Monday, March 21, 2011

Preserving Language and Culture

Yet another reaction paper.  I find that I have a lot to say when my opinion is solicited.                        

Preserving Language and Culture
When considering information about culture, I find that I am very protective.  I want culture and language to be preserved and protected.  I do not feel that one nation, language, or culture is superior over another, and I am quickly offended by others who project any sense of superiority.  I want others to embrace my philosophy, but I am not sure how I got here, so that could be a problem. 
In considering Hornberger’s article Language Policy, Language Education, Language Rights:  Indigenous, Immigrant, and International Perspectives, I found some of the statics alarming and sobering.  She pointed out that “many indigenous languages around the world [are] in danger of disappearing because they are not being transmitted to the next generation,” and I find this fact in itself something to ponder on.  Our young people are being robbed of their culture, and this in turn, is being replaced by another part of culture, merging and blending until the former language and culture is gone.  “For example, of the 175 indigenous languages still extant in the United States, only 20 are being transmitted as child languages” (Hornberger pg. 441), and this is alarming.
Some of the trouble comes from law makers and administrators who are predominantly Anglo, and who make statements such as “languages other than English are ‘perfectly acceptable…[but only] as long as they are mediated through individuals and not communities…they should be confined to the private sector’” (Hornberger pg. 447).   Or other issues such as this example that speaks directly to policy “educational policies and practices…of treat the Cambodian students’ native language as a problem rather than a resource, and provide few opportunities for these students to practice and learn the literacy skills needed to become ‘literate insiders’ in the United States’” (Hornberger pg. 448).  I do not know Cambodian, but I am so drawn to the plight of these students.  I would find a way to communicate, reciprocate, and help them become fluent in English (if that was their goal and desire).
In the United States, we want to talk about what a culturally rich, diverse, and accepting country we are, but that is not true.  We are scared.  Anything different is too terrifying to be accepted.  We try to eliminate what is different and made everyone the same.  That is a scary concept.  Hornberger stated “the whole notion of language minority has more to do with power than numbers, anyway,” (pg. 453) and that is so true.  There is power when there is control, but it is not our job as humans to exert power and control over one another.
Hornberger argues “there is also consistent and completing evidence that language policy and language education serve as vehicles for promoting the vitality, versatility, and stability of these languages, and ultimately of the rights of their speakers to participate in the global commi9nity on, and in, their own terms,” (pg. 455) and I agree.
When we speak of education reform, we are speaking of so much, but there are some basic concepts that cover so much.  If we are supporting children and families where they come from, identify their goals, help them grow to where they want to become –without erasing their identity- we have become a nation to be proud of, but not until then. 
Hornberger, N.  (1998).  Language policy, language education, language rights:  indigenous,        immigrant, and international perspectives.     Cambridge University Press.