Never Forget Your Mother Language

BY YU JIN
SC Staff Wtiter

I watched a “TED Talk” video online.  Patricia Ryan, an English teacher in Dubai makes a very strong case for how language diversity can contribute to humankind and civilization in her video “Don’t Insist on English.”

I have a few lines that are my favorite quotes below.

“One language disappears every fourteen days in the world!”

“When a language dies, we don’t know what we lose with that language.”

“Mind your language.  Use it to spread your brilliant ideas.”

“If you cannot think a thought, you are stuck.  But if someone speaking in another language has that thought.  Then by cooperating, you can achieve and learn so much more!”

She also mentioned that because of those so-to-speak official English proficiency tests such as TOEFL, IELTS and TOEIC, there are many people in the non-English speaking world missing a chance to exchange great ideas with the English-speaking world.

The testing industry in the western world is creating a huge barrier for brilliant, yet non-English or financially-challenged people, while making big money.

The gatekeepers blocking non-English speaking students in the higher educational institutions become English language ability rather than research skills or academic creativity.  The very first maker of globalization-English-creates this sad and ironic fact in globalized education.

So what should we do?

We, the people who are native speakers and learners of English, need to be open-minded enough to embrace other languages and the knowledge behind them.

Personally speaking, as a bilingual person, I sometimes speak English so much that I resent calling my mom and speaking Chinese with her over the phone.  When this happens, I need to translate to English in my mind first and then speak it out in Chinese to my mother.
The growing fluency of my English hinders my native language, Chinese.

Am I forgetting, or even discarding, my own cultural heritage?  Is that what is happening to me right now?  My physical appearance remains Chinese, but I can sense there are little pieces inside me that are losing their Chinese element.

I never want this to happen.

Because America is a country constructed by its immigrants, it is even more important for every foreign-born citizen to adhere to their cultural identity and traditions.  Being Chinese and American at the same time is fantastic because that is what makes me who I am.

Email Yu at:
yjin@live.esu.edu

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