Pro­tect­ing lan­guage rights, is not pro­tect­ing cul­ture

The Amherst News - - COMMUNITY - Wal­ter Jones Wal­ter Jones col­umn ap­pears weekly in the Amehrst News.

Walt’s World

I keep hear­ing this com­ment,” if we don’t pro­tect our lan­guage, we will lose our cul­ture.”

My prob­lem is I don’t be­lieve that is a true state­ment. We have lots of dif­fer­ent cul­tures who also speak the same lan­guage.

In the Great Bri­tain there are the Ir­ish, the Scots and the Welsh, and yes I know they also have had a dif­fer­ent lan­guage in their past.

The fact is they now op­er­ate in the English lan­guage, but I am sure that no­body would ar­gue that they don’t have a unique and dif­fer­ent cul­ture than Eng­land.

There are sev­eral coun­tries and peo­ples who con­sider them­selves French, but have dif­fer­ent and unique cul­tures. For ex­am­ple there’s Que­bec, Haiti and France. Peo­ple mewl about their chil­dren not speak­ing their grand­fa­ther’s na­tive lan­guages, no mat­ter how ar­chaic or use­less it is today and they jus­tify their con­cern with my open­ing state­ment.

So lis­ten up folks lan­guage is not cul­ture. Lan­guage is a form of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and if it is no longer rel­e­vant in today’s so­ci­ety then it doesn’t have to be pro­tected or learned.

Cul­ture is your sto­ries, your his­tory and his­tor­i­cal fig­ures, your art, your phi­los­o­phy, your laws, your ar­chi­tec­ture and so on. It is not your lan­guage.

Lan­guage is a nos­tal­gic thing, but we should not be wast­ing scarce re­sources try­ing to res­ur­rect some­thing that has no cul­tural sig­nif­i­cance. Lan­guage is sim­ply a com­mu­ni­ca­tion tool. Lan­guage if it is a liv­ing use­ful lan­guage changes over time.

You would not un­der­stand the English spo­ken in Shake­speare’s time. It is no ac­ci­dent that all pi­lots and all traf­fic con­trollers use English as their only lan­guage of com­mu­ni­ca­tion no mat­ter where in the world their air­ports are lo­cated.

If you want to learn your an­ces­tor’s lan­guage, please do so, but not with the mis­taken be­lief that you are pro­tect­ing a cul­ture. The only way I will ac­knowl­edge that lan­guage might be cul­ture is where all your sto­ries are ver­bal and they can­not be trans­lated into writ­ing.

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