Rabia Nasimi on language and identity

Jasmine Short

After fleeing the Taliban regime, Rabia Nasimi arrived in the UK at just 5 years old. 19 years later she is studying for a PhD at Cambridge University. We spoke to Rabia about her journey from Afghanistan to the UK and how language learning can ease this transition.

When Rabia arrived in the UK she was immersed into a foreign culture which she had never experienced before. It is her immersion in language which Rabia credits her fluency to. As children hearing English every day at school, Rabia and her sister were able to pick up the English language quickly. Rabia used this skill to bridge the linguistic gap at home with her parents who initially struggled to learn the language.

‘One of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had’

After a few years in the country, Rabia’s father had been able to overcome many of the hurdles which immigrants face when moving to the UK and founded the charity, Afghanistan and Central Asian Association. Using the experience of Dr Nooralhaq Nasimi, the ACAA provides education and support to refugees in the UK. During her studies, Rabia has been heavily involved in the ACAA. Rabia believes that learning the English language is the first foundation of building a better life in the UK. She describes the English language classes offered by the ACAA as one of the most rewarding experiences she’s ever had.

In the interview, Rabia tells us the importance of language when building a life in a new country. She believes that language is not only a way of expressing identity, but also a way of constructing identity. Rabia has used her ability to speak Farsi and English to study at Cambridge, as well as to identify with locals in Afghanistan. By speaking 1 of the 3 languages used in Afghanistan Rabia has been able to find commonality with the local people. She has shared experiences with them, contributing to both her dual identity and her research.

To hear more about Rabia’s understanding of language and dual identity, watch the full interview below.

If you’re interested in language journeys, you might enjoy our interview with African born former NBA star, Dikembe Mutombo.

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