In early December 2013, a middle school principal in Texas was told to take leave after announcing on the intercom of the entire school that Spanish was no longer allowed to be spoken in classrooms (doesn’t Texas have a lot of Spanish speakers?). According to the Huffington Post, the community of Hempstead (near Houston) is totally in favor of all cultures and of diversity. So far, this particular incident hasn’t incited too much madness, but no matter how much I read the news, this kind of thing still gets to me.
I constantly wonder why we aren’t, as a pretty intelligent species, over certain things. Trying to ban a language from an educational institution is completely ridiculous and reminds me that some folks still need to learn basic empathy and logic. This level of ignorance and close-mindedness is startling.
Part of this kind of boxed in mentality could be due in part to only adhering to one language, in this case American English. Only knowing one language leads to only really understanding one culture, and only having one angle by which to analyze and digest said other societies. Even brilliant folks with only one language in their brains lack extremely useful communication tools. The act of really committing to the study of another language involves not only the mechanics but the feeling of that language.
I’ve experienced first hand the feeling of not knowing a language, and that can be tough. I can see how alienating that can be, and how protecting one’s own language bolsters the individual identity (although in a mostly negative way). Language barriers become cultural barriers become people being asshats to one another. Really, learning another language strengthens that tongue and is a nice tip of the hat to a whole bunch of folks.
I’m not saying you have to force your face into a grammar book, but knowing the basics at least of any other language should be classified as a useful skill (one that’s been devalued in the states a great deal). Sure, you can’t engineer a spaceship with a language, but being open to other cultural communication tools will probably make you less likely to drop that spaceship’s laser bombs on other countries willy-nilly. In this case, knowledge is not power, but communicative empathy.
Anyone trying to silence one or more languages at an institution (or anywhere) is negating cultural development. Every language on this weird planet is infused with years of rad stuff that can only help individual and collective humans in the quest to not be dicks to each other. The Texas principal, and anyone who still clings to that level of ignorance, has to be educated and shown how being a linguistic citizen of the earth (rather than one isolated place) is valuable.
So yeah, citizens of the Internet, try and dig on another language if you haven’t already. Then travel to practice that language, and enjoy the benefits of opening up your cultural brain. It may never make you money, but it’ll broaden your wealth of experience (and if you’re single, your dating pool). Whatever the reason, it’s awesome to feel welcome in other places, and extend that feeling to all kinds of other folks you encounter here and there.