Language Portraits: Exploring Ourselves from a Language Perspective
Identity is important. It’s who we are. Our cultural identities. Our personal identities. It’s complex and continuously developing, shaped by our experiences.
I’m a language student and former teacher. I’ve long wondered about multilingualism and linguistic identity, and how it intersects with emotion, local culture, globalization, and migration. Most people in the world are multilingual: They speak more than one language. What about you? Even if you only speak one language, perhaps you experience others that have left an impression on you in life.
So think about your linguistic identity. How do languages shape you? Maybe it’s difficult to put into words. Unconscious.
So, let me explain a visual method called language portraits. This powerful tool can be thought of as didactic material, a reflective exercise, or even thought-provoking artwork. You start with a blank silhouette of a body. You fill it in with different colors, locating your various languages onto, or outside, the body. “Language” here means any variety of communication: dialects, accents, slang, body language…anything. Each portrait is unique. Here are examples from my master’s research: