HomeVolume 7May 2022 The richness of many languages

LEAH RICH shares her experiences of an intercultural marriage, and the richness it brings to the various communications that happen day-to-day among her husband, son, and herself.

I want to share a fond memory of something that started when my husband, Jayendran Muthushankar, and I first met. He is from Chennai in India, and his mother tongue is Tamil, but he’s lived in many parts of Asia and speaks Burmese, Thai, and Japanese, as well as English and Hindi. While I am from the US and English is my mother tongue, I grew up learning Hebrew and some Yiddish. And I learned to speak Mandarin while living in China. 

So, while we communicated in English, we quickly found ourselves introducing new words from other languages we knew, as they seemed a better fit for what we wanted to express. It started with introducing greetings and “good night” to each other in Burmese, Hebrew, Tamil, Chinese, Thai, and Japanese.

This has continued, and is also a part of our communication with our 11-year-old son. For example, our son will respond with “nahi” (no in Hindi) when he doesn’t want something. My husband uses the Yiddish “fukakt” to refer to a situation or an object that isn’t working, or isn’t quite right. He also says “xiexie” (Mandarin) to say thank you. And when I’m offered food, I’ll say “podum” (Tamil) to indicate that I’ve received enough food.

And the Burmese word “Mingalaba” means “May you be blessed.”


Leah Rich

Leah Rich

Leah has a background in curriculum development and teaching, with a speciality in Social Emotional Learning (SEL) for children. She is a Certified Yoga teacher, Heartfulness trainer and the creator of "Heartful Movement," a social emotiona... Read More