Whenever I go back to Pakistan, I have a really hard time adjusting to my home country. Even more than the hot weather and the annoying little cousins, I despise the fact that my family still treats me like a foreigner. Pakistan is the last place I want to be seen as the “other” in. I already get enough of the immigrant stares in Toronto and the gringo bullshit in my other travel destinations.
What irritates me the most is the fact that people feel obligated to only speak with me through English even though I understand and speak my native languages fluently. Just because I live in the West does not mean that I’ve completely let go of my culture and language.
Speaking English does not make you cool. I’m not sure what planet you have been living on but English was the language of the majority of our colonizers. If I ever had the choice of learning another language for English, I would trade in a heartbeat. I mean, have you heard Farsi?? Spanish?? Urdu?? The only reason I teach English is to re-own what was taken from us through the same measures. We were colonized in English so I free myself through the language my colonizers understand. I will reach their level of success through their medium.
It’s a shame, as a person who can communicate in multiple languages, I vastly excel in English the most. I live in Canada, I study English in university, and I work as a writer, also in English, so it makes sense why English has become my strongest verbal weapon.
Nonetheless, I speak my native languages and practice the new ones I’m learning along the way whatever chance I get.
I tell my students, in every class, to never let English make you feel inferior. There is no difference between a doctor who studied in English and a doctor who studied in Portuguese. I do not care about your language when I am in need of medical help; just do good medicine.
English is only a way to keep up with globalization. Just to find ease in travel and international partnerships. All languages are important. But your language is the most important. Language amplifies culture, and the minute you forget your native language, your culture will start to slip out of your fingers as well.
There is no reason to look down at someone who does not speak English; take it from someone who had to learn it from scratch 10 years ago, it’s very difficult when you are bombarded with words in a classroom and you never feel comfortable putting your hand up because you wouldn’t know how to ask the question in the first place. Speaking English does not equate intelligence.
Likewise, there is no reason to look up or feel intimidated by someone who is a native speaker. A practiced language comes with two elements: passion and placement. One can have the passion to learn and even practice listening through media but fluency only comes through constant interaction with the lingual culture. When we learn a new language, there is passion but the element of placement is often difficult or sometimes impossible to achieve based on where you live. So, comparing your level to the level of someone from the native placement is illogical.
It seems a lot of people are still confused as to what I’ve been doing in Brazil for almost two months. Well, this is to clear that all up.
I teach students of all levels. Eleven year olds in an intermediate level to 25 year olds at the beginner stage. It’s difficult to find a middle ground considering the fact that I cannot discuss politics with children and I cannot review the colours of the rainbow with adults.
Teaching English in Franca, more than anything, has taught me this: that it is okay to learn the new, as long as you don’t let go of the you.