Sunday, 1 September 2013

Making Baba and Dido Proud in Calgary

Calgary has such a vibrant Ukrainian community!  And there are amazing opportunities for young people to connect and continue their Ukrainian heritage here in Calgary!   Where to find opportunities for your child to continue being Ukrainian in Calgary? 

A part of the immigrant experience involves cultural and linguistic adaptation to a new country and a new way of life.  Sociologists say the first generation of foreign speakers lose their language at a huge rate in the process of acquiring a new one.  Though families wish to retain ties with their homeland, if only for the family connection, the pursuit of acceptance and economic opportunity forces certain decisions.  And when children see their parents struggle, their first and naïve response is to assimilate as quickly as possible.  So ancestral languages, heritage languages, the cultural wisdom of thousands of years is quickly lost. So sad.

It is a part of the assimilation process I imagine, but unfortunately one cannot simply drop one and pick up another language.  The bigger issue is that knowledge is embedded in every phrase.  Wisdom and cultural references lay down nets of understanding that capture, filter and express meaning that simply don't translate effectively.  So the result is a generation of new language speakers who have an impoverished first language and an incomplete new language.  Impoverished language means impoverished thinking, unfortunately.

I am so impressed to hear that Alberta's new immigrant language programs try to address some of these concerns.  They don't simply teach English.  In fact, I have heard of the layers and layers of Canadian thought, culture, manners, history, and uniqueness are a part of the quality language instruction offered today.  It is a far cry from the "olden days" when people were told to simply stop speaking their old language, stop being who they were, and forget everything that came before.

I think the wisdom of our multicultural, multilingual process is far more beneficial to Canada.  Just think of the multiple layers of linguistic-cultural netting that is developed in multilingual minds?  One net captures the multiple ways of saying love ( ), and another uses the word love for everything - I love coffee, I love my spouse, I love blueberries, I love the Flames, I love the way dew glistens on the grass in the morning sunshine.  Imagine having way more than one language as they do in many parts of the world - perhaps English, perhaps French, perhaps Ukrainian, perhaps Russian, perhaps Mandarin, perhaps Spanish. The mind can hold it all, it just needs opportunity.  Perhaps one or the other will be dominant, but with practice many more layers of understanding, culture, historical wisdom, ancestral connection can develop.  And what can we really give our children?

Do children really need another technological device to soak up their developmental spare time?  I can only speak for myself when I say, my fondest memories of growing up were the busy times.  Ukrainian dancing, choir, Ukrainian school, Ukrainian camp,  travel and touring with my Ukrainian companions, were the juicy parts of my growing up years.  Learning all the skills, yes, but learning to be special, be noticed, be a public person, learning to stand my ground, to adapt and accommodate, to take leadership roles, to stretch the limits of my previous capabilities!  And the friendships, the connections, the life-long relationships!  So here is a word to young parents in Calgary - your children need connections - make them in the Ukrainian community, too!
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