Gaps in Comprehension

What happens when you lose your language?

The emotional and cultural implications, the moments of incompleteness.


Six thousand five hundred languages are spoken worldwide, and at least half of those will have fallen silent by the end of this century. 

Within the United States and Canada, we can see the denial of language used to harm indigenous communities. A primary example was children forced to attend residential schools and only speak English. The strategy was effective: more than three hundred indigenous languages were once spoken in the United States; today, linguists worry that there will be only twenty within thirty years. 

Themes of loss. 


Asked people if they spoke another language, the frequency of those use of language, how they felt using their languages, and the mental processes they go through.

Languages Spoken/Understood
  • Urdu
  • German
  • Hindi
  • French
  • Spanish
  • Dutch
  • Vietnamese
  • Italian
  • ASL
  • Hebrew
  • Mandarin
  • Korean
  • Taiwanese
  • Japanese

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Attempted to interview a family member, where English is their second language, the interviewer (myself) tried to ask questions in their second language. Ensuing chaos.

The "glitch" that occurs when one stumbles around for the word.

  • Feelings of loss & inadequacy
  • Myth of Fluency
  • Awkward Silence
  • Ownership
  • Authenticity