languages & languaging

Bhakti Issa Urra
3 min readJan 14, 2023

In her piece “Shapeshifting: discovering the ‘we’ in mixed race experiences,” Anne Liu Kellor writes about questions raised growing up Asian-American.

“Sometimes you don’t know what you’ve been longing for your whole life until you experience it. As a mixed-race woman, I never knew how much it would mean for me to finally sit in a room full of other multiracial women until, at age 45, I taught a creative writing class called Shapeshifting: Reading and Writing the Mixed-Race Experience. I was nervous because I’d never attended something like this myself. And yet, sometimes when it becomes clear that you need something that doesn’t already exist, you have to create it yourself.”

cultural diversity — stock image

Her statement resonated with me — a chameleon of reinvention creating projects and openings for myself where none existed prior. I love hunting out places for work and collaboration — open to my input and contribution. Parlaying my otherness into fresh perspectives and views.

Growing up in the Philippines with a Spanish Filipino father and a Chinese Filipina mother put me in this position early on. Forcing me to question, interrogate, and examine — where others may have been more accepting and agreeable.

What does it feel like growing up with bad or no role models ? No reflections of yourself or your kind in the shows you watch or the books you read? Rarely seeing yourself in positions of worth?

In her book of musings, “The Opposite of Fate,” Amy Tan writes about our word choices and the kinds of English we born to, raised on, and choose to speak ourselves.

Immigrants challenged with English as a second language often raise children encouraged to assimilate and “fit in.” A generation growing up removed from their own mother tongue. Cultures and traditions lost, broken, or “watered down” with change, the internet, and a more mobile life.

My father and his family speak Spanish [Philippine and Spain versions], my mother and her family speak Chinese [Fukien and Mandarin]. But we their children are fluent in neither and can barely grasp its rudiments.

Families and communities develop their own versions of the languages they speak — jargon, short cuts, cliches, accents, etc. Marking one distinctly local or not.

Having relocated to the west I noticed my daughter and I have developed our own version of English too. With hers London local and mine New York or New Jersey flavored — yet both spiced and sprinkled with our small island home vernacular.

As a consultant, educator, and lecturer on a variety of topics and forums I adapt my languaging to my audience and their capacity to hear as well as understand. Always with the intention to connect first and hopefully communicate and collaborate as a result.

Miraculously enough with the right balance of clarity and intent no words are even necessary — just an open and willing desire to be present and there for each other.

Tapping into that vibrant energy that is always around us — provided we are alert and aware it is there for us all the time.

Originally published at



Bhakti Issa Urra

canvassing consciousness, constantly curious — ever challenged & changed