Learning a foreign language can bridge social barriers. With the recent influx of refugees to America from all over the world, we can see, in practice, that this is absolutely true. Because of this, I’ve been afforded the opportunity to learn to speak, read, and write in Nepali. My emergence into this foreign language has opened my eyes to the power of language. I have some thoughts to share and I’ll break them up over the next few posts. enjoy
In 2014, Mayor Sarno of Springfield Mass. less than tactfully outlined the difficulties a community can face when receiving immigrants and refugees from war-torn countries.For many coming to New England from warmer climates for example, the weather here can be oppressive. I cringed when he used the word “dumping” while referring the relocation efforts in Springfield. That language sounded abrasive to me in particular because I live in the kind of neighborhood where refugees and immigrants get their introduction to american culture. Lets say…its not a gated community. And as black person living in America, im all too familiar with use of language to stigmatize, alienate, and ‘otherize’ individuals who don’t fit into a generally accepted category. I’ll keep this post positive though. I know what Mayor Sarno was trying to say. In any case, as a result of this “dumping” I’ve had the privilege of befriending and assisting people from all over the world; Including Nepal, Bhutan, Somalia, Congo, Sudan and…thats all I can think right now as I type. I dont think I would have ever entertained the idea of learning to read Devanagari script, had it not been for the my desire to reach out to and communicate with my southeast asian friends, a few of which are like family to me. Meet Ranan; His parents lived in a refugee camp in Bhutan and were relocated to Springfield 3 years ago. His parents call me “Daju”. It means ‘brother’. So I call Ranan my nephew.