Home is a language of the heart

Home is a language of the heart.

Do you know what your heart language is?

While being told the story of an expat woman who’d adopted a child I learnt a beautiful expression. She was taking her new son home for the first time to his new billungual home – he was four. Both she and her husband spoke more than one language. Her son had also learnt two languages while in the orphanage.

The speech therapist advised that there had to be a “heart language” at home, that even if the family were bilingual there had to be one language that every single person in the household was fluent in. It had to be the emotion language, the one where everyone in the family felt confident to express their emotions.

A heart language.

Expat kids often pride themselves on the fact that because of their travels and international friends they can order a taxi in one language, read from a menu in another, and provide a few obscure swear words from another language in between – but what is the language of their hearts?

Our language at home has always been English but it’s a particular style of English – one that’s often described as harsh, crude or brutal. Australian is our heart language.

Maaaaaaaate, did you fall over? C’mon, up ya get, you’ll be right, come sit on my lap and Mum’ll give ya a cuddle.

It’s the “hello blossom” from Granny, the beach talk from Aunts, the sports talk from family friends. Our way of shortening everything means that even an expat child with an American accent will wake up and head to the “loo” before having “breaky” and meeting his “mates”, to go and kick the “footy”.

When you ask a child why their passport country feels like home even though they haven’t lived there for years – maybe this is the answer.

It’s where their heart language is spoken.

It’s the language you speak to them.

That’s where home is.

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