(A, А) In Tampa, Florida, in the section of town called Ybor City, there is a newspaper named La Gaceta. In the most recent issue of the paper is an article that says, “One of the Ybor City tour companies tells us it is still getting calls from people who are canceling their travel to Tampa because of the hurricane.” I am not one of those people, and I’m in Tampa now as I write this.
(B, Б) In the newspaper La Gaceta, above the title, a line reads “English ● Español ● Italiano”. Ybor City was once home to 300 cigar companies (I find that hard to believe, but that’s what they say in the history museum). In the past, Ybor City had a heavy influx of immigrants from Spain, Cuba, and Italy, and many of those immigrants sat at desks rolling cigars by hand.
(C, В) These immigrants continued to use their native languages, as every human being obviously would. The language we learn from our parents with no effort, if we speak it long enough, is the language, our native tongue, one that we not only communicate with, but one that helps to create our sense of ourself as a human being.
(D, Г) Reflecting the history of the people who came to Ybor City, La Gaceta has articles in all three languages (very little Italian, but it’s there). This newspaper is a good representation of the phenomenon of people wanting to hold onto their language for cultural reasons.
(E, Д) Last week I read an article on the BBC website about the Basque language, which is not known to be related to any other language on earth. Basque is spoken in northern Spain and a little bit in southern France. As with so many small languages (such as Irish), Basque is used much more in the small villages and towns away from the big cities.
(F, Е) Like all people, the Basques wanted to use their language, first, because their mama spoke it, and who needs more of a reason than that? Secondly, the language preserved their cultural identity as a people. During the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, however, it was illegal to speak Basque, and they were required to speak only Spanish. In the cities, in particular, people were afraid to speak their own language because someone might turn them in to the police. Can you imagine being arrested because of the language you speak? Surely only grim, dark barbarians would do that.
(G, Ё) Trying to destroy the language people speak is an attempt to destroy the culture of that group, so that they cease to exist separately. It is not genocide as literal killing, but it is cultural genocide. Here in the United States, I used to know a woman from Alaska, a member of a native tribe who said that in the American school she attended as a girl, they were forced to use English and were punished for speaking their home language. Can you imagine being punished for the language you speak? Surely only grim, dark barbarians would do that.
(H, Ж) Trying to destroy the cultural identity of a group by taking away their language is not rare. Dictatorships understand the power of language, and they not only censor it, but they standardize and control it. Control is obviously important to a dictatorship, but in addition, another language creates a sense of foreignness. Fear and hatred of foreignness must be basic human nature, as it exists all over the earth. There are many people right now in the United States who hate the idea of any language other than English in this country. Some of them, I am so sorry to say, are in my family.
(I, З) How would you feel to have your language taken away?
(J, И) I can say from a lot of personal experience that struggling to learn a foreign language makes you feel like a child, and you assume that you must sound actually stupid to other people. At the beginning of every paragraph for this blog post I’ve listed the first letters of both the English and Russian alphabets. What if suddenly all those English letters were illegal and you could only use the Russian letters? Would you hate the people who did that to you?
(K, Й) The title for this post, Hitz Egin Euskara, means “Speak Basque” in the Basque language.