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Is English Language Taking Over?

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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!

Robby

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!

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Thanks for pointing out the typo, much appreciated! 😉

  • john

    Embrace the new ”live”. Life?

  • Thanks for commenting Juhapekka!

    This whole thing is a stick with two ends – one one hand, it’s only right to remember your roots and try and raise your children so that they’re aware of their ancestry etc.; on the other hand there are day-to-day duties and responsibilities and it’s all too easy to forget to make that extra effort.

    Moreover, trying to raise your kids in a way they’d fully retain their own language in both spoken and written form, for example, is almost impossible if you want them to fully integrate within the local society.

    You just wouldn’t have enough time to maintain such a lifestyle – I mean, you’d have to dedicate a lot of time as a parent to do so, plus the child would have to spend extra time on top of their daily activities which would inevitably lead to one thing only – DISLIKING their own language because it would be forced upon them…

    Instead, I’m trying my best to use proper and correct Latvian whenever we’re speaking with each other, and to be fair – their Latvian is better than that of some of their peers here in Ireland. It’s obvious which parents talk to their children and which don’t – resulting in a rapid decline of those little Latvian conversation skills that the child had when arriving here all those years ago.

    As far as written Latvian goes – well, they just don’t have those skills, but then again – they don’t need them. They’re fully integrated here, and they don’t see their future in our homeland which isn’t a homeland for my kids anymore in reality.

    Yes, it’s kind of sad, but the point I’m making in this article is – it’s just reality.

    You can only do so much by trying to remain who you are in terms of your national background; the rest is taken care of by time; a couple of generations on – and I don’t think any of my great-grandchildren are going to speak Latvian (unless, of course, I’m going to make it my sacred duty to visit my daughters’ families every weekend and teach Latvian to their grandchildren! Sure enough, it’s not unrealistic, but the larger question here is – how REALISTIC is it to maintain such a dedication?)

  • Juhapekka Salmela

    The discussion is two years old but I comment it anyway. The issue is quite complex and difficult. It’s like the practicality of English versus the emotionally attachments of our native languages. It’s also natural for languages to change and become extinct, that’s true, but these natural properties don’t mean it should be so or it would be a good thing. Such conclusion would be naturalistic fallacy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naturalistic_fallacy or it’s inconsistent with Hume’s Guillotine http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Is-ought_problem. That’s why no one can use the natural properties as an excuse to justify the extinction of languages. But human has tendency to natural fallacies and it can be very harmful also in the case of languages. English speakers also are tempted to not care anything about smaller languages or even about their own native languages. There are good reasons why you should preserve your own native language for yourself, your children and your grandchildren and so on: our own native languages reflect our cultural, historical and spiritual knowledge in a unique way,
    multilingualism enriches our thoughts and also multilingualism may protect against brain diseases and so on.
    But however it’s difficult to get both: to live in English speaking environment, to embrace English completely and in the same time to teach your native language to your own children so well that even your grandchildren can speak the language fluently. I understand it well.

  • Hi Aivar,nnThanks for your comment! Personally I have no remorse having moving to Ireland and having made my future here – it’s the Latvian language I was discussing in this article.u00a0nnYou see – if the currentu00a0demographicu00a0and economic trends continue our language may indeed become extinct within the next 100 – 150 years, and the questions arises – should anything radical done about this?nnSome might say we should do all we can to maintain our national spirit and pass on our traditions, language etc. to our children. I think that while to some extent it’s realistic, it’s not possible to maintain something artificially, at the end of the day people will chose to do what’s more practical for them.u00a0nnFor instance, if my daughters marry Irishmen, their children may actually not get enough chance to learn Latvian properly – not to mention their grandchildren. I may not like it, and Latvian patriots may scorn such a situation, but it’s just natural. Languages develop, live and also become extinct, and that’s just something people have to put up with.u00a0nnOf course, it would be sad to see my language speakers reduced below a million in my lifetime, but is there anything I can do about it?

  • Aivars Enkuzens

    I stumbled upon this blog by chance – looking for the ways to improve and finalise my english as a second language. Give no crap about feeling guilty for not speaking Latvian – you are a lucky man being given a chance to live in english speaking environment! This is what I hope and dream to be doing some day.nPS Esmu letiu0146u0161 Robert gribu lu012bdz galam angleni piedzu012bt. Skatos asv tv seriu0101lus un filmas, lai uzlabotu savu saprau0161aanu angu013cu valodu0101.