Some people’s world view is a wee bit too narrow for my tastes, and my blood pressure.
Yesterday an advice column in a newspaper dealt with a question from a concerned grandmother. Her DIL spoke perfect English, but spoke some other language first. DIL was teaching her baby this tongue and grandma feared baby was being isolated from the rest of the family.
Umm grandma, your son and pretty much everyone else speaks English to the kid. Baby will hear it on the radio, the television, out on the street, and everywhere else. You have nothing to fear except being found intellectually wanting. The kid is going to have a great advantage in that s/he’ll be bilingual.
Maybe there’s hope for grandma, but I doubt it. I’ve heard too many people express something similar.
Back in the early 1980s I found myself in a bar in Athens in the wee hours having a few drinks with some people from Norway. Thankfully, they spoke English. They learn it in school along with several other tongues. It serves them well when they travel, especially when they’re conversing with some poor critter whose only tongue is English.
I was fascinated and more than a little ashamed when I heard about education in Europe as compared with ours.
We think English is the only language we have to know and it would be best if everyone would just learn it already so we can talk.
A year or so later I moved to a small town in Central Alberta where French was viewed with suspicion.
The common view of French: Okay, it’s Canada’s other official language, but nobody speaks it out here so why should we force our kids to learn it?
It’s the international language of commerce, we argue. It’s them furriner’s what talk funny that have to change, not us.
When I moved to Rocky 20 years ago a French Immersion program had just started at an elementary school. A local woman insisted at a public meeting that the kids would “lose their English.”
No amount of reassurance that they spoke it at home and virtually everywhere else except school eased her fear.
When you study a foreign tongue you don’t lose your first language, you gain a second. This woman went on to serve on the local school board for a few years. I’m pleased to report the French Immersion Program is still thriving today.
Years ago I tried to teach myself German. I got along okay and could even read children’s stories. I reached my goal of being able to read Die Wichtelmänner (The Shoemaker and the Elves) in German.
I discovered that it made me think more carefully how I expressed myself. I spoke better English for having learned some German.
Being bilingual or multilingual is an asset, not a detriment. I won’t win any argument with narrow-minded uniliguals, but I can say this to them with a certain satisfaction:
Scher dich zum Teufel.
The Last Kind Words Saloon
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