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Language

A mother's response
Spare us with the Finglish

By Zohreh Khazai Ghahremani
July 24, 2003
The Iranian

This is in response to my daughter 's article, "Language salad".

It has been tough raising three bright Iranian-Americans. Oh, bright they are, and I'm not saying this to be a bragging mom. They've been on to me ever since they could talk. Forgetting I was the one who put the first words in their mouths, they laughed at my accent, my misuse of words and my point of view -- when they were old enough to know what it was.

Our Persian jokes weren't funny -- or politically correct -- to them and the poems and proverbs that were meant as a lesson, lost their dignity in my poor attempt at translation.

While my friends, who had more time with their children at home, succeeded to teach them Persian, I, as a writer, full time dentist/dreamer, aspired to enlighten mine with the knowledge of Persian literature. Alas, their nannies, friends and the media had planned otherwise.

After many unsuccessful attempts (Saturday classes, un-openned books and losing Persian alphabet games), I knew it was time to throw in the towel when they got down on their knees and begged me to "Please not speak that language" in front of their friends. Loving them, I gave up the battle and prepared to face massive criticism from family and friends. A disappointment to the Persian society, I learned to hang my head in shame. "Of all the people, we thought you'd do better than that." They scolded.

I've never regretted my decision. While failing Persian, they had a normal American childhood and were not culturally divided from their peers. Instead, as adults they showed pride in their heritage. They now can pursue the study of my language if they should choose to -- and one already has -- without feeling "different". Do I laugh at their mistakes? Sometimes, but it is never with ridicule. I am proud of the mere attempt and appreciate their efforts. The mistakes they make is theirs and only theirs.

When this mixture of Persian and English (a.k.a. Finglish) is criticized, our children are not the target. The criticism is addresed to those of us who came to this country as born and raised Persians who knew no other language. Even those who did speak English, had a firm grasp on their mother tongue. Now it is sad to listen to some of us talk.

Thanks to the "salad" we've made of our two languages even the non-Persian speakers have no trouble understanding our conversations. While the accent remains Persian, every other word is English. When our children do this, it is due to their limited vocabulary and "a lack of better words". What is our excuse?

No dear Lilly, you are not criticized, for your generation's accomplishment is beyond expectation. It is us, the parents/mentors who stand corrected. Can 'Finglish' be exclusive to the young 'Iranicans', please?

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