Why you shouldn’t let others decide what language is most important
When I was a teenager, I remember vividly of people at school asking me, “What language are you speaking to each other? It sounds like you are fighting!” Trust me, that did not feel like a compliment.
Fast forward a few years, I am sitting in my university classroom and I am told “Wow! You speak mandarin! That’s the language of the future! I wish I could speak Chinese too!” I was surprised that within a few years time, the perception around the Chinese language changed so dramatically. I mean, the language itself and the way it sounds did not change much.
So what changed? I suspect the fast economic growth of China and its increased leverage in the global economy was the main cause for this change in perception.
I must confess I wasn’t always proud of my Taiwanese heritage and comfortable with speaking mandarin around other people. I was afraid if people would hear me speaking this strange sounding language, they would think I am like the ‘other’ Chinese people, with the prejudices around what it is to be ‘Chinese’. I won’t go into details about what these are but I can tell you they are rather negative.
So what is my point here? My point is, don’t let the outside world be the judge of what language is more “important” and what language you should teach your child. The truth is, there is no such thing as one language being more important than another.
Even if your language is not as widely spoken, it is still important for you and your child’s identity. Think about the language as a way to access the identity and culture that defines who you are and where you (or your ancestors) come from.
Today, I am extremely grateful to be able to speak Mandarin and teach it to my son Leo. Not only has it opened doors to my professional life, but it has also been crucial to (re)defining my identity and provide a whole different way of thinking about the world. After all, language is much more than just a communication tool. It represents a way of thinking, a culture and a set values that is unlike any other.
What language did you chose to teach your child? What does it mean to you to teach him or her that language? Please let me know in the comment below.
Torn between two languages that you would like to teach your child? Check out my post with simple strategies you could teach your child both languages.