Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Language Culture Connection

"Whenever you teach a language, you also teach a complex system of cultural customs, values, and ways of thinking, feeling, and acting"

H. Douglas Brown, Teaching by Principles:  An Interactive Approach to Language Pedagogy, 2nd ed., Addison-Wesley Longman, Inc., 2001

On my way to Vigan in a Partas bus, the Ilocano driver was in a company of fellow Ilocano conductors in front. Throughout the 9-hour trip, they were engaged in a conversation in their native language, Ilokano. Seated in front, I could follow the context of their conversation having been exposed to the language in my stay in Region 2. There were a number of points I could not understand because of my shallow vocabulary of the language.

I have a particular bias for the active use of a dialect or language in a day to day conversation as I believe its use is key to the preservation of culture and a unique heritage.

In Vigan at Plaza Salcedo, I was pleased to hear Ilocano spoken proudly by most; at the fast food chain, at the plaza, in the church in a conversation with a tricycle driver, with a market vendor.

Against the preserved structures of Vigan’s cobbled streets, buildings, churches and public centers, I better understood why Vigan preserved its character and maintained its authenticity. It may have been driven by the proud use of the language which is tied in to its rich century old culture  passed on from generation to generation.

Thus in my conversation with the restaurant staff, the supermarket vendor, tricycle driver, I attempt to speak though in an awkward manner Ilocano. “Diak nalaing iti Ilocano.” They understood my thoughts. I was corrected. My vocabulary increased and syntax improved.

More than the facility of using the language for communication, he and I knew we are connected sharing a common culture in a shared region, island, country, continent.

“Wen manong, agkakabsat ta!” At that instant, I was at home in Ilocos Sur.

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