Home of Rhett & Link fans - the Mythical Beasts!
"The pen is mightier than the sword" is a saying many have often heard, and it refers to the power that literature has to affect the world. Ideas are powerful things, but can only reach their potential if they are able to be shared; to do this the mind behind the idea needs language. As with all things human there is a degree of pride and conceit that permeates the world of language, specifically in the area of whose language is better, which one is the most proper and which ones are really "dialects".
Traditionally, European languages have always held the highest ranking positions of language, being "proper" and "sophisticated", though it has been thoughtfully said that "a language is a dialect with an army and a navy" (Max Weinreich), inferring that the people in charge are the ones that speak properly. Of course this status has led to the looking down on other languages that are not spoken by the rich and powerful as primitive, uneducated, and the like. In some cases, such as the views of Chinese Pidgin English, it has led to some humorous points of view when looking back: the Europeans had decided that Chinese was horridly complex (basically admitting their own stupidity with pride [we'll come back to that]), and the Chinese considered the westerners to be devils and would not stoop so low as to master their vulgar language, but settled to learn the pidgin form in the interest of trade. Sufficing to say, when it comes to language, pride is a big player in the game of what is and isn't "proper".
So as any good writer should, I have a reason for supplying this information and a point I am leading into. My topic of interest includes things presently happening and things that have been happening for a while. As some may have guess by the title of this post and the preceding information I seem to be trying to point out a certain American pride, and dare I say, arrogance, one among many that have given Americans the standing they have around the world. This arrogance has to do with the language spoken in America; often while I was learning Spanish in high school I would practice, being aglossophilos (gk lover of language [wiki so don't hold me too it, I take Hebrew]) and a response I heard quite often was "this is Amurica, speak Amurican" (I reflect the inflection of those dearly beloved people). This of course reflects at least two things about the "Amurican" attitude: One, that this is our country you have to speak like us and are un-American if you don't, and two, the "Amurican" takes pride in being monolingual and parades a sense of ignorance in doing so (told it would come around). In time past being Multilingual was a sign of being a true renaissance man (or woman), though this would be more correctly applied to people who were diplomatic in their use their knowledge of language and not merely those who said things in another language for the sake of fashion and affluence. However, this is not merely an issue of language, but also of identity and race.
As a linguistics major who has a desire for doing Bible translation I believe that language is deeply tied to identity and most importantly ability to comprehend the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is something called heart language, the language in which things make the most sense and have the most meaning to a person. Because of this I believe that all languages are equally valid and important as well as beautiful works of a creative God who designed humans to communicate so that we can relate to Him and others. I also believe that people of all "races" or better ethnic backgrounds, have equal standing before God and are equally made in His image. The reason I bring this up is because there is unfounded prejudice in the "Amurican" mindset, which at the time was specifically directed to ethnicity in particular. This I will later touch on.
In recent days there has been talk on making English the official language nation wide, also in some areas multilingual education is being attacked and various other discussion on language and education. Though I have not looked extensively into the topic I do have opinions on what these kind of things entail. In certain ways I can see that making "standard English" a requirement for education and fluency in standard English a goal in education is a good thing, it makes it easier for those who are learning English as a second language later in life when searching for colleges and having greater selection with out having to search for colleges with special programming, as well as a wider selection of occupations; however, different controversies arise when English and Ebonics are compared and considered, and myriad of other discussions arise as well. One solution that has been suggested in the past, of which I would be entirely in favour of, is mandatory bilingual education of all children, that is having all kids that go through the school system learn both English and Spanish as learning a second language is very useful skill and makes for well rounded individuals, but again a myriad of conflicts and disagreements can arise. Allow me to reiterate that I have not done extensive research into these areas and opinions are based on my reasoning alone, if you have sufficient evidence to the contrary I will be happy to recant.
All this ties back into the "speak Amurican" mentality and my plea to those who have endured to the end of this post. I ask you monolingual English speakers, and especially the "Amuricans" to consider the immigrant and non-English speaker: consider that they may have not grown up speaking/hearing English and may have as much understanding of it as you do Swahili; consider that they are just as fluent in their native (heart) language as you are with English; consider, if you have tried to learn another language in high school or elsewhere, how difficult it is; now imagining moving to a place with such a language and either trying to find a job and or go to school and learn in this other language. The task set before them is not an easy task. To become sufficiently fluent in a second language is rare for the average American (quite a few people I've know who have taken Spanish can say "Hola como esta"), but for some immigrants this may be their third, Also take into consideration why they have come here. America prides itself in being a free country and many people from many countries that have far more difficulties in daily life than we can ever imagine. I personally have friends who grew up in the former soviet union and have experienced more hardships that most people born in America know exist. They have come here to find what partake in those "unalienable rights of man" (that's a topic for a different day), and seek to find a better life. So put yourself in their situation, giving up home and culture, going to another country in uncertainty in hopes to provide for yourself and your family and facing the challenge of language barrier and for those who are older the added difficulty of learning a new language that comes with age. Don't be ignorant, don't be arrogant, and especially to those who are Christians, how can we foster this divide based on prejudice? I agree that if I went to another country and planned to live there I would do my best to become fluent in the language, but this is no cause for a lack of compassion on those who face that reality in our midst.
reposted from Chaos Vanquished