Holding on to your Heritage

Holding on to your Heritage

Imagine being able to go back and forth between English and another language with ease.  Countries like France require their students to begin learning English in the first grade, due to the advantages knowing a foreign language presents in global industries.  In comparison, according to a 2006 General Social Survey only 25% of American adults say they can speak a second language.

This type of dismissive attitude has led to numerous once-bilingual U.S. citizens losing their grasp on the language they knew that wasn’t English.

Gilliana Tawaran, freshman at Lake Ridge High School, was once able to speak Tagalog and Bicol (dialects from her family’s country of origin, the Philippines).  She credits her loss of the languages to her attitude as a kid.

“When I moved to the U.S., I already knew how to speak English, but my Tagalog and Bicol started to fade away.  I was conforming to what everyone else was doing, and just went with whatever my friends did, and none of them spoke any Filipino languages,” Tawaran said.

Tawaran also expressed regret at the difficulty of having meaningful conversations with her relatives.

“I can still understand most of the language, but I just can’t recall words when it comes to actually speaking them.  I really wish I could have deeper connections with my aunts and uncles, but some of my relatives are still surprised that I have an American accent,” said Tawaran.

Individuals like Tawaran usually acknowledge a combination of both circumstances they cannot help or their own lack of usage.  However, others may willingly abandon a language to “improve” themselves, due to the imposing social needs.

Freshman Sydney Su was fluent in Cantonese at a young age, but felt that her English lacked eloquence at the time.

“When I started school, my classmates thought I was really shy because I never talked.  I could speak English, but it didn’t sound like everyone else’s.  I decided that in order to ever succeed in school and at life, I had to improve my English, but when I did, my Cantonese really suffered,” Su said.

Despite this setback, Su is determined to relearn the language.

“School caused me to lose Cantonese but I guess it’s also giving it back.  Thanks to my Chinese class, I’m becoming proficient in it again, and I’m also learning Korean to broaden my horizons,” said Su.

In choosing to live in the U.S., people may find themselves or their future children in such a situation.  Yet, with well-meaning individuals who seek to appreciate their roots and the increasing national focus on culture, future generations may see this trend end.