Personally I believe that I have two identities for myself. One is my Singaporean identity, a more westernized and modernized version of myself which I use on a daily basis. The other is a more Indian identity that I use when visiting family in India, a more traditionalist and classic version of myself. My mother tongue is Malayalam, a language from Southern India and it is the language that all my family speal from my grandparents to my parents to my cousins, all except for me and my brother.
In Singapore, I live in a multicultural society where speaking English is most common, hence I have no need to use any other languages here because I have no reason to. But traveling to see my family in India I am often faced with a challenge. Although English is spoken in India, my family lives in a very modest and quiet town and many of the people get along by speaking the native language Malayalam. However, whenever my family and I travel to India I can not help but feel like a foreigner in a place that I have visited every single year of my life because of the language barrier I am faced with. English is my first language and my parents also speak English fluently, without any accent, however, their parents chose to bring them up in a Malayalam household despite not living in India and they possess the necessary language skills to get around without feeling out of place. I have lived in Singapore for all my life and growing up in a society here is what influenced my parents to speak English with us at home. Although my parents can speak 3-4 languages conversationally they most often speak in English but occasionally speak in Malayalam to me as well. This has taught me to understand the language but I have never been comfortable enough to speak it. This impacts my individual identity because it influences how I behave and how I speak when I talk with family members, especially those in their 80’s. Them being extremely traditional, have an expectation that I understand Malayalam and often try to converse with me and the best I can do is smile and nod despite understanding their sentence perfectly clearly. I also believe that having this kind of language barrier has a cultural significance as well, living in a Singaporean system I believe that knowing and understanfing Malayalam yields no benefits for myself, however, I understand that the culture I experience in India is completely different to the one here and that is often intimidating to me.
Despite my parents and my regret about not learning the language I still do believe that it has had an impact on me because I have been able to understand my identity clearer and I have also understood the culture that I have grown up in clearer.