The weekly newsletter of the México Solidarity Project: online at mexicosolidarityproject.org
May 12, 2021/ This week’s issue/ Meizhu Lui, for the editorial team
Years ago, in elementary school, I dreaded having my mother come to meet my teachers or other kids. She spoke with a Chinese accent. It was bad enough looking different, but she sounded different too. Only much later would I realize that, hey, she could speak two languages while other parents could speak only one! Why was I feeling ashamed!
Language supremacy reinforces US white supremacy. Against all common sense, we learn that English equals smart and good and other languages equal stupid and bad. The language-shaming begins in grade school. Native-American kids have had their mouths taped shut for speaking their native language. English-only drives try to keep Spanish out of classrooms. How many immigrant children feel lesser because their parents know more!
Words and concepts in different languages have no one-to-one correlation. The Chinese call some mouth-watering foods “xiang.” No English equivalent exists in either food or language. Hawaiian has at least 15 different words for all kinds of rainbows. We don’t just learn new words when we learn a new language. We learn about another people, about the environment where they live, the activities they love, the concerns they share. Every language we lose represents an extinction event.
Fortunately, we have people among us like Sandra and Rey Mora. They’re perpetuating the learning of our ancestral languages. And they’re helping kids feel pride and not shame when their parents speak English with an accent. They’re reminding us that words — the lifeblood of every people — really matter. Much more about them in this week’s issue.
Sandra Gonzalez-Mora and Reynaldo Mora met learning Aztec dance. Their personal and professional partnership, as a writer and an artist, has created an award-winning publishing house, the Skillful and Soulful Press. Their books promote a love of language and encourage families to read and learn together. You can learn more about their independent press online and follow them on social media to stay up-to-date on their latest book projects.