The Language of Reasons

The book on language learning
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Today’s post is by international hip hop activist Umar Alim Al-Junaid, author of “The Book on Language Learning: 10 Reasons Why African Americans NEED to Learn a Second Language”

In comparison to the rest of the world, some would say that being born in America has its divine-like advantages, some would argue the opposite. Yet, when it comes to language we can all agree that for the past 300 plus years English has been the most important language of capitalism.

The reasons I wrote “The Book on Language Learning: 10 Reasons Why African Americans NEED To Learn A Second Language” are many, but for now I’m going to give you the top 10, in no particular order.

Cultural Literacy. Cultural literacy means having exchange with other cultures with reflection and through an inclusive knowledge of the world around us. So, I wanted to write a book that celebrates art, history, and experience. Personally, I have found that the best way to do that is by learning the language of a particular culture/s that we find interesting which, in turn, I feel is a an overall celebration of the human family.

Business/Economy. I wanted to write a book that places acquiring a second language of utmost importance for American citizens as it pertains to our current economic situation as a country, but especially for those of us in the African American community who suffer the worst. According to an article by Rakesh Kochhar, Richard Fry, and Paul Taylor for the Pew Research Center “the typical Black household has just $5,677, Hispanic households $6,325 in wealth and the typical White household $113,149”. Keep in mind that this is total assets after debt during the great recession. And considering that careers in language are predicted to grow over the next 10 to 20 years it would be in the US interest to become serious about becoming a bi-lingual society. English is the lingua franca of global business, but for how long?

History. I wanted to write a book that connected African Americans to their history – from the glory of Africa before 1492 and their descendents living in the western hemisphere today. There has been a cultural disconnect between Africans born in the United States and those Africans across the rest of the diaspora and I believe that language is an important step towards reconnecting, à la Marcus Garvey. I explain this disconnection more in depth in the book but for now it is safe to say that for those African Americans inclined to know who they are, their place in history, and their future, language is your bridge back to the other side of the Atlantic.

Monocultural Americana. I wanted to write a book that took a serious look at the effects of growing up in a country that uses its language as a weapon of cultural imperialism extending far beyond its borders.

Travel. For many reasons most African-Americans will probably never make it outside of their own ‘hoods. I wanted to write a book that will inspire African Americans to visit their world, it’s really that simple. Not to mention that when you do decide to travel the world you will quickly learn that despite what you may believe…everyone in the world does NOT speak English. Besides, the best way to experience that trip to China, and grasp the full flavor of its beautiful people and culture is to at least have a working knowledge of Mandarin.

Freedom. I wanted to write a book that connects language to freedom. How do the two relate to each other, well, pick up the book and you’ll find out! Shameless, I know.

Youth. I wanted to write a book that shows African American children that it is actually cool to learn a foreign language, that they can learn a second language and that they NEED to be bi-lingual in the world they are living today in where most children their age are already speaking English as a second or third language. And to also let Black children know that, no, learning a language is not only for white people!

Perspective. I wanted to write a book on learning a second language that was written from the perspective of an African American male. There’s not much representation of Blacks in the multilingual community (more for lack of their not being many) so it follows that there aren’t many African Americans writing about second language acquisition. I hope to express myself in the same language, face and tone that most African Americans can understand and relate to.

Story. I wanted to write a book that, not only, gives reasons why African Americans need to become bi-lingual . I also wanted to write a book that brings the reader into my personal story on how I came to fall in love with learning languages, and how it feels living in the United States being one of a handful of African Americans who share that love. Often times Americans think that one has to be some sort of genius to be “good” at learning languages and I wanted to dispel that myth. Trust me folks, I am in no way, shape, form, or fashion a genius.

Audience. I just wanted to write a book that I hope people will read.

Yes, I will admit, “The Book on Language Learning: 10 Reasons Why African Americans NEED To Learn A Second Language” is written with the African American reader in mind. It is also written for the English speaking world as whole which includes the UK and Australia.

Our world is experiencing great change, and although English is the tongue of capitalism, English will not maintain that luxury much longer as we enter this new epoch of globalism.

 Useful links

In addition to the links above, you can contact Umar on Twitter, Facebook and Soundcloud

Beyond Babel: Linguistic and intercultural skills for tomorrow

Insights podcast on multilingualism with Bruno della Chiesa

Bruno della Chiesa was the soul of Languages in a Global World. Hear him discussing the relation between multilingualism and ageism, sexism, imperialism and much more in French, with Anne-Lise Prigent, or in English with Patrick Love.

Learn languages and… expand your own being (among a few other things) is an Insights blog article on Languages in a Global World

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