18 July 2010
at the crossroad
I am fully aware that it is impossible for my children to acquire Dusun naturally because of the following reasons:
1. we live in a housing area in which the people are multiracial and multilingual
2. my husband and I do not speak Dusun to each other, mostly because when I first met him I haven't completed my Dusun language acquisition process yet :-)
3. the few years we spent outside of the country made the struggle more difficult because we were detached from most things Dusun, and the children have managed to fully acquire the dominant language.
Thus, I tried for a while to create a Heritage Language lesson for my children at home. I created teaching materials with a lot of clipart objects and aided with the best intention, started teaching them the body parts, greetings, question words etc in Dusun. That was a few years ago when my eldest was in year 2 and the second was in kindergarten. Well, the lessons lasted a few weekends, until I let busyness took over and forgot to find the time to create more lessons.
I've almost forgotten all about them, until my eldest suddenly said to me that she actually missed all my lessons because they were so fun. I was amazed that she even think they were fun at all, as I remember feeling frustrated because they couldn't get the concept (blame it on me being too used to teaching older students). And she said, "and mom, since we are Dusuns, why don't you start teaching us again? It's kind of weird saying that I am a Dusun when I can't even speak".
Her remarks made me feel guilty. And yes, I understand her feelings perfectly. At her age, I started to wonder why my parents spoke to my siblings and I in Malay instead of Dusun. And ended up being resentful about it for a while. Who wouldn't when everywhere you go you got chastised for speaking 'bad Dusun'? They didn't realize what they did to us the children then. Whereas me, I am fully aware of what is happening to the children's language acquisition and all. I guess I should be thankful that my daughter gave me the wake up call. Yes, I'm going to resume the lesson sessions.
The Dusuns are at a crossroad. To be in the mainstream or to hold on to tradition? It takes a lot of efforts to try to find a balance between the two. Because no one can stop a language from changing, the Dusun I teach my children will be one that is already 'diluted', and may even be considered non-standard by those who have the advantage of acquiring the language in a natural environment. But at least I try my best...and help Dusun to survive.