This past week Augsburg and Ihouse delivered presentations about the spread of English and Spanish through Imperialism. Students played a game of telephone to demonstrate the importance of communication. Students were told to translate from English to Spanish and vice versa to make the game more difficult. This made students think about the many ways our understanding of a language can affect our ability to connect with others. Some students didn’t understand what was being said and had a hard time translating into another language, others didn’t have any problem. This led into a discussion about how language is important to both Ihouse and Augsburg students.
Students discussed reasons why speaking another language is important to them. Students from Augsburg spoke about the possibilities of learning Spanish; Spanish may open doors in their professions and the ability to communicate with more people around the world. Ihouse students spoke very similarly about the possibilities of learning English. You are also able to learn more about your own language when you learn another language. Learning a new language can open doors to learning about a new culture and you are able to connect with more people.
Students also talked about English spreading and how many languages are being wiped out. Many languages are on the verge of being extinct. Some languages have fewer than five people that speak them, and when languages are wiped out so are cultures that go along with them. Some of these languages are thousands of years old and all the stories passed down from generation will not be communicable if there aren’t people that speak them. Various people in a video shown about languages dying spoke about how they were punished in their schools when they spoke their native tongue and were expected to speak another language. Many of these languages have been used even throughout the effects of imperialism and colonialism and it would be tragic if they died out. This led into a discussion about the spread of English being problematic. Although the spread of English isn’t inherently bad, people being punished for not using English is. The majority of scientists and business people are expected to know English, and may have a hard time getting ahead if they don’t know it, which is unfair. The spread of English isn’t necessarily a negative phenomenon but could hold people back. This makes me question, how do we create a national dialogue on stopping the extinction of languages?