How Does Language Define Who You Are?

If you’re like many people, tackling a new language might be the key to unlocking new opportunities—to get ahead at work, make new friends, and explore new cultures. Or maybe you’re motivated to learn a new language to communicate with someone you love… or are trying to impress.

But have you ever thought about how the language you speak defines who you are? Chances are, your great ancestors didn’t speak English. Because in the grand scheme of things, the good old U-S-of-A hasn’t been around for very long. And although English emerged long before then, somewhere down the line your great relatives spoke something other than the language you speak now. For many people, learning the language of their ancestors is an important part of feeling more connected to their family and their heritage. 

Take Aimee King, for instance. The daughter of a Puerto Rican mom and a Eurasian dad, Aimee’s exploration of her family story is a hobby that’s led her around the world. So it didn’t take long after joining ancestry.com for her to realize just how important language skills were to making genealogical research more rewarding.

Already fluent in English and Spanish, Aimee hit a snag when her mom’s branch of the family tree reached well into Europe. “The deeper I got into my research, the more I uncovered older documentation written in French, ” she said. You’d think finding census and military documentation and immigration records for family members would be a huge score for a genealogical hobbyist like Aimee. But “because I couldn’t comprehend what I was looking at, finding those artifacts actually became frustrating,” she explained. 

So Aimee decided to learn French the Rosetta Stone® way—something that was already on her list of things she wanted to try. “Once I learned some basics with Rosetta Stone® French, it was much easier to understand some of the documents I was looking at.”  

Knowing even just the basics of your family’s native tongue can be a huge help when it comes to doing genealogical research. Letters, family histories, transcriptions, vital records databases, and other documents you find might not be written in English. Plus, if you want to interview older relatives, they may not speak English, either.

“I’ve only started my research on my father’s background,” Aimee says. But she also owns RoJapanese-womensetta Stone® Japanese—which may come in handy as she learns more about her Asian roots. 

Which brings us to our main point: Knowing a language helps you connect with ancestors. And knowing your ancestors allows you to know yourself. It’s a beautiful cycle, really. And one definitely worth exploring. 

Ready to get started finding out the whos, whats, and wheres of your family story? Check out this special offer on the ancestry.com World Explorer membership.

 

 

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