I remember my arrival my first moments on United States soil. I spoke only French.
I did not speak the language of the land that autumn evening, I had no words and it became explicitly clear if I ever wanted to communicate I had to learn the language of the nation I entered.
There is something frightening about not understanding when spoken to. I had to learn the language in order to evolve in a new society.
Many years have passed since my first attempt at pronouncing words with “th” or attempting “three” or “tree” and know the difference between the two or was it the to?
People spelled words to help me; they said “e” and did not mean “i”. The letters “g” and “j” were equally confusing; they sounded different from their French equivalents.
Eventually, I became an American citizen and this took many years and a lot of reflection all requiring deliberate thinking because one does not change one’s citizenship on a whim. One’s allegiance to a flag is a serious matter. One’s allegiance to a land is a matter of imprint. It is not based on amnesty, or some promise of advantages, not even a promise of freedom what ever that may mean, changes the allegiance of people. One’s nation of birth, for reasons I cannot quite explain, leaves indelible marks on one’s very being. Customs, foods, modes of thinking, values of self or of others and so much more, these things are part of one’s very core. One can changes one’s costume; one does not change the markers solidly imprinted, one can only modify them.
I see the issue of immigration as something nations should permit with caution. The markers I spoke of before, the desirable ones and the ones presenting danger and problems to community are also part of that immigration wave.
For me, becoming an American demanded that I make choices. How could I make an informed decision if not by learning the history of the country I was about to embrace and give allegiance to? How could I do this if I did not learn the country’s history in the language of those who wrote it? I had to learn the language! I had to understand the soul of the people.
How could I render my children Americans Citizens with pride? They were born on US soil, which made them Americans and I know this was not sufficient. I the parent, had to impart something called patriotism, a something I have not heard of in many years. I had to learn the language to communicate with my children in the language of their country. They were not the wards of any school system or any state they were my responsibility and I had to render them Americans with pride and language.
Today, another phase of my life brings me to a doorway where I hear less and less the language of the country. I hear of people voting using ballots printed in languages other than the language of the land.
I had to learn the language and the history of the United States to know now this very dear country to me is losing its sense of pride for too many cannot give allegiance to what they do not understand.
I am an American...
Eveline Horelle Dailey -