13 February 2017 - By Leonie van de Kragt, pre-Master's student: 'Somehow, I had taken it for granted that I was able to speak a second language.'
I embody the stereotype of a proud ‘Amsterdammer’. I believe it’s the best city in the Netherlands, and heck, maybe even the world. However, there is one thing that has always bothered me about Amsterdam: its distance to the equator. I am definitely not a winter person, and the only thing I like about the winter is that it will pass again. Unfortunately, I still have to shiver for a good quarter of most years, because I have never been able to go on vacation during this season. Until now.
Since my pre-Master’s programme at the Graduate School of Communication, started in February, and I had half a gap year before that, I was able to book a flight in January – a month that is usually filled with obligations. I flew to an island in the sun to visit my family in Indonesia. I really looked forward to the warmer temperatures and the scenery of trees that did not look dead. But while I was on this holiday, I couldn’t find the words to say (yes, I’m referring to Island in the Sun by Weezer here).
Because somehow, I had taken it for granted that I was able to speak a second language, i.e. English. Which is not without reason, since everyone I know in the Netherlands is multilingual. Thus, it did not occur to me that in Indonesia, a lot of people, even my family members, could not properly communicate with me by cause of them only speaking Bahasa Indonesia.
So there I was, able to speak two languages, but still feeling like a mute in a group of people. You can probably imagine that I felt frustrated and even a little downhearted, because there were so many stories I could not tell or understand. However, this feeling disappeared the moment I saw my grandmother again. She has been deaf for as long as I can remember, and even if I learned more Indonesian words than ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’, I would never be able to trade a word with her. It made me realize that whether I can speak a thousand languages, or just one, sometimes it just doesn’t matter. Because without saying a word, I knew that I meant the world to her. And without knowing how to make it clear that I loved her just as much, she looked at me, and I just knew she knew.
Leonie van de Kragt (21) is currently enrolled in the pre-Master’s programme in Communication Science. Her expected year of graduation is 2018.