Essay Review. The Advantages of Being Bilingual… 1 answer below »

The Advantages of Being Bilingual
The name Caribbean is synonymous with diversity – the people, the language, the land. This is the land of my birth, in Guyana, South America, some 26 years ago. I don’t have much benefit of caring parents beside me because they migrated to the U.S. when I was little, but I am fortunate to have caring grandparents and a wholesome environment, and the benefit of more than one language aside from my native Creoles language which is still spoken at home, with close relatives and childhood friends.
My language has a vast and very interesting history – of mixes, borrowings or loan words from similar and other accompanying languages and dialects of indigenous people. Aside from my native language Creoles, I also understand Hindi, although I speak less of it. Hindi is also my ancestral language, meaning my grandparents and great grandparents also spoke the language along with Creoles, but the latter is predominant in me and at home. As I’ve said, this is the land of diversity. At home in Guyana, we speak Creoles, but we also understand and speak English the way we understand and speak Creoles.
My personal knowledge of my country is that the British came to rule our country, and rule according to my understanding is that they came ashore, mingled with the natives, and inevitably settled and changed our way of life including the language and other means of communication. This could be the reason why we speak British English with Caribbean accent.
On the other hand, I made my own personal research as to history, way of life of the early settlers, or the natives of my country to whom I owe the care and prosperity of my grandparents, great, or great, great grandparents at the time.
Research tells us that the term “Creole” applied to people born in the colonies of European power during the time of European maritime and trade expansion in the 16th century. “Creole language referred to language of the Creole, or those people in the areas of the Caribbean and South America” (Salikoko S. Mufwene, ed. 1993, quoted in Columbia Encyclopedia).
Mufwene (1993, quoted in Columbia Encyclopedia) further adds: “The term creole comes from Portuguese crioulo, via Spanish criollo and French créole. The Portuguese word crioulo is derived from the verb criar (to raise/to bring up), with a suffix of debated origin”.
Moreover, Guyana was “originally a Dutch colony in the 17th century, by 1815 Guyana had become a British possession … Guyana achieved independence from the UK in 1966, and since then it has been ruled mostly by socialist-oriented governments” (Answers Corporation, 2008).
My point here is that with colonization came many changes in the way of life of the settlers along with language and communication. From my childhood up to adulthood, I have settled in many places, and for me this is an advantage rather than a disadvantage.
I am a product of migration and bilingual parents (or perhaps, a multilingual ancestry), but I have been able to take advantage of the situation rather than become a victim (victim because of the disadvantages of being bilingual, and of moving from one country to another, for economic reasons). Alongside African slaves, my great grandparents were brought to the Guyana to be used as indentured servants. That was a long time ago, but to me it is part of a glorious past, and nothing to be ashamed about.
Nevertheless, I was never affected emotionally. In fact, I became stronger and resilient as time went by and as I go from one place to another, seeking for my own place under the sun. I have become interested to accept more and more challenges in life.
What are these challenges? Life itself is a challenge. I have accepted my fate – accepted it wholeheartedly. There are many uncertain things ahead.
What other challenges? Language is a challenge too, a part of my being, that has made me what I am. My native tongue is an interesting mixture of original and some foreign words mixed to make a distinct Creoles language. As a child, I learned to understand what language is all about. Being exposed to more than one language at an early age allows you to appreciate what words and sentences are to people, what communication is all about. I was introduced into the world of words, sentences, phonemes and phonological awareness at an early age, although that’s what a normal person of whatsoever origin should encounter or experience. But distinctly for me, I learned to appreciate and learn language, something like studying it, at that age. There was the innate urge to know the words, to pronounce them and use them in sentences, in communicating with my fellow Creole children and playmates. The Hindi language likewise was something familiar to my understanding, or to my psyche, that when I come to hear the words, they seem easy and beautiful to hear. But the native Creole language is easy, familiar, beautiful, and can never be erased in my subconscious even if English has come to be my usual way of communicating. English, by the way, is the official language of Guyana.
Moreover, aside from appreciating my own language, I learned to appreciate the richness of the English language. Phonological awareness and the rich English phonemes allowed me to distinguish what particular and distinct words are applied to certain situations. I can proudly say that my phonological development has been developed with my migration and settling in the United States of America.
There are numerous words in Creoles that come from my ancestral language Hindi, while others originate from African and indigenous people’s languages. Other words are captivating to my ears because they have been a part of my childhood memories.
English is my second language, but British English with a Caribbean accent. This is due to some historical facts about my country, that it was colonized by the British and of course the language was introduced and consequently affected the people very much. Nevertheless, Creoles remains a predominant language, and it is such a controlling influence in the tongues of native people like me. We speak this at home with grandparents and everyone around.
I was an ESL student at the age of 13 when I moved to join my parents and attended high school in Lakewood High School in California. There was some difficulty on my part as I started to mingle with new friends, and a new environment introduced me into the harsh realities of being a migrant. Having more than one language wasn’t difficult as English is not foreign to me. There are some slight differences in the American English and British English as to application, the mode, and words similar in spelling but different in meaning, and other so-called dialectical differences in the two languages. ESL students encounter too many difficulties aside from learning the usual formal lessons in school. They have to learn and practice oral and written composition, and add more time to the regular student’s time in learning all the other lessons in class, such as Math, Social Studies, etc. On my part, I didn’t have the difficulty to learn foreign language because, as I said earlier, our country is a land of diversity.

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