A beautiful article on The Toast by Iona Sharma about heritage language learning and decolonization. It’s worth reading the whole thing, but here’s the beginning:
Here are the things you need to know first. I am thirty years old. I am Indian. My parents arrived in Scotland as newly minted immigrants in the eighties, thinking they’d go home after I was born. Decades later, we’re still here.
My parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, their friends and their community, speak Hindi as a first or joint first language. I do not. I stopped being a fluent Hindi speaker at the age of six, perhaps earlier. The school didn’t like it. Too confusing to educate a bilingual child. If you don’t speak to her in English at home, she’ll never learn.
Gaelic, sometimes referred to as Scottish Gaelic to differentiate it from Irish and known to its own speakers as Gàidhlig, is a Celtic language spoken by just over 58,000 people. It has been in decline for centuries. Anglicisation, colonisation and the Highland clearances all had a role in destroying its traditional heartlands, driving it to the far northwest of Scotland and the islands. In the nineteenth century schoolchildren were forbidden to use it in the classroom; by the 1970s the last monolingual speakers were gone. To speak Gaelic now is a political act.
I am not very good at languages.
Stunningly beautiful writing from Iona Sharma about belonging, decolonization, and linguistic identity. Unquestionably worth reading the whole thing.