Seventy-five percent of my time I speak English.: Becoming Minnesotan

Female silhouette.
  • Name - Maryan Del
  • Age at interview - 26
  • Gender - Female
  • Generation - First Generation American / Refugee
  • Date of Interview - 06.21.2004
  • Girls selecting music for a graduation party, Brian Coyle Community Center.

    We Are Here

    Identity, Language, Somali

    Essential Question

    We Are Here: What does it mean to this immigrant group to be here in America?

    Cultural Preservation: How does a person weave his or her traditional culture into a new American identity?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    Many Somalis are afraid that they will lose their traditions and culture as they become more involved in American life.  As more Somalis in the U.S. learn English in order to succeed in American schools and jobs, there is a fear that the Somali language will die out.  Somalis generally feel that much of their culture is tied up in their language, and they must keep up the language in order to maintain their culture. This story brings up an important question: What are the most important parts of your culture to preserve and what can you give up?

    To learn more about Somali history and culture, visit our Somali Community page.

    • Chapter 1

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    Narrator: Maryan Del (MD)

    Interviewers: Sumaya Yusuf and (SY) Andy Wilhide (AW)

    SY:  What are some ways that Somali people in Minnesota are losing their cultural traditions?

    MD:  My honest opinion: I don’t think Somali people are losing their culture. That’s my honest opinion, because we might dress up, we might wear jeans or wear hip-hop clothes, we might do a lot of things that American people do, but when you go to a Somali home, you’re Somali. In home spoken Somali. It doesn’t matter what you wear outside, but when you go back home, you have your thing. I don’t think we’re losing our culture, maybe a little bit, but I think we’re still intact. I don’t know, maybe in five years something might change, but, at the moment…

    AW:  You touched on something right there, speaking Somali. So is language is one of the important things

    MD:  Yes. I think maybe that’s the only one we’re losing. For me, I think seventy-five percent of my time I speak English. I think maybe that is part of where we’re losing a little bit of our culture. I don’t blame the kids if they lose their language because when you go to American schools, you speak English all day! There are Somali schools that are open right now. There are kids who learn how to read and write Somali. I think that’s another one that can be…

    AW:  That maybe shows that people are already seeing some people losing their language.

    MD:  Yes, I think so, absolutely. Yes.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Adjective:  Relating to the traditions and customs of a group or society.


    Noun:  The arts, customs, and habits that characterize a particular society or nation.


    Adjective:  Untouched, especially by anything that harms or defiles; uninjured; whole; undefiled; left complete or entire; not damaged.


    Noun:  A custom that is practiced within a group.


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access].
    nid: 545