Sunday, March 20, 2011

Aqui estoy … con ingles

It honestly surprises me how many people in Peru are working on learning English. It really shouldn’t, having studied linguistics and teaching ESL and learning about English as a power language, but it still does. I’m conflicted about this in several ways. First, I feel lucky and blessed to have been born a US citizen and to speak English natively. Second, while I believe bilingualism is an asset for anyone and learning another language can provide opportunities, I don’t think English as a global language will have all positive ramifications. When one language (or anything else for that matter) becomes prized above others so that those equally good others, each with their own benefits, are being rejected. It’s sad to me to hear about parents who raise their children to speak only English and not their heritage language. This is of course a touchy issue and everyone has their own personal reasons for choosing the languages they do.

The awkward part of this for me of late is when people ask to practice their English with me. I do want to help them because I am grateful to the many people who have borne with me as I learn Spanish. I do not, however, feel comfortable helping every person who asks me… like the bookstore employee, or the guy outside the bank. I feel privileged to be a native speaker and would like to help but am not comfortable arranging to meet random people I don’t know. But nor do I feel nice outright rejecting them. I’m not sure how to handle such requests (nor am I sure I’m expressing my thoughts on the whole topic clearly).

Thoughts anyone? I’d love to hear them.

1 comment:

  1. We're enjoying your blog, Rebecca! As to your question about giving English lessons to all who ask--makes us think about being in East Africa years ago when we were constantly approached for money. We knew we couldn't begin to help everyone, so we focused on just a few for whom we though we might make a small difference. Made it easier to say a polite "no" to the rest. Might work for you there?