Here’s the dilemma – any language changes over time and can potentially become extinct. It’s part of natural cycle – nothing lasts forever. Yet, when I hear my daughters using English syntax when speaking our native language, it saddens me a lot. I know it’s not their fault that I chose to move to Ireland eight years ago. It’s not their fault that they can’t read and write Latvian properly. After all, we’re living in an English speaking country and they’re completely immersed in English environment.
So tell me – should I be fighting for my national background’s preservation at all costs or should I allow things to take natural course? It’s not impossible that I won’t hear my grandchildren use my native tongue – but then there’s thousands of foreigners in Ireland who choose not to use their native language at home at all!
Well, I don’t think it’s right speaking English at home despite having your own language – you shouldn’t be denying your national identity no matter what. Once you’re born Egyptian, Ukrainian, Spaniard, or Filipino, you’ll always remain as such.
But as for the younger generation… What’s the use of teaching them the native writing and reading if they won’t use it anyway? They can speak with their parents and relatives in the native tongue – fair enough! But why would I want my children to be able to use our language fully? They read and write English only anyway!
These are the questions I can’t give a definite answer to. My mind tells me one thing, but my heart tells me quite the opposite…
On one hand I have the long and bloody history of my small nation. Throughout centuries Latvians have endured slavery under the heel of bigger nations and still maintained native language – which is quite an achievement. There are small nations who’ve lost their languages after being invaded by other countries and subsequently forced to speak the conquering nation’s language.
For instance, Irish people were forcefully made to speak English and as a result, these days the native Irish – Gaeilge – is spoken as first language just by a small fraction of Ireland’s population.
On the other hand there’s the practical side of the issue. If English is the main language in the society we’re living in, why not fully embrace it and put all the worries aside?
Let’s face it – even I’m not reading Latvian books anymore for a good number of years simply because my favourite authors are either British or American. I’m totally surrounded by English speaking media – Internet, newspapers, radio and so on. I’m speaking English at work; my kids speak English at school and with their friends, so why not let nature take its natural course?
After all, isn’t everything on the world changing? Languages do become extinct just as animal and plant species – but isn’t it all just part of nature if we look at it at a grand scale? We humans naturally tend to be emotionally attached to what we have and what we regard as an inseparable part of our identity – it’s crucial to our survival as individuals. But hasn’t the ever changing modern world brought about some new concepts in our lives that should make as re-evaluate the old values?
In olden times dwindling native language speakers would more likely indicate physical extinction of the native people. Either you spoke the language of the conquering nation or you were prosecuted and punishment was often lethal.
Nowadays it’s all about economical and social necessities. I can be as big patriot of my nation and my language as I want, but I still need to speak English on a daily basis once I chose to be part of the English speaking society. And it’s even more of that for my children because all their friends are Irish. Wouldn’t I rob part of their childhood if I forced them to spend hours on practicing their native language’s writing, reading, and grammar and so on? And bear this in mind – this knowledge would be no good to them anyway because they won’t USE it in real life anyway!
After all – isn’t the purpose of any language to serve as means of communication within the family and community? Well, once we don’t write letters to each other but simply speak like normal people, why would my kids’ native language needs surpass the spoken level? Their community language is English – so once they speak Latvian with their parents I should be happy about the way things are, shouldn’t I?
Lately I’ve come to a realization that by being overly concerned about my language’s survival in an English speaking society I’m just being hypocritical. If I want to be patriot I can go back to my home country and speak Latvian all day long with everyone. Once I chose to come to another country – stop whining! Embrace the new life fully and even if your grandchildren speak English only – so be it!
What’s your take on this?
Share it with me in the comments below!
P.S. Would you like to find out why I’m highlighting some of the text in red? Read this article and you’ll learn why it’s so important to learn idiomatic expressions and how it will help you to improve your spoken English!
P.S.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out my English Harmony System HERE!