The Importance of Culture and Language Education in California

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The United States of America has the most advanced technology in the world, which is one of the key reasons why students from all over the world come here to study. These students are motivated by a desire to learn as well as a belief in the American dream. Even though they come from different cultural backgrounds, they adapt to the American educational system. Many people who come to America have to learn English as a first language. With English not being their first language, these individuals face a steep learning curve, and even though they strive to learn and naturalize, they face exclusion. The situation is worse for young students who have to deal with peer pressure and outright discrimination because of the difficulties in communication.

In the article “Aria” by Richard Rodriguez, he shares his personal experience when he first came to America without any language skills. Racial discrimination is still a severe problem in America, making naturalization by immigrants a daunting task. According to the census, California is the most populous state in America and the largest in terms of the immigrant population, therefore, there tends to be mingling between different cultures. To raise cultural awareness and provide a better environment for both students and teachers, California should incorporate various languages and cultures in its education system.

Self-confidence is vital to students who are learning in an unfamiliar environment and specifically immigrant students. Instituting culture and languages education in the curriculum helps foster inclusion of students from different cultures. In “Aria,” Rodriguez recalls when he was in first grade, he “remained dazed, different, afraid” because he did not have the confidence to speak English. This fear always grips students who are not native English speakers and are not familiar with American culture. They often feel nervous and uncomfortable when they are asked to speak in a public setting because they are afraid of making mistakes. Students also feel excluded from their class because nobody can understand them and their culture; they have to work extra hard to find common grounds with other students. The exclusion that these students face tends to have long-term consequences, harming them mentally and hampering their social capabilities. The issues affecting new students can be remedied if American students have diverse knowledge on other cultures or languages. This approach to the problem serves to achieve two objectives: first and foremost the students naturalizing to the new educational system will be able to relate and communicate any difficulties they may be facing to both teachers and peers, while at the same time feeling accepted. Secondly, broad knowledge of various cultures will help instill empathy in the students, hence helping to develop their emotional intelligence.

Human beings are programmed to trust when they feel that they share various things in common with the people and environments around them. They develop social and linguistic rapport if they hear familiar voices in unfamiliar environments. Therefore, if the schools can create environments in which students can have indigenous familiarity they can improve the self-confidence of these students. An increase in students’ self-confidence would not only work to improve their social interaction but would also improve the rate at which they learn English and naturalize into the American education system.

The spread of culture and language education can also help improve students’ culture awareness. As we all know, all cultures are equal and important; however, there is still cultural discrimination in schools that is caused by a lack of empathy and culture awareness on the part of the students. America is known as “the culture melting pot,” but the education system is indirectly forcing students to assimilate into the traditional Anglo-American culture. Basic knowledge and understanding of different cultures can reduce cultural discrimination. Respect of other people’s cultures also helps to quash cases of self-hatred, where students look down on their own culture due to low self-esteem. Students are easily influenced by the social environment as they are still cultivating their world view and personal values. These influences have negative implications on students from different cultural backgrounds who end up feeling ashamed of their own culture. Culture and language education gives students pride in their own culture and language while instilling in them a respect for other cultures.

Culture and language education not only raises students’ culture awareness but also benefits instructors’ teaching. The teachers should understand their students own language and their culture so that they can create a rapport. Mark Roth referenced a story of a conversation between a student and a teacher in “The Thinkers: Teachers offered a lesson in urban vernacular.” In the story, the teacher was correcting the student’s grammar, whereas the teacher misunderstood the student’s meaning. If instructors learn more about different students’ vernacular, there would be less misunderstanding, and they would be able to have greater impact on the students. Normally students will feel relaxed and comfortable when talking in and about their language or culture. Personal experience has shown that cultural and linguistic studies invoke students’ passion, and teachers can make classes attractive through these subjects.

California should include culture and language education in public schools because it can help students develop their self-identity. One of the main aims of education is to help students develop a sense of self so that they can understand their individuality and self-identity. Many students prefer to use vernacular or slang which is not grammatically correct, and this becomes their cultural identity. Aurora Morales argues in her article “On Not Writing English” that sometimes grammar rules can be broken because the correct grammatical English does not always capture people’s experience. However, today’s education system is pushing students to adapt and become assimilated into the formal English environment as it only teaches “correct English.” Many students lose touch with their language identity while they are absorbing knowledge from their environment. Rodriguez, for example, lost his Spanish identity because he did not have any chance to use it. Although his English skills improved his Spanish was neglected to the point that he could no longer communicate with his own family in Spanish. School should have classes for language and culture and as such students would never have to lose their first language.

The human being cannot live without the society, and we cannot avoid communicating with each other. Living in such a multicultural country, it is inevitable that different cultures and languages collide. In the Ted Talk “3 Ways to Speak English,” Jamila Lyiscott gives us a solution of code switching between the various styles of English. She is so articulated that she can quickly switch from one language to another; however, not everyone has that skill of switching gear. The common situation is that many people will feel uncomfortable during their first period in America, and when they get back on the right track, it is also a challenge to adapt to a new language and culture without losing their own. Many natives have a hard time understanding the foreign culture and language as well. Moreover, cultural collision is always a major issue in California as more than 27 percent of California residents are foreign-born, and there are also millions of international students. Cultural and linguistic education seems more and more important in California to provide every person with a comfortable place to study and live. Unfortunately, there is still no institution of language and culture in California that would help people solve these social problems. Legislators need to institute policies that would mandate the implementation of culture and language learning in public school.

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