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Unravelling Babel

There are hundreds of languages in the world, but a smile speaks them all ~ Unknown

My dearest E.,

Wikipedia provides a succinct explanation about the story of the Tower of Babel, of ancient biblical times: “According to the narrative in Genesis, Chapter 11 of the Bible, the Tower of Babel was a tower built by a united humanity to reach the heavens. Because the hearts of men were said to be inherently evil and disobedient, they were striving to make a name for themselves instead of worshipping the God who created them. Because of this open defiance, God stopped their efforts by confusing languages so that the builders could not understand one another. As a result, they could no longer communicate and the work was halted. The builders were then scattered to different parts of Earth. This story is sometimes used to explain the existence of many different languages and races.”

Hence, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that you could understand Thai. My mother has been speaking to you in Thai, and English- and I was admittedly worried at first that you would encounter a language confusion phase. However, that was not to be. I suppose I may have underestimated your ability to pick up two languages at the same time.Mother would go off in her sing-song voice with words that sounded like gibberish to me (her regret is that she never took the time to teach me Thai, and has vowed to make it up by teaching you instead!- which is a pretty good deal, you must say…), but you’d understand them. You know how to gesture the ‘wai’ (the gesture the Thais make when they greet each other, with palms put together, held at about chest height)- you do this very well and on instinct, when Mother says the word “Sa-wasdee- kha…” Or if you see a robed Buddhist priest. You’re clever that way. You pick up things without us realising. You know the meaning of a whole host of other Thai words, and can respond when Mother says them.

I’m glad that you’re learning Thai. A knowledge of languages will serve you in good stead in future. Who knows, it may come in handy one day. When your father and I enrol you for primary school, we hope that you will pick up Mandarin then- I’m sure you would since we are planning to enrol you into a Chinese school.

You “speak” a lot these days, although your words are unintelligible. Sometimes, I try to decipher as to what goes through that cute little head of yours. What do you dream about, sweet pea? Of teddy bears, sunshine, rainbows and sweets? Of your Mom & Dad loving you to bits? What do you think about when you so-earnestly look into my eyes and go “ya ya ya ya…?” Those times, I fervently hope and wish that you are saying, “Mommy, you’re my world and I love you.”

Let us never confuse each other with our languages. Let us be honest and open with each other, and embrace the profound unity handed to us, which has brought us together as mother and child. One day, we will most certainly speak different languages, although we may both speak English. You will speak the language of independence, liberty and freedom; I will speak the language of sentimentality and longing, and hold you back from your freedom.

No matter, though, what language we shall both speak, let us remember our love for each other. And this love will surpass all language barriers, because it is the feeling bred within the depths of our hearts.

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