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A celebration of languages

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‘Language is a roadmap of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going’ RitaMae Brown (American writer)

Just as individuals identify themselves with a nationality likewise their being with a language. Languages help people associate with cultural, ideological, religious or ethnic characteristics. In today’s global era where impetus is on ‘one world one language,’ it becomes all the more necessary to celebrate languages.

Why do we need to celebrate?

Celebrating a language means paying respect and tribute to our mother tongue, which also raises awareness about one’s culture, history which is linked to our origin. Somebody has also said- a different language, a different vision of life.This is so true.  People view things in different ways depending on the specific language they are operating in.

It’s important to mark a day to celebrate as a cultural ritual for it will act as a reminder for generations to come and give a sense of holding on to one’s heritage. For that matter UN language days are celebrated, to inform, raise awareness and pay respect for the history, culture and achievements of the six working languages among the UN community.

Having grown up amidst a gamut of vernacular language and acquiring foreign language at the same time has been of big advantage to me. Having acquired a world language changes people’s perception of you. I also observed monolinguals specially those speaking language of wider acceptance e.g., English seem to adopt condescending attitude towards those who have other language as their mother tongue and have to acquire a foreign language (English). The social dilemma of not being good at one language can rob the world from the richness of multicultural and pluralistic society. It could push many languages into endangered category.

Teaching language all these years has added to my knowledge of learner problems and made me more patient and a good listener. It is emotionally rewarding and fulfilling to see students learn a language without having any prior knowledge of it. Nothing can match the sheer joy of teaching and impacting lives of those to whom learning languages matter.

Languages define our expressions, identity, imagination and emotional release. It is pervasive in most fundamental domains of thought, unconsciously shaping us from the nuts and bolts of cognition and perception. For example, Chinese when describing their self in English would express positive self-statements and moods. When responding in Chinese, they’d be more in agreement with their values and have a mix of positive and negative self-statements and moods. Their language use literally shaped how they thought of themselves.

Celebrating languages in the classroom

As educators celebrating languages in the classroom can offer learners a much needed spectrum of cultural awareness, an appeal to respect, to regard and appreciate the cultural diversity and differences on the planet. This in turn can engender tolerance and foster humanistic values and sensibilities.

The lessons become more authentic, interesting and engaging. Learning about other cultures, languages, religions, and holidays aside from their own will help children learn that their classmates may be different in the way they live, learn and believe and that it is absolutely normal. It is important for learners  to overcome stereotypes to explore and discover the global socio-cultural fabric.