“From a first generation perspective, we don’t understand the second generation. It doesn’t seem like they care about the same things. And if we wait to see what they do–the thought being that we would like to support them, we really don’t know what they’re going to do. We have a communication problem.”
I nodded my head. Jae said the last sentence in English (all the rest he had said in Korean) as if to prove his point. Even though I understood.
“Honestly,” he continued in Korean, “It’s a language problem. It’s tiring.” Pause. He shook his head. “It’s just easier to let them do what they want and not bother with it.” Another pause. “It’s a big problem, but what else can we do?”
I responded in my own Korean. “Even though we share the same building, we act like we don’t know each other.”
Jae and I continued talking like this for about fifteen minutes in front of the bookstore, encouraging and discouraging one another with one of the more memorable moments when Jae said, “The first generation must speak first and reach out. They are the ones with the power.”
But the two words that remain with me and keep me up tonight: “It’s tiring.”
Just communicating itself is exhausting. There are so many obstacles and it takes so much time, knowing what I know of my parents’ generation and my own generation, I wonder if they will invest in one another’s language, not just to order a meal or to watch each other’s movies, but to work through deep wounds and issues of faith and meaning together.
It’s hard enough to speak to our mothers, how much harder to speak with our mother tongue? Can we worship our heavenly Father without it? What does it mean if/when we should become linguistic orphans?
In this latest article off the AP wire, “Researchers say many languages are dying” – what if one of them were ours? How does language play into identity and worship? What does it mean that we find less connection between our mother tongue and our church?