Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Talking about the Legacy

I really shouldn't be writing this post now because I have so much to do, but I have just had a very frustrating day (the details of which shall not now burden the reader) and I need to take a break from it all.

One of the e-mails in the In Box was a Call For Papers on teaching students whose primary language is not English.

I frequently get Calls for Papers. Most of them are of no interest to me, but I have been known to submit some, and have made a few presentations at conferences (including one within the past six months).

I have no professional interest in this latest Call of Papers. What I did notice, however, was the use of the term "legacy speakers" to refer to people in America whose language preference is not English.

I remember my grandparents and parents conversing in Yiddish (which my own generation eventually picked up) and other languages from the old countries when they really, really, did not want the younger generation to understand the conversation. But even though my grandparents were born over there and English was their second (or third) language, they each had an excellent command of English (albeit with a heavy accent).

And while only one of my grandparents managed to graduate high school, and none of them attended college (though my grandfather did pass the entrance exam to an Ivy League school), all four of them could read and understand the fine English literature, the daily newspapers, and even a few specialized technical writings.

But in my parents' and grandparents' day, conversancy in one's ancestral language was never an excuse for a resident of the United States to not be conversant and literate in English. Today, there are fewer incentives for people in America whose first language is not English (present in the country legally or otherwise) to learn English.

I have no objection to people being conversant and literate in the languages of their parents and grandparents. Millions of Americans of diverse backgrounds are. There is nothing wrong with taking pride in one's ethnic and linguistic heritage.

But I am very conspiracy-minded, and somehow, I suspect that the term "legacy speaker" is part of some grand plot to excuse people in America from learning English, and leaving America all the more vulnerable to a takeover by various and sundry hostile elements.

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