i’m on my way finishing my sociolinguistics and yeah, that’s when the urge to write is at its explosive level..i have several situations to share, and hopefully get you to thinking..
abang : i know malay language..in fact, i speak to you in malay..ask me any malay words, see if i don’t know its meaning..
mama : i know your vocabulary is good, thanks to mama and papa..because we are the only people around you speaking malay..but i know you couldn’t spell words correctly..let alone knowing the meaning of malay proverbs..ok, what about penjodoh bilangan..do you know what is the penjodoh bilangan for pisang..?
abang : which one is penjodoh bilangan..?give me some clue..i know i knew it..
me : are you a muslim..?*this person attended an islamic function*
she : no i’m not..i come over because i’m interested in all these religious thingy..i’m doing several religious studies courses..
me : ah~alright..are you a kiwi..?
she : technically yeah, because i was born here..but my parents are both from fiji..we’re fijian indian..
me : owh! so you speak gujarati..! owh do you..?or is it hindi..?
she : haha..gujarati..my parents speak gujarati..but no, i don’t speak gujarati..i hate it even more!
me : owh..ok..
me : do you understand how vernacular language differs from national language..?
he : em..em..
me : em, so you’re chinese, right..
he : yep..
me : where are you from..?
he : owh, i was born here..but my parents are from hongkong..
me : cool..so your parents speak cantonese, right..?
he : yep..but they actually speak both..english and cantonese..
me : ok, say cantonese..when your parents speak with their friends from the same community and use cantonese as a medium, they are using vernacular language..because in NZ, cantonese is not the national language..but among your parents and their friends, cantonese is not vernacular because it’s the standard language among them..
he : yep2..but they use english too..not so cantonese though..
me : i was just trying to draw an example..do you speak cantonese..?
he : not really..but i can understand though..because i use english..
-end of situations-
those are the situations where the second generations of immigrants seem to lose their grasp of the mother tongue..i can say, in all three cases, their mother tongue could’ve been english; no longer malay, gujarati or cantonese..and as for situation 2 and 3, it’s even embarrassing for them if people identify them as having a different first language..
i couldn’t put the blame on them because being an immigrant in a foreign land is not as beautiful as some people might imagine it would be..there’s a high tendency of being discriminated if you don’t look like the majority..and there’s a tension of wanting to able to fit in the society..since people could not change their skin colour, they change their language..and with time, they eventually lose their first language..the hypothesis being then, with language lost, a lot MORE of the cultural aspects associated with that particular first language will lose too..
i’ve been learning a lot about various cultures and i’ve seen examples of identity conflicts resulted from negligence of first language..language death is not a new issue and it’s not impossible to happen to our own language..try to embrace and be proud of our language and culture..not that one cannot learn some other languages, just don’t acquire another language for the price of the first language..