Wednesday, October 30, 2013

"Why do I have to study English, Mum?"

It is one of the good questions my daughter asked me once. She is 14 years old, studying English at a private Jr. high school. She took the entrance exam and was accepted a year ago. When she entered the school, she was full of enthusiasm to learn English which she had been exposed as soon as she was born by her mum, myself. As soon as she became 5, we started going abroad and enjoyed our adventure in a different country. In Vaucouver Canada, Hawaii, Alaska, Australia and Guam we travelled on ourselves on a tour or visit my friends living there. She played with some of local kids and joined some of local summer programs for kids as well. She had no fear of speaking English in spite of her low English proficiency. Her speaking ability wasn't so bad as a Japanese kid who had never lived overseas. But her strongest skill in the second language learning is her low anxiety in communicating in English with locals. She developed an excellent non-verbal communication skill via exploring the foreign cities and being exposed to the local cultures.

So, when she marched into English education at the school, I didn't imagine she would ask this question, "Why do I have to study English?". In fact, I was quite offended by this inquiry of hers because I felt that my identity as a bilingual was questioned as well. I didn't answer well at that time. But later she started hating English as a school subject due to the miserable test scores she kept on getting at school. Finally, last semester, she became the worst three students in English and she asked me this question again. This time, I tried to answer her question sincerely because she looked desperately in need to hear my answer.

Here is what I said to her:

I didn't want you to abandon possibilities to take a part in the growing global village where no country boundaries, no ignorant discrimination towards race, nationality, gender, social status, education background and other measures that people used to have due to the lack of accurate information. But I am also aware of the pitfall of the so-called global village where developed and economically dominating countries exploit developing countries via using their cheap labour and products. Losing unique and outstanding cultural identities including the staple diet, the language and regional rituals would be a great loss for the multi-national world with numerous cultural heritages for the future generations. But taking a part in the global village would be better than isolating ourselves in the rapidly changing multi-cultural society. Because I believe that we evolve by adjusting to the changes and learning something new under a new environment. If we stop evolving, the humanity won't survive. And whether you like it or not, English has become a global language and it is one of the most useful tool to have as a communication with as many people as possible under the current circumstance. The status as a dominant language that English has might change as the global economics changes.  But for our generation, such a big change would less likely happen. So, considering the global current circumstance, it is my responsibility, as a mum, as a facilitator of learning for you, a guardian of your future to tell you the potentials of learning this dominant language, English. It is just a potential and it is you who open many doors by using the language as the key. Please remember that you have so many potential abilities to lead a life that you feel proud and love. It is possible to join the global circle to make things better for you and your children without learning English. But equipped with a good English proficiency get you in without so much hustle.  Besides, the way  English is studied at school is just one way. It is not at all the one and only way. In fact, there are so many ways that you may have difficulties to find the most suitable one for you. So, it is too early to stop exploring now and conclude that you don't need to learn English just because a way of studying the language is not suitable for you. Give English a chance to represent your own mind and soul. Once you acquire one more way to speak your own mind, it surely will enrich and empower your presence on this planet.

This is the answer from me to my daughter but I can't tell anyone who ask this good question in any other way.

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