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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Language Immersion - a Lost Art ?

I watch in silent disbelief as a couple talk to their child in English. Not that there's anything wrong with English, but the fact that they do, made me shake my head.

The couple are both Filipinos {like me} who speaks fluent Filipino dialect. "Why are they talking to their child in English?" Don't they value their heritage, their language? Enough to teach their child a foreign language rather than theirs? "What gives?"

In my 6 years of living in the US, 95% of Filipinos I know especially those married to fellow Filipino and speaks fluent Filipino language, rears their child speaking only the English language or knows a few words of their parents' native language or not at all. It continues to baffle me as to why this is a common phenomena amongst Filipinos living abroad.

In my case, I'm married to an American which made immersion a rather tricky task for me. It was agreed after debating, that we'll establish English as our daughters' first language since I'm outnumbered anyway. Two to one. At this point, my daughter can banter with me in my language. It's still a work in progress but I'm delighted with the result of my efforts.

Why then is it too difficult for others to pass on their heritage? I personally, don't want mine to end with me. I want my daughter to carry on my heritage and legacy after I'm long gone. It will be a gift she can be proud of.

So, I continue to seek the answer. Just recently, I came across a Filipina with a Filipina mom and American dad. She only speaks English. She is married to a Filipino who speaks fluent Filipino dialect and they have a daughter, who only speaks English as well. I quizzed her why she never learned the Filipino dialect. Her and her Filipina Mom both replied that "her dad forbid it!" I was shocked. I thot it was selfish and cruel. For whatever reason her mom decided not to oppose it, I will never want to know. What about her daughter? I'm beyond puzzlement.

Another Filipina lady I spoke with who have Filipino parents told me that she regretted the fact that her parents never taught her their language. She said that "she'll never understand why they didn't"... That she would have loved it if she knew the language.

These are just few of the many Filipinos I have encountered who are encased in this phenomena. I really don't understand why. Is it the lack of self-esteem rooted in our dysfunctional culture? The hunger to belong and be accepted? Or simply blinded by our own pride?

In comparison, I've noted that Chinese, Indians {from India}, other Asians, even Hispanics have a very strong adherence to keeping their heritage intact as evident in their kids. Why can't we be like them?

Answers still escapes me. I may never know. I will always wonder...

** If you have any comments or opinion in this subject matter, feel free to voice it out. I might just find the answers through you!


Gena said...

I totally agree. What a blessing it is to have a "heritage", why waste it?

My nephew married a Filipino/American girl. She doesn't speak the language and it's not taught to her children. Her mother only speaks it when family from overseas visits. Sad.

doshimaitri said...

It is not so that we should not follow our heritage as it is the first gift which reminds us of our culture, but to speak other languages is not a wrong thing. Yes the child should also be taught our language and made aware of it, but according me those who value education needs to be aware of facts and not the emotions. According to the present scenerio every one should be a part of Language immersion programme so to be aware of what is happening outside as well as within our country ofcourse not at the cost of our heritage.

Aleta said...

Thanks for visiting my blog. I have the feeling that my brother and sister-in-law will teach their children both languages. I certainly hope so. My brother is a history person and he started quizing his wife on American history. I told Roda, my sister-in-law, "Make sure you quiz him on YOUR heritage too!!"

Jeff said...

Why don't generally Filipinos immerse their kids? I think it's a couple of things: 1) The Philippines don't have centuries long traditions of a single language and identity - no long established sense of "Filipinoness" unlike being Chinese, Korean, or Japanese for example 2) Colonial mentality. 3) many languages combined with the fact that Philippines is an archipelago country.

I talked this about in a blog entry. Check it out and let me know what you think (comment).

Momisodes said...

I agree. My husband is half Caucasian and half Spanish. I'm Chinese. And I wish that my daughter could learn all 3 languages: English, Spanish and Chinese. However, my husband's family never spoke to him in Spanish, and I have very broken Chinese. But we teach here what we can.

Languages are such a gift for children.

ciara said...

my mom came to the states in the late 60s not having any family or friends here. my dad was gone a lot since he was in the navy. my mom didn't want us to have a hard time so she always spoke to us in english. at one time, my brother and i both knew visayan and english, but we lost it right around the time i started kindergarten :-/ trust me, i wish i was bilingual, but i understand why my mom did what she did.

Personalized Sketches and Sentiments said...

Kumusta!...(just one of the few Tagalog words/phrases I know) I also wish I was fluent...

My mom also married an American...We left the Philippines when I was 3 (I spoke Tagalog then), when my dad got assigned to Massachusetts. partly it was the times...I was to start kindergarten by age 4, so my mom felt that it would be hard for me dad didnt speak my mom's language fluently... and although we lived on a military base...there were few, if any others from the Philippines...

My husband is 4th (generation born in Hawaii) Portuguese, and his family also did not keep their language up with his generation. His parents spoke a little to their parents. otherwise, it was the English or the Pidgin English (mix of different cultures) of the islands.

So, I dont feel that it was the lack of interest or pride, laziness, or embarassment on the part of my mom... I would have loved to say that I speak her dialect and/or Tagalog... but like Ciara, I also understand.

Blessings & aloha!
(I peeked in over here and will be going back to your other blog...but had to comment, since this is a topic I am interested in).