My older sister and I met up in Cutty Sark, Greenwich last week to catch up on the latest gossip and de-briefing about the day’s events as we do best. She was returning from a meeting/ lobbying at the Foreign Office Ministry and myself from university trying to cramp-up revision and end of term assignments. We were enjoying each other’s company as usual , with the discourse moving from one topic to another until we stumbled upon the stigmas and perceptions of ‘identity’. More specifically the manner in which certain Congolese people choose to introduce themselves as being ‘from France’ when you first meet them, but eventually as the friendship progresses you discover that your French is better than theirs!
I remember when I came to England aged twelve, I would think in French, dream in French, speak in French..
This rattled my cage a little bit, I explained to her that the older I am getting, the harder I am finding it to place myself in a category (27 years old! – shullop it’s old, I am approaching 30! Arghhhh* Ahem*). I remember when I came to England aged twelve, I would think in French, dream in French, speak in French and would always translate sentences in my mind before speaking English. I despised the English language because communicating with others took too much effort and the language barrier caused difficulties for me to integrate or make friends. Moreover, in Soleil Levant – the school I attended in France- I was one of the popular girls so imagine the shock at that age of coming to a new country, new school and having to learn a new language.. (have a lil’ sympathy lol). To add salt to wound I was periodically required to leave normal lessons in order to attend English support classes; alienating me further.
Looking back now, the teachers did a fantastic job and I will forever be indebted.
Nowadays, I think in English, dream in English.. Let’s not even discuss my ability to WRITE in French without grammatical errors!
Nowadays, I think in English, dream in English and my French vocabulary has repeatedly been sieved and disintegrated over the years – Let’s not even discuss my ability to WRITE in French without grammatical errors! To say the least, English has been ‘Tsunaming’ in my veins for far too many years! I sometimes find myself translating English into French in my mind before speaking French! Does this mean that somewhere along the line I have become more English/ British than French? And where does me being ‘Congolese’ fit into this?
I have totally embraced the British culture which I identify myself with more than anything else. So the real question is, am I experiencing an identity crisis? To put simply; YES and NO. This is my subjective analysis on the issue (no energy for research papers, I have had too many academic texts to deal with lately).
A Case of Pear Among Apples ?
I am Congolese by birth, French by childhood, British by adulthood, when I visit my native country I am considered European, a Westerner and sometimes a foreigner because I do not adopt the customs nor speak the languages properly. However I do feel elated when I visit the DRC and feel a sense of belonging that I do not experience in any other country. In London it is common for people to ask you which country you originate from, simply because it is such a multi-cultural and cosmopolitan city. The problem that I have with this is that again, your identity is put into question.
What and who must I identify myself with, if the different countries I have resided in do not identify themselves with me? Where does that place me? It is a balancing act!
My eldest sister (I have many siblings!) who is married to a Turkish man used to refuse to teach their daughter French and Lingala (DRC language) because she had concerns that she would not excel in one language as she had experienced growing up or in a worse case scenario even confuse the poor child. She said that, she (my sis) had come to a point where she didn’t speak French, English, Swahili or Lingala properly – although, in my opinion she speaks very well; after all she is a college teacher by proffession. I don’t know why I would mention this, but somehow in my mind it ties up with identity and having a sense of belonging – if not then my mind is messed up, full stop!
Associating The Flesh And The Soul: A dose of spirituality
That same week, one of my BFFs (Best Friends Forever) called me and the conversation went on – but on a spiritual level. Interestingly she talked about the way some Christians have lost their identity by not taking ownership of what God had put in place for them as ‘heirs’ of the Kingdom – meaning, if God is the Almighty Father, then surely as his children one should identify themselves with all that he is and his riches on Earth – the advantages and benefits that beseech us… It was such an enlightening and challenging conversation, it really broadened my perceptions of identity in a way I had not dared to consider.
I Conclude In Saying That..
in the eyes of the beholder very complex, I could probably write an entire thesis on the subject, however in blog-spirit I shall leave it at that. Identity is deeper than passport skin deep. Undeniably it is the distinct traits and personality of an individual. Identity is more than the country you were born in; therefore not defined by your nationality. It is the places where you choose to live, the culture that you adopt, the friends that you meet, your social circle, the manner you carry yourself. I shall embrace this identity crisis transition because it is a period for self-analysis, self-exploration, self-development and more importantly, a period for personal growth..
What are your thoughts on this?