Wednesday, September 05, 2007

New op-ed published

Is advertising coffee in a foreign language really going to undermine our culture and our values? (If so, someone had better tell Starbucks to take the words “grande” and “macchiato” off its menu.)

Do really we need a law to tell us that English is the primary language of this country?

And are we really threatened by bilingual families, when most bilingual children spend the majority of their day speaking English?

Apparently, some people would answer "yes" to all of the above.

My latest op-ed, All Languages Spoken Here, was just published today, and is about precisely this issue ... and how the escalating discrimination and negativity against immigrants and their languages is hastening the loss of the precious linguistic and cultural resources of our immigrant communities -- precisely at the time when we need those resources most.

By the way, the "Bogota" mentioned in the article is Bogota, New Jersey (not Bogotá, Colombia).

Because of space limitations, I couldn't include more about the personal losses that go along with this loss of language, or about how strongly I feel that everyone should be studying foreign languages, learning about other cultures, and increasing both their local and their global multicultural awareness. Fortunately, there was another op-ed in the same paper yesterday about promoting multicultural education, so at least that point of view is out there at the same time. I'll write more about the personal losses - what I see as the loss of culture, identity and soul - at a later point.

An interesting coincidence is that I wrote this article, mentioning Bogota's mayor who took offense at the "café helado" sign, a few weeks ago. And then yesterday, I found this article in the New York Times, about how Steve Lonegan - Bogota mayor and immigration opponent - is the brother of Bryan Lonegan, immigration rights activist ... and they are the grandsons of an Italian immigrant. VERY interesting article.

I start a new Spanish teaching position on Friday, and I hope I will still have time to write about the intersection of language, culture, identity and soul ... issues which are all so important to me.

1 comment:

N8Charley said...

it is very interesting to think about the thoughts of losing culture just because you take another language as your own. For instance, I never felt culture-less until I got older and realized, "What traditions come from my ancestors?" Then I realized that my family doesn't participate in many old Italian traditions besides the good old Catholic practices (since my entire family is almost all Roman Catholic).

Then my grandfather, my hardcore Italian grandfather, began having the "seven fishes" on Christmas Eve at his house and my greatgram barely speaks English, so she relies most of her communication through my grandfather whom speaks Italian. I think it was at that moment that I realized, "Why don't I know Italian? Why do I feel like I'm missing a part of me because I don't know it?"

I know I'm not studying Italian. That's mostly because I love Spanish culture and people. Many of my friends are Spanish and their parents came fresh from Spanish-speaking countries and I wanted to fit in when they all talked.

But I DEF understand now that because I took English as my language (not that it was my choice) but I feel like my culture has left me.

BTW: im in your spanish class at montclair. :)