Fitting in

I had a lot of encounters with ‘White’ people who dissed me because of the fact I was Asian. And I felt quite a lot of hatred towards them because I grew up thinking I belonged to this country, yet a lot of people that belonged to this country treated me differently because of the way I looked.

Korean teenager living in Christchurch

Almost all of the young people interviewed for the ITML project said that they went through a phase of rejecting their minority language at one time or another of their lives. Often this was linked to feelings of wanting to fit in, or the feeling that the language was something that made them not fit in with their peers.

During the phase of rejecting the minority language, some young people mentioned that they could just ignore that whole side of themselves, and pretend that it didn’t exist. Others – like the girl quoted above – said that other people still treated them like they didn’t fit in because of the way they looked. This can be a really difficult time for anyone to go through, and there are a lot of resources to help if you feel your are being unfairly and/or repeatedly picked on (check out this website, for example).

On a positive note, however, some of the young people who mentioned that they couldn’t ignore their language and heritage were more successful at holding on to the language in the long run. In one family, for example, when the children rebelled and refused to use the minority language because it made them feel different, gradually the family spoke more and more English at home until the children could no longer speak their heritage language very fluently anymore. All the people who had this happen to them said that they regretted it later in life – and all the people who continued to speak the language regularly at home said when they were older that they were so pleased that they did, even if there were some tough times in the journey.

Links about fitting in: