Its really true. we talk big and talk about policy change. but never point finger on us. so its high time for each one of us to spread this message. everyone should able to speak, to write and communicate with other fellow santhal in own language. we must practice what we preach is appropriate saying here.
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Immigrants struggle to preserve native languages
By Perla Trevizo,
The Chattanooga Times Free Press
updated 11:48 p.m. ET Dec. 25, 2008
Chattanooga, Tenn. - Rosalina Lucas often asks her mother, Guatemalan native Marcelina Esteban why she doesn't speak English like Rosalina and her siblings.
When the 8-year-old hears her mother speaking to relatives and friends not only in Spanish but in Kanjobal, a Mayan dialect, she's even more confused and doesn't understand what her mother says.
It is not uncommon for children who come to the United States at a very young age, or who are born here to immigrant parents, to learn English at the cost of forgetting their native language, local experts say.
"I have parents that are unable to communicate with their own children, and I have to translate for them," said Marisol Jimenez, an English as a second language teacher at East Side Elementary. "Unfortunately, when you have subtractive language classes -- which subtracts the heritage language in search of English -- kids gain proficiency in the second language at the expense of their first if they are not equally supported in that first language."
Tennessee is an English-only state, which means all material given to students for testing or other performance measures is in English, said Dr. Valerie Rutledge, Teacher Preparation Academy department head at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. This is a factor that contributes to the difficulty of language retention, she said.
Although Rosalina and her siblings often serve as translators and liaisons between their mother and the landlord or school officials, the children say it's a lot easier for them to communicate in English than in Spanish.
"When we are out and they order their food, they do it in English and they get mad at me because they want me to speak like them," Mrs. Esteban said in Spanish.
"Even the little ones (4-year-old twins Jairo and Wilson Garcia), who don't go to school yet, are speaking more English than Spanish. By the time they get to school, I'm not going to have anyone to talk to," she said half-jokingly.
From the first generation of Hispanic immigrants to those who follow, there is nearly a complete transition from Spanish to English dominance, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research organization based in Washington, D.C.
The ability for children to retain their native language depends greatly on how often they use it and if the parents make a concerted effort to maintain it, Dr. Rutledge said.
"I think we're looking at a more diverse, not just school population, but a population in general in Tennessee and around the United States," Dr. Rutledge said, "and I think that a careful balance of retaining those pieces that the family values are very significant."
Ilmi Mucici and his wife, Ibadete, who came to Chattanooga from Kosovo as refugees almost 10 years ago, have made sure their two teenage sons are fluent in Albanian.
"All of our family is over there. We go back and forth and, if they don't speak Albanian, they're not going to have a family over there," Mr. Mucici said.
"Among them they used to talk in English, but I would tell them they had to speak their own language at home and now they speak both languages," he said.
But maintaining both languages hasn't been easy.
"You're trying to do one thing, but then you go to school and have to do a completely different thing," said Eriad Mucici, 14.
He said he's still able to communicate in Albanian, but struggles with writing and reading in that language.
His brother Beqir was only 2 when his parents brought him to the United States, so his entire education has been in English. But his mother, a teacher in Kosovo, has taught him how to read and write in Albanian.
Mrs. Jimenez said a lot of knowledge often is lost between parents and children because of the lack of communication.
"Bilingualism needs to be encouraged and embraced, there's nothing wrong with bilingualism. It's better to be bilingual than monolingual," she said.