David L Fertig
Multilingualism: The Key of Identity
What will happen if United States declare its official language as English? Will the country continue to accept immigrants afterward? It will probably be the end of the long history of the immigration in the country. It will need additional one or two generations to fully shift their languages to English. What about the legal U.S. citizens immigrated to this country and have continued to use their mother language until today? Do they have to switch their language to English regardless of their own long history in this country? Why do they have to do so? Additionally, it will have to solve numerous problems related to the issue of multilingualism in order to be monolingual. Rejecting to be multilingual will mean in rejecting to be America. Immigrants do not need to shift their language to English as quickly as possible, yet their culture and language should be treated with respect and integrated rather than assimilated into American society.
The personal view toward multilingualism and bilingualism was pessimistic when I first came to this country. When my family and I had immigrated to this country, eight years ago, none of the members of the family were fluent in English. We spent a fair amount of time to prepare for the immigration and to practice English beforehand to the immigration. I however found myself hard to fully adapt into American culture with a low level of understanding English. I tried to learn English as quickly as possible. For solution, I tried to use English as much as possible, even intentionally using English at home while my parents were speaking mother language. At that period, I did not see any value in using mother language other than communicating with parents at home. All of my focus was to switch my primary language to English and this view lasted through my freshman year in college.
The personal view of anti-multi and bilingualism brought me to a dead end. When I just became a college student, my eagerness of shifting to English as my primary language was stronger than ever. The eagerness finally caused a confusion in my identity. It was the moment that I realized that I was in the middle of both languages without falling into a fluent level in neither of them. It was sure that continuing what I was doing with my language would bring me further confusion in both of my identity and language. The vocabulary and speaking skill towards any of the two languages were not in good shapes nor better than one another. Richard, the owner of Corporation as well as my father, said during the interview, "I was confused" as he explained his experience. It was not my unique case, but others too. Finding the solution, I took a time off for the first time since I came to this country and went back to the mother country for better understanding of my identity.
One year after the return to the United States, my personal view towards bilingualism was changed. Spending three years in mother country, I have fully found my identity and learned better vocabulary and skills of the mother language. It was surprisingly much easier to learn English after I better understood my mother language. From the lesson, I learned that learning English did not always require to give up primary language. Shifting to English as quickly as possible was not always the solution for the immigrants in this country. Will then every immigrant in this country agree with this idea towards multilingualism? It is utmost unlikely.
The American culture is a process of integration not assimilation. The country has been multilingual and has developed from embracing its sole characteristic established by the immigrants who came and created this country for better life and future. Unlike other countries around the world, the United States is the country of immigrants. Kat, the co-Owner of Corportaion as well as my mother, said "Coming to this country made...
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