For my final project for a Spanish class (not a Spanish language class, but a class held in Spanish), we have to select a topic related to latinamerica and issues related to its hybrid cultures. Perhaps it was just natural for me to pick a topic related to languages, I decided to work on the issue of Quechua (the indigenous people/ language mainly in the Andes regions of Peru). Not that I know much about Quechua beforehand, so I had to read up a little on its culture, and more importantly, the past and current situation of its coexistence with Spanish (the main language spoken in Peru). At first I tried reading a book on Quechua in Spanish, largely due to the misunderstanding that we have to use Spanish books for references. Unfortunately, due to my highly limited Spanish ability, I had a pretty hard time trying to read and decipher what the book was trying to say. Then I realized we are allowed to use English books, and so I borrowed two books from the library and started reading on them.

Having previously absolutely no idea on the issue of Quechua as the minority indigenous people, it was rather fascinating for me to learn about it. One interesting thing was about the implementation of a bilingual education system in the indigenous regions of Peru. Many people, both the whites and indigenous, strongly believed that the knowledge of Spanish would help the indigenous people get out of the vicious cycle of oppresion and at the same time help Peru become a more modern and pluralistic nation. They want to recognize the multicultural aspect of Peru, that Peru actually contains many different cultures, and so they hope to retain and preserve the indigenous cultures as well. A bilingual education seemed to be the right solution to both cultures. And so, the first language taught to the children in the indigenous regions is Quechua (their mother tongue), and Spanish is taught to them as a second language.

Unfortuantely, it apparently did not work out well because many indigenous parents actually want their children to be taught in Spanish, or rather Spanish to be taught as a first language. They believe that the parents themselves can teach their children Quechua at home, and so they should concentrate more on Spanish so as to move up the social ladder and become active leaders of the country. The authorities, however, do not believe so, because they still strongly want to preserve the “indigenous” aspect of their national culture. It is really an irony, because the Quechua themselves are choosing to take on a new first language, although they claim that even though they learn Spanish, they will never forget Quechua as it is in their bloog (without much concrete evidence). Some who are more cynical believe that the authorities are trying to make them keep their “indigenous” identities as a conspiracy not to let them escape from poverty.

This brings me to an article about Quebec in Canada. In the article, it says that many students are opting to continue their secondary education in English, rather than in French, in the belief that English is fast becoming, if not already so, the global language and being educated in English would bring more benefits than in French. There are much similarities to be compared juxtaposing the two cases. So this brings up the question of, should we give up our “native” language for a more useful and practical one? It seems obvious that one would be shouting “no”, but thinking it in a more realistic sense, it does sound logical to want to pick up a language that can reap more benefits and a brighter future, whereas a “native” language can always be preserved at home. Does the other alternative, learning both languages at the same level, sound too idealistic, then?

I do not believe that having a global language is anything good. I cannot deny its benefits, such as having easier communication with people around the world, and perhaps making politics less tricky without the linguistic and cultural encumbrances. But seeing people lose their culture and language is something too scary for me. I wish people would just preserve their cultures and languages, perhaps learn more about others, but definitely not opting the other for one’s own. Of course, it is not an easy issue that I can conclude with a few lines, but it just caught my attention when I read about the cases in Peru and Canada.