Friday, 14 September 2012

Growing Interest in Ukrainian Language Classes

With all the recent political discussions around Ukraine's new language policy, it is interesting to me when people pop little discussion issues on your lap.  Just as recently as Sunday, a person asked whether Calgary is hosting Ukrainian language classes for Adults again.  Then another person sent me information about one Alberta community's Ukrainian Language Classes - and wow was I floored.  Can you imagine that there are (to date) 59 adults registered in their Ukrainian language program?  With that number of people registering, they are now needing a few more teachers!

So, what is happening?  Well, I have a theory.  When I was studying language acquisition theory in university (yes there was such a course in the olden days), one of the points that caught my attention was the issue of assimilation.  Turns out that the first new Canadians try so hard to acclimatize themselves to the new English language and culture that there is scant time to think.  Then their children get the notion that their ancestral language is of less value (and I suppose it is for a short time when you need to speak English well at work and school).  So the children are not encouraged to maintain the language, they grow up and then they are in a quandry.  With "old" people modeling the "old" language, and the "younger" people developing less fluency, the "youngest" people almost have no options.  Either they look for a community of language models, or they lose their opportunities to acquire their ancestral language.  (Well at least that is the theory in shorthand.)

So, now I understand.  The generations of Canadians who worked hard to establish themselves, gain employment,"fit in" in Canadian society, did their best.  Then their children tried to respect their "elder" tongue.  But their grandchildren, upon their early retirement years, who probably never had a chance to better their linguistic fluency, now have the time and desire to "catch up".  Bravo for them!  Bravo for programs which foster ancestral languages!  Bravo for leaders who recognize and honor this "pent up" desire to reconnect with "home" (including geneology).

Our most tender feelings, our earliest prayers, our folklore, traditions and our subconscious-most vulnerable selves are captured in the language of our earliest homelife.  The "net" of understandings creates who we are, at the very beginnings of who we are.  It is said, that there is no sweeter sound than the "mother's tongue".

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