Language and culture are inexplicably ties to identity for immigrants of various generations here in America. Language is one way for them to hold on to their native culture while they attempt or are forced to assimilate. Code switching, the practice of alternating between a variety of languages in conversation, allows for fluid assimilation but also leads to loss of language. Imperfect fluency can lead to an identity crisis or a sense of guilt related to losing the cornerstone of the culture in which they were born or raised.
But the fluidity of language also lends itself to moments of humour and a sense of shared struggle. You Don’t Belong Here highlights the dynamic nature of language and identity in flux through videos that discuss the individuality of people who stand at this crossroad of being from neither here nor there.
Below are interviews that discuss the aforementioned relationship between language and identity.
As a first generation immigrant myself, I started to notice that the longer I spent here in the States, the more unfamiliar I felt with my own culture. The first time I had an identity crisis was in the 8th grade, close to a year since I'd moved to America. I had a moment where I completely forgot how to write the letter "D" in Hindi (there are in fact four ways to write and pronounce what is watered down to a simple D in the latin script). I had never felt like such a fraud as an Indian.
In the eight years since that moment, I've constantly come across moments of forgetfulness, moments where I can't perfectly translate words that came fluently, moments where I couldn't pronounce a certain syllable, moments where my parents called me out saying that the American culture had gotten to my manners.
It has been nine years of not knowing what to call myself. Racism has obviously marked me as Other since the moment I stepped foot in America. In India my changing accent and tendency to switch back to English separates my from friends and family.
My decision to start on this project was very personal. I wanted to find out if this was a universal struggle. Obviously, research and interviews have confirmed that it most certainly is. This project serves to create a sense of community and shared struggle that I felt I lacked when this feeling of guilt and alienation was at its crux. I hope that for other immigrants of all generations, this project provides that comfort.
We do belong here.