Actually, non

I was reading the following from our friends at youmightfindyourself:

People are born without language, but with a genetic makeup that allows them to acquire and express any of the languages that exist in the world. And the language they end up speaking is determined by who they’re raised by. At about the age of two their mother tongue is set, so that even though a person can learn new languages the fact is that there’s a basic hardwired one. Even with people who are multilingual, if you ask what their mother tongue is, they can tell you. And if they can’t, if they say “I speak these languages equally well,” and you ask, “When you calculate numbers in your head what language do you use?” there will be one answer.

via YMFY.

As an accidental polyglot from an early age I can confirm that the above is not actually accurate.  Greek is the first language I learned, my mother tongue if you will, as I lived in Athens until the age of seven.  Then learned French and Italian as a consequence of residing in those countries.  I learned English last, yet by virtue of it being the latest learned and most frequently used language, it is by all accounts my primary language … that is to say, that even when I speak in other languages, my thoughts have to now be translated from English.

Should I move back to Greece, France, or Italy, it would take several months to a year to begin to think completely in those languages but it would eventually happen.

I think the above is only true if a person’s ‘diaspora’ isn’t complete … namely if they retain a cultural and linguistic tie to their country of provenance after having migrated to their current country of residence.  Perfect examples of this are Chinese, Greek, and many other cultures who retain ‘ethnic’ neighborhoods in cities across the US and indeed the globe.

Nevertheless, without wishing to extrapolate theory from personal experience, I can to the limited degree that my experience can attest, confirm that the ‘mother tongue’ tie  🙂 isn’t as hard wired as one might presume.


  1. bigfatfurrytexan says:

    Interesting thought. I think you have it nailed down.

    language is just a program which runs on the circuits in our brains. like any program, it is interchangeable with anything else that does not conflict with the hardware (thus, we have trouble singing and hearing whale song).

    Good stuff. Thanks for sharing.

  2. MemoryShock says:

    Association…and the strength thereof.

    Thanks S-Dog…I really enjoyed this excerpt…:)

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