Reflection on “What Language is That?”

I really enjoyed reading “What Language is That?” by Uwem Akpan because it had an emotional kick and was also very thought provoking. What first caught my attention is that the story is written in the second person, using the word “you,” which I found to be different and a bit hard to adjust to after reading only third and first person narratives. This was my first time reading a second person narrative and I want to note how, by reading the word “you,” I feel like I am an actual character in the story. This makes me feel like a real part of the story, and would experience exactly what a third person character would feel in that situation. It just makes everything more relatable, and that you have no choice in denying your actions because you are told by the author what you do.

I think the real meaning of this story is to show that despite politics and what is said to be right or wrong, two best friends with a passion for each other’s love can communicate in their own language. That is exactly what happens here. What shocked me is the sudden change from being best friend families, to the effects of riots and how they can foolishly overpower a strong personal relationship. On the second to last page, Akpa writes, “You smiled because you had discovered a new language” (Akpa 185). Even though their parents said not to speak to one another, they are able to communicate though a new language they created. This just shows that nothing can affect a passionate relationship. What made me appreciate this story the most is how I came to understand something I have never thought about before; the unspoken language between best friends. They can communicate and know they love each other, yet still understand it is not “politically” correct to be friends. In my opinion, Akpa wanted to send a message to the reader that a relationship proves to be more powerful than “faith differences” and a lack of understanding the true moral values hidden under their costume.


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