Core Blog

“ABCedarian”- Two Tongues Are Better Than One

June 13, 2017

Words Sakina M.  
Photograph Fatema A


Sakina Behn is a student currently living in New Jersey, USA. Creator of @rida.apparel, she hopes to inspire behno with her love for fashion. Her immense passion for art, literature, politics, and fashion shape her identity as a global citizen. The name Sakina means peace, and this is the philosophy Sakina Behn lives by through her personal life and world views.

ABCedarian Theme Foreword:

Abecedarian – defined as a person who is learning the letters of the alphabet or a beginner in any field of learning.

Whether we’re students, teachers, mothers or sons, life throws us a new lesson at every turn. Every new sunrise brings us the opportunity to learn a new set of ABCs. Join our writers as they discuss how they tackle new challenges head on and be inspired to become an abecedarian yourself!

American-Pakistani. Yes, I am painfully aware of just how incompatible/irreconcilable those two words seem to be. Combining them in human form? Well, let’s just say it leads to some complications.

Growing up in a community where people assumed Pakistan was a city in India created some pretty laughable moments. And some not so much.

What did I know in third grade? Honestly, nothing. My American accent was thick, just like my classmates, even if I occasionally forgot the word for a water tap and referred to it as a “null” instead.

I went around unaware of the fact that Urdu, Gujarati, and Lisan-al-Dawaat are different languages. There are more than 74 languages spoken in Pakistan, yet when people asked me what language I knew, I said Pakistani. It seemed right. In my head, they were all scrambled up together with words I could never pronounce correctly.

My madrasah teachers made sure to correct every “k” with “kh” in “khabar”. I frustratingly made a T-chart of words that were in Urdu and the other in Gujarati in order to distinguish the two.

It’s safe to assume that language wasn’t my friend. Talking to anyone in a language other than English was a scary thought: what if I say the masculine term instead of the feminine? What if the sentence structure is incorrect? What if I say a word in Urdu when it’s supposed to be in Lisan-al-Dawat? Instead of awkwardly mixing English, Urdu, and Gujarati together, I opted for silence.

I was in awe of people who spoke Lisan-al-Dawat fluently. It sounded so beautiful and sophisticated, something I longed to achieve.

Syedna Burhanuddin Moula (RA) instructed us all to speak in our true tongue. The tongue that joins mumineen across the globe.

Houston Ashara enlightened me with the power of language, as my masalla bordered one of a woman from Hong Kong. Her accent was as thick as mine, and yet we spoke in the one magical language. She didn’t care that my sentence structure was still a bit off, or that my “kh” came out like “k”. Our smiles linked in understanding.

Today, I help teach Lisan-al-Dawat and Quran Pronunciation in madrasah. I amusingly watch as six-year-olds cringe in frustration, trying to sandwich their tongues in between their teeth to get that ث sound.  My R’s roll as I sit in Spanish class. My hands mimic the ones I see on the ASL tutorial screen.

Language is too beautiful to be constricted out of fear. Little by little we learn. Eventually, our throats make the right sounds, our lips pucker the right way, and our grammar improves. Enjoy the process, and know that overall it is what you say that is significantly more important than how you say it.


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