More thoughts on English imperialism
As you possibly suspected (but more likely did not think about), I slept in my milk bed again last night. It doesn´t smell, so it´s really hard to work up the gumption to change the sheets.
There was a better word than ¨gumption¨ to use there, but I am forgetting all English words that aren´t useful in bare-bones conversation or cognates with Spanish, such as ¨excursion¨. So please excuse me.
Remember how I said I would ask my senior students what they thought about English langauge imperialism? Well I did, and it worked not very well. It didn´t work for pretty much every reason; I´m not good at beginning discussions, they are not used to talking about such complicated ideas, and you know, just every other reason as well. Although it was not a disaster as some classes and conversations have been. We wound up talking about bullfighting. They prefer to talk about things directly related to their experiences and things they are familiar with, although sometimes it feels really strange to talk about Galicia and Galician things in English. It shouldn´t, but it does. So that is what I will stick to from now on.
But I sure as hell made them think really hard about how to express themselves on the imperialism topic.
I brought up the topic to Julián in the car as we drove back to Lugo, and we had an interesting conversation about it. His point of view was mostly that cultures and languages are constantly shifting and changing, and that there is no such thing as linguistic or cultural purity anyway. So there´s not that much to fear from globalization. Throughout history, civilizations blend into others, or get lost, or are conquered. It´s like the Romans—they did pretty much what the US is doing now, and look how many Romantic languages we now have because Latin mixed with other cultures.
As he spoke, I recognized his viewpoint as that of a white male in a non-threatened culture (he is Galician, but does not speak the language and doesn´t seem rooted in the culture). I´m sure someone from a culture on the brink of extinction due to globalization would respond differently.
It was funny, at one point during the conversation, he mentioned that there are more ways to invade a country than linguistically or militarily. A country can invade another by sending people over to work there and spread awareness about their country. We were silent for a second, because I think we both realized what had been said.
I´ve been struggling with the imperialism of my position here; it´s like the classic imperialist or supremacist equation—send untrained people from the dominant culture to teach or correct those from the non-dominant culture. The person sent does not have to be an expert or trained in any sense—they are simply assumed to be intelligent and competant because they are part of the dominant culture, which obviously knows best. That is what happened here.
BUT. If I think about it on the flip side, I think it´s the Spanish government that requested us and brought us here, and they did not train us. So it´s the non-dominant culture internalizing this viewpoint and believing us to be already capable of teaching, simply because we are English speakers. I feel like a douche even using the words dominant and non-dominant here, but it´s true, simply because the US and Britain have managed to make English the most desired jewel in the world right now and the citizens of these countries happen to have the power to impart that jewel´s glow to others, so we are in turn desired.
This language I´m using is so obnoxious, but it´s the metaphor that popped out of my head in reference to this. Also, I never think of Australia, Ireland, Scotland, and Canada when referring to English speaking countries. I actually never think about Canada ever.
AND ALSO, we are all very green at this age. We just got out of college and have few viable skills and we have to figure out how to do jobs somewhere. So anyone who hires us is going to have to deal with incompetance and a learning curve, whether it´s a fortune 500 company or a teach for america school. So that thought makes me feel a little bit better about being here, because anywhere I went, I would suck a little.
Oh, and the seniors also told me that their first thought when they hear of an American person (their phrase, not mine) is of a ¨very very fat person eating a hamburger¨. They were using past tense when they told me this, so I can only assume that image has dissipated at least slightly.