A short story about a girl who wakes up each year fluent in a different language. By Nadya.
Miffy was a normal girl from a normal town in rural England. Everything in her life was ordinary and she never even stopped to think about her own culture. She wasn’t aware of what languages and culture were, she just vaguely knew that the world had different countries with different languages that sounded like melodies she did not understand.
One day, aged 6, she found herself violently vomiting all night. She woke up the next morning as her own self, but fluent in Spanish, living in Spain with Spanish parents. From this moment, she lived on the outskirts of Madrid, could only speak and understand Spanish, had seen only movies in Spanish, only read Spanish, and had only ever seen movies and cartoons in Spanish.
She had no recollection of the Miffy from before; the Miffy from England. Miffy lived this way in Spain for a year, completely sure and convinced that this was how her life had always been, until one night she experienced the same sickness as before, and woke up the next morning in a reality where everything had changed again.
For a year, she had a life in China, with no recollection of Miffy’s two cultures from before. Now, she had only Mandarin Chinese friends and family and could only speak and understand Mandarin Chinese.
Every year, the same thing happened to Miffy, with a different identity and culture each time, until she was 21. At this point, the truth was revealed to her: she was in a video game. During each language and culture, she played a different level: different people who express themselves in different ways, different foods she always ate, different sceneries, different education systems, different music, a different political situation... the list goes on.
At 21, when she realised she was a product of a video game and was back to her normal self from rural England, she understood that she had obtained a different identity from all the different levels of the video game, despite her origin story from rural England.
Her identity had expanded.
I’ve always thought of languages as an expansion of identity. Growing up, I sometimes would listen or look at passers-by with different languages and want to... be them. This means, being one of them or just understanding a little more of their culture - at least enabling me to get a foot in the door.
Sometimes though, getting your foot in the door is not enough and you actually want to be born and bread from a different language and culture. One of the problems with identity and the culture we are from, is we just get handled a pile of cards.
Maybe, if you learn different languages though, you can act as if life were a video game and you were Miffy. Every language is a life of its own, almost like a different simulation within a different culture every time.
That is because learning languages is a fun and creative process. When it is not taught in a boring way, and when you are inspired, it can be like entering a whole new world or going into a fun, new level in life.
About The Author: Nadya is an Olea Ambassador (Team 1.0, March - Sept 2023) and an undergraduate student of BA Hons Italian & Spanish, University of Manchester.