Updating frequently

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The language barrier

Words escape me as I scarf down some ginger licorice/liquorice and consider eating some apples and German honey. So, I'll just finally get down to posting my columns, starting with my language one. It's nothing big. Just an editorial on language and the effort or non-effort of people.

Lend a helping conversation
as seen in the July 3, 2008 edition of the Hattiesburg American

I applaud police officers learning the basics of the secondary language in their areas so that they can communicate with the non-English speaking community.
This extra skill helps with keeping the peace in all areas, not just English speaking areas.

I'm tired of hearing: "They came to our country, so they should learn the language."

Sometimes, you need to cut people some slack.

English is apparently the hardest language to learn as a second language. And just because someone is learning a language, doesn't mane that they are going to be automatically proficient enough to be able to communicate on a decent level.

I've learned Japanese, Spanish, Portuguese and French; this doesn't mean that I can just strike up a conversation in these countries.
Being able to greet people and knowing how to say my birthday only gets me so far.

And while I agree that one should learn the language of the country they are going to visit or live in, sometimes it's not just as simple as picking up a book.

Books give a lot of information, but no book can touch upon the insight a native speaker can give. And even finding a native speaker willing to help or tutor is not that easy.

Instructors, for either online or traditional classes, stress to all students that finding someone to 'talk' to is a huge step toward understanding, much less being fluent.
Every language class I've been in has stressed the same idea.

Although, I had to depend on fellow students since people fluent in other languages were hard to find. And there are very few cases where a person can achieve fluency without complete immersion in the country of the language they are learning.

Sometimes, classes offered for non-English speakers can only rely on unstable means and are not able to get the word out to citizens. Or worse, the area people are moving to does not offer classes.
Which leaves the immersion non-English speakers are exposed to whittled down to rude comments thrown at them by rude people and what they see on television.

So, before you're rude to someone because of their inability to speak English, why don't you turn that into useful energy and demand that the government, be it city, state or national, make English classes and language help available to everyone.
Or better yet, lend a helping hand... or in this case, a helping conversation.

And to answer questions that I got after publishing this article, and ones that may arise after this post: half of my family came over from different parts of Europe as recent as four generations ago: my family is French on both sides (I had a great-grandmother from France that didn't even speak English) and I had a great-grandmother who was Portuguese. So, I remember a little from what I learned. And I took classes at uni for Japanese and Spanish. The other half of my family that wasn't from Europe, is African and Native American.

I'm a mulatto/mestizo in the truest sense. But more about that in another post.

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