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Into the Melting Pot we go...

As a growing number of countries instruct their children in English, the opportunities to learn by living life from another perspective are increasingly hard to come by.

On a recent trip to sun drenched Greece, my family and I were keen to show our hospitable hosts our respect for their language and culture, even though we had never spoken Greek before in our lives. Consequently we tripped over vowels, stared blindly at road signs, and got lost…a lot. Though we were determined to keep trying.
“Efharisto” I said as I handed over my money to the shopkeeper.
“That’s okay. I speak English.” He said perfectly.
“No. It’s alright, I’d really like to learn, if only a little bit of Greek while I’m here. If you don’t mind.” And so, he taught me how to pronounce the Greek word for Thank You properly.
“Like this, Ef- chk- arris- toh.”
When in Rome, do as the Romans do, that’s what I have always been taught- only try not to spit on people while you do it- that doesn’t go down so well.

It’s always good to learn a second language. It makes us more remarkable on the global market when it comes to career day and perhaps more importantly, widens our horizons and awareness of more than one culture, one perspective, one way of doing and being in the world.

Last month I saw an article on CNN about a Madrasa in Kerala choosing to change its primary medium of instruction from Arabic to English. The belief was that teaching in English would open the doors of opportunity for them and break down the separatist image of Madrasas.
“(With English) we can tell our ideas to a non Islamic Person,” one bright young boy asserts on the film reel.

Brilliant, I thought, use English to make your-self understood. Maybe English could be the universal language, the one great equalizer that enables us all to get along and understand each other more clearly. But that can be done if English is taught as a second language too. Furthermore, studies repeatedly show that teaching in one’s mother tongue gives greater benefit. Teaching in a foreign language favors students already proficient in that language or who have greater than average linguistic ability. There are many nations in Africa, Asia and the Middle East now choosing to teach their children reading, writing, mathematics, life skills, morality, religion, in a language other than their own. Every child has a right to a quality education, it should be comprehensible to all.

This continued perception of English being the dominant language and culture scares me, but not so much as the potential loss of culture and identity that could occur as nations struggle to learn English in favor of being understood and accepted on the world stage.

“I’m half Puerto Rican, half Italian, half Venezualan, a quarter Scottish and about an eighth American.” So said my sons’ globally minded best buddy one day.
“I’m English and American,” My son said in response, “From Yorkshire.” Ah! I sighed in relief. My Yorkshire mate and I, have made a concerted effort through the years to teach our son where he came from, where his roots are, who he is. We’ve nourished his growing spirit on regional comfort food like Parkin and Tea Cakes and Yorkshire Tea and anything else vaguely Yorkshire we could find to throw at him, not literally. Yorkshire Pudding is a favorite treat.
“Aye, lad, there’s nowt like a good ol’ Yorkshire pudding to warm thissen on a cold winter’s night!” I remarked one day.
“What was that you said Mummy?”
Hmm…How could I have neglected to teach him those colorful Yorkshire words?

It seems it's all too easy to lose a language when we no longer need to speak it. I think everyone should desperately hold onto their own languages as an integral part of their culture, identity, of their being in the world. I want a world for my children where every nation is celebrated and accepted for their equal difference.

“Language, is the spiritual exhalation of the nation,” so says Wilhelm Von Humboldt, we must hold on to it.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 31 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most forgotten corners of the world. Meet Us.

Comments

jap21's picture

One more thing

I agree with you, and I would like to add that I am worried about the languages going nuts through the language misuse in texting and messaging.

Someone wrote in a web page: 'Please do not corrupt something that has taken centuries to build up, use your language with love and neatly'

Our native languages are losing identity, and we are losing our identity with them.

Good writing.

I like the way you softly take us into the main stream of your article.

Hugs,

Jackie

Jacqueline Patiño FundActiva
Tarija - Bolivia
South America
www.jap21.wordpress.com

Tina's picture

Corruption of Language

Yes Jackie, you are right, the "art" of language is slowly disintegrating on many levels today. I love the quote you mentioned. It is true that when we speak our languages with love and respect for the beauty in them we speak so much more eloquently. The more heart and self we put into our communications, the more profoundly it seems to resonate with our readers too. It's all very interesting.
Big hug back to you!
Tina

giftypearl.abenaab's picture

I am in love

Hey Tina,
I am in love with your writng style. You have a unique way of putting and capturing the attention of us readers and making clear your points and opinions.
All the best.

Gifty

Gifty Pearl Abenaab
Founder
Greight Foundation
www.greightfoundation.org

Tina's picture

Thank You Gifty! I am so

Thank You Gifty!
I am so pleased my points and opinions came across more clearly in this version.
Tina

Leslie's picture

Tina, This defeinlty reads

Tina,
This defeinlty reads stronger, I now know what your stance is on the matter. The graph that should really bring your opnion home reads fairly light because most of it is in terms of questions. Questions are an effective writing tool and they certainly flow with your personal writing style. But Op-Eds need to be filled with answers, as opposed to questions. By asking the reader - shouldn't we be teaching English as a second language? Can't we? Don't we want to? The readers is left asking themselves - Well, I don't know. Should we? Could we? Are we? So it's better to tell them - We should. We are. We can. Instead of prompting questions, we're giving the reader answers. At the same time, this detracts a bit from your style so it's up to you, always. Here's a revised version below of that graph:

Brilliant, I thought, use English to make your-self understood. English could be the universal language, the one great equalizer that enables us all to get along and understand each other more clearly. But we can do that by teaching English as a second language. So many nations in Africa, Asia and now the Middle East are teaching children reading, writing, mathematics, life skills, morality, religion, in languages other than their own, despite studies showing that teaching in one’s mother tongue gives greater benefit.
Not only can Islamic students share ideas with a non-Islamic person, but preserve the ability to continuing exchanging Islamic views among Islamic speakers

Other than that, it's a really good read.

Leslie

Tina's picture

Improving

Thanks Leslie,
I am pleased that I improved upon my first draft and my opinions came across much stronger in this version.
Tina

Jennifer Ruwart's picture

Brilliant

This pulled me in immediately, made me chuckle and relate to your experience more than once, and nod my head a few times! I like Leslie's subtle changes. I think she's right that by changing it from a question to a statement you have presented with a simple and powerful solution that will help keep our world delightfully diverse and colorful. (completely up to you!) Bravo!

Jennifer Ruwart
Chief Collaborator
JR Collaborations

Tina's picture

Thanks so much Jennifer. I'm

Thanks so much Jennifer.
I'm really glad I made you chuckle!
Cheers!
Tina

i'm so informed!!

A wondeful piece Tina. I got to learn more about you...

All the love,

Regards,

Stella Ndugire- Mbugua
ICS- Africa

Tina's picture

Thanks Stella!

I'm pleased you found it informative!
Much love back to you,
Tina

olakitike's picture

Wow!

Tina, I am starting to look forward to your assignments. I loved Letters from America and now here I am, In love again! I am now officially a fan!
So many languages are becoming extinct, with this we loose the beauty accumulated through the ages in this languages. In some schools here, one is beaten for speaking in the local language. This passes the message that somehow, our own language is inferior to English. The tragic result? Children who cannot communicate in their mother tongue or even english. It is tragic.

Tina's picture

Shocking!

Your news has shocked me. Although I have heard of children being beaten for not speaking English before. You are right, it is such a terrible tragedy. And what is most shocking to me, is that it is usually the local people themselves who are doing this to their children, not a bunch of other people from foreign lands telling everyone what they think is best. I don't understand how this has come about at all. It has far reaching complications, as you point out. I worry for the children being taught like this, but I also worry about the perpetuation of the idea that English is somehow better. It can't do any of us any good to continue to see any language (or indeed any country's ideals, and cultures) as being superior or inferior to the other.

On a slightly different note, thank you so much for your lovely compliments. You made me blush... and giggle!

malayapinas's picture

My admiration for you

Hi Tina! I'm smiling to my self while writing this for you. I really admire your stories and the way you write . Keep up the beautiful works!

best wishes ,
malaya

Tina's picture

Thank you so much

Thank you so much Malaya,
My warmest wishes to you,
Tina

idris ndanusa's picture

good work

am impress about the good message you are passing, keep it up that's great. i went through your profile to fine out the beautiful work you are doing, take care.

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