College Essay: Reeti Patel

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“To Speak Words I’m Yet to Master”

By Reeti Patel, Writer

Bollywood. The scent of new silk saris and soft saffron marigolds draped across open archways. Bollywood. The sound of heavy drums and crisp falsettos in spring fields. Bollywood. The sight of flowing red fabrics against ivory snow mountains. Outrageous color and overwhelming sights. Bollywood. My first teacher.

Bollywood has flooded all my senses since birth. I was raised on ​Yash Raj Films ​classics, with vibrant depictions of love and family. Along with raising all of my expectations, Bollywood gave me something that I will cherish for the rest of my life; language.

Language: noun, ​the method of human communication, spoken or written, using words in a structured way. Language, my window into the world and a passion that has led to an unprecedented amount of Duolingo accounts. Bollywood taught me Hindi and it was responsible for every language after.

Language has weaseled its way out of my peripheral and is standing front and center, now more than ever. For me, language has always been a form of expression, freedom and connectivity. A week ago, my English teacher said to me, “language is a form of protest, and your willingness to learn speaks [volumes.]” I didn’t realize how right she was, until I began writing this essay. Language has unknowingly become both my shield and my sword. When I’m uncomfortable, I mumble soft Gujurati under my breath, bringing an instantaneous sense of home and family. When passionate, I yell in animated Spanish, bright vernacular filling the air. When feeling dramatic, I quote fluid Hindi, chasing the emotions of actors in my childhood. When playful and reminiscent of my child-like humor, I tease in hesitant Korean, proud not to be understood. When angered by an ignorant voice, I spit in harsh English, hopeful to educate, yet resigned to their philistine behavior.

Learning language has never been an easy task, and I don’t believe that it ever will be. Language is something with so many intricacies, it would take a marriage of many lifetimes to learn them all. Even now, I can say I am fluent in English, Gujurati and Hindi and knowledgeable in Spanish, yet I find I still don’t know nearly enough. English is my first language, and still I find myself flipping through a thesaurus, searching for a better word. Hindi is the language I hear most often on my television and understand just as quickly. Still, sometimes I find myself struggling to string together coherent sentences. Spanish is the language that I have learned from scratch, leaning on the shoulders of my ​Maestras​ and ​Profesores, learning every word and every rule from every textbook placed in front of me, yet still, it’s difficult to translate basic language at times.​ Gujurati is my mother tongue and the language of my ancestors. I speak it on a daily basis and knew it before English. And still… I find myself turning to my mother, questioning basic phrases. I ask her to correct my grammar, in hopes that someday, this language too, will be as comfortable as English. Korean is my newest and most difficult adventure yet. It is strange and it is as unfamiliar as language can be to me, and somehow it is the most fun that I can have with language in a day.

Yes, language is where I find pride. It is where I find passion. Language is where I find my voice. As much as I have learned language for the sake of communication, I have also learned language for the sake of speaking out. No matter the lack of understanding and the incredible amounts of frustration that language often leaves me with, it also leaves me with immeasurable joy and the hope of connecting with those I have yet to reach. To use my voice and instigate change– and t​hat is my incentive, with every new language I learn.

Featured Photo: Provided By Reeti Patel