Father Tongue

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Even with her sharp, monosyllabic words that often lack vowels, my mother is a gentle language whose simple phonetic spelling and liberal syntax nurture me. She is my first love and the first proof of my infatuation for words. She is the essence of my wholeness; her Slavic roots form the straw-colored strands of my hair while her rolled r’s and her unforgiving grammar the sharpness of my moon-shaped eyes, the faint blue vein that runs through my forehead. My father is a different animal; his singsongy tones and mellow rhythm evoke in me an unfathomable joie de vivre and a fondness for storytelling. He, the Swedish language, bridges the cultural gap between my Croatian mother tongue and himself by allowing me to understand the slight nuances of different languages and how various concepts may well hold variable meaning in other dialects.

My bilingual upbringing, which later led to my quadrilingualism, is as essential to my intellectual vitality as bright pink manteaus and pin-up style dresses are to my identity. In fact, my fluency in four languages is a direct cause of my extroverted, eccentric nature and my permanent status as a pochemuchka, one who asks too many questions for their own good. At its core, each language is a...

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