My mother’s parents were immigrants from the Netherlands. My mother’s first language was Dutch, but this was replaced by English when she started school. My grandparents felt strongly that their children should learn English above all else, since they believed this was the way to succeed and advance in their new country. Little importance was placed on their children knowing Dutch, so although my mother and her sisters were spoken to in Dutch, they responded in English, which left significant gaps in my Mother’s language proficiency. I know very little about my grandparents because they passed away when I was quite young. and I know even less about their language, the Dutch language. I find myself longing for a connection to my grandparents -- a connection that their language seems to elicit. So much of my mother’s upbringing revolves around the Dutch language, making this language a conduit for memories and stories about two people who I barely know.


Things That I Know, Things That You Know is a visual representation of the process of learning the Dutch language and of my mother and me, learning a language together. Me, learning the Dutch language for the first time, and my mother, relearning it for a second time. My mother is an auditory learner, and I learn visually, and we live on opposite ends of the country, so much of our learning takes place individually. I shape my learning around the everyday and try to visualize how this learning is taking place --- my individual learning, and where my learning and my mother’s learning intersects in what we know and do not know. The learning process is difficult, filled with blank spaces where words struggle to reside in memory, and the struggle in switching back and forth between two vastly different languages. While we learn, my mother tells stories about her upbringing. I learn more about this language that is foreign to me and it bridges the gap of the heritage language that I am learning as the third generation. Things That I Know, Things That You Know is about learning through photography, making sense of a new language, and of a mother and a daughter learning from each other………and in the end, we get closer through language.

Using Format