I was born and grew up in an intercultural environment. My mother tongue is English Creole and Spanish is my second language. I also understand Miskito (fairly), which is one of the native indigenous languages in Nicaragua. Miskito is a Misulmapan language, which along with Sumo and Matagalpan, comprises this linguistic family. It is spoken by almost 150,000 people in the North and South Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua and the eastern coast of Honduras, both Central American countries.
This week as we embrace the celebration of mother languages I would like you to think of any a scenario where you were afraid to speak your language? Often we hear that just Standard English should be spoken among us. But wait, let’s stop here. Who has the right or audacity to decide this? I think there is no such thing.
English is the most accessible language due to globalization. It is also mentioned that it is the most studied language and probably 20% of the world speaks it. Regardless of these figures, there are no such things that there is just one English language that everyone should speak.
Years ago, I travelled to the United States of America to visit my family. One day while shopping and paying my bill, I was asked by the cashier: Where are you from? I said: Where do you think I am from? She replied: From Africa or Jamaica. So, I said, from both. Her expression said it all, confusion. I did not clarify it because it is not right that as a human being you always got to give an explanation. My answer was not rude since my ancestors are from both places as the cashier later acknowledged.
Yes, as soon as I open my mouth, that question is often asked. I do not get intimidated anymore because I think that language shapes, defines who we are and how we act, it is a social interaction tool.
I am proud to speak my English Creole, which has given me the opportunity to understand the syntactic of other languages and have a better approach to Standard English which is like my passport to communicate when I travel. I insist that parents play an important role to teach children their mother language.
No language is correct or incorrect. Languages are part of communities. “We do language,” as Toni Morrison said.