Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Contact Language

The Bible caught my attention with a verse from Genesis 11:1-9 that goes like this,
And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.
In times like this, we need to take a good look at this verse and try to find a meaning. I think that we are living in a time where we need contact with the language we speak.

Here is something that I have found to be curious; one of my best friends on earth has earned a Ph.D. in the fields of Spanish and linguistics. She first heard about the Garínagu in Honduras in 1993, during that time I was living in San Diego, California. Faith combined with destiny allowed us to cross each other’s path here in Labuga in November of 2001. In August of 2009, we met each other again but this time she wanted me to teach her the Garífuna language.

I was born in the 1960s at a time when Garífuna was the language you heard and acquired during the earliest stage of your life. It was a time when most Garínagu here in Labuga spoke one language, the Garífuna language.  At the age of seven I was registered at Sacred Heart School in Belize where I was exposed to another reality.  For the most part the Garífuna language was not “good enough” in the eyes of the Belizean government.  In some cases, the Garífuna teachers were not even allowed to teach in their native language.

During my teens I was so confused about which language to speak.  I spoke English perfectly and I thought I had the advantage over the Garínagu who could only speak the Garífuna language. In the eighties I was fortunate to meet again with my Belizean Garífuna classmates from the seventies, but this time we were all interested in learning Garífuna again. What I am trying to say here is that there is a large portion of the Garífuna population that is learning (and re-learning) about the language that our ancestors spoke.  I strongly believe that there is a language for that. [Contact language]

In May of this year my friend finished her doctoral dissertation from the University of Missouri-Columbia called “The Birth and Rise of an Identity through Contact Language and Contact Culture.” This work is a mile-stone in my life, it is equal to “point of contact,” it is something for which I have been searching. Contact Language is two words that I have borrowed from the title of my friend’s work, because it is an important point of contact for me. 

Lubara Huya 

1 comment:

Michelle said...

Tomas, you indeed are one of my very best friends on earth. Where would I be without your support and encouragement? Your blogs continue to enlighten me about your culture and I will always be your student.