writing the first word of our alphabet on a plate of rice. That was my introduction to my mother language, Tamil. Until this day it makes me sad that I had to leave my mother-land before I could fully learn my mother tongue. UK was a fresh start, a second chance at survival. And survival in a foreign and alien country meant that I had to change my priorities. I had to fit in, I had to work twice as hard just to keep up.
You might think, ‘Why didn’t I go to Tamil classes’. But learning Tamil was a luxury back then – because teachers were rare. But more importantly, you needed money. Refugees do not come with money. My parents worked tirelessly 24/7 to put food on the table and bring normalcy back into our life. So, Tamil had to wait.
I have lived in UK for 15 years. So it pains me so much when people say I have an accent. Because it is their way of saying I didn’t try hard enough to get rid of my roots. Despite all the hard work, I am still not one of them until my accent is perfect and untraceable. There are about 56 main accents in Britain but mine is the one that stands out. Probably because it cannot be characterised, but be certainly mocked.
But I am so glad that I have an accent. It reminds me of who I once was and who I am today. My attachment to Tamil is much bigger than they know. Tamil is not just a language for me. It is my identity. When you are stripped off your right to self determination, independence and equality. You have no choice but to hold on tight to your basic asset that defines you and your people.
For today and always,
My mother language is Tamil,
I am Tamil.
A reflection of a member on International Mother Language Day.