Haniya's Story

The impact on parents

Haniya has lived in Ireland for all 3 years of her life. Her mum, Renata, is from Poland and her dad, Haroon, is from Pakistan. Haniya speaks with Renata confidently in Polish but Haroon prefers to speak to her in English. Haroon thinks it is more important for her to learn English while living in Ireland than Urdu. Besides, he is afraid he will confuse her if he introduces a third language to her. For the most part, Haroon doesn’t mind but he is concerned because Haniya’s grandparents don’t speak any English. He would like for Haniya to be able to talk to them in Urdu someday the way she can with her Polish grandparents.

At one of the Language Explorers workshops, the artist told the children a story about how she flew to Ireland from her home country in a plane at night. She asked the children how to say “star” in their home language, because there were a lot of stars twinkling in the sky that night. The children and their parents volunteered their translations: “Gwizda!” “étoile!” “réalta!” 


Haroon said ستارہ (sitara) and, without having to be encouraged, Haniya repeated it. Haroon’s face lit up with joy and pride at this unexpected moment of connection with his daughter.

“I wanted her to focus mostly on learning English so she can fit in here in Ireland, but when I heard her speak in Urdu it made me feel really proud. I want to teach her some more words in Urdu now so she can say hello and goodbye to her grandparents the next time we video call.”

Haniya stuck star stickers on her family box and Haroon wrote ‘stars’ in Urdu beside them for her. This moment sparked a new appreciation in Haniya’s father for the heritage he could pass on to his daughter.

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