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Elvira Bonafacio

2018-12-03 15:00 — Belfast, Ireland

“What do I accomplish by speaking Papiamentu?”

People who speak minority languages are often struck with insecurity and lack of confidence in their native language. This is very normal and common, especially when compared to other major languages. Questions such as, where do I go, what do I accomplish with speaking this language, which is not even spoken by half a million people, are common during discussions. Well, here are my thoughts on this:

“What do I accomplish by speaking Papiamentu?”

For years I had to listen to questions and comments such as: “Why does Papiamentu have to be taught in schools? What do you accomplish by speaking Papiamentu? It’s a language that is not even spoken by half a million people!”

Thinking about it, they are indeed right. “What do I actually accomplish with it? English is categorized as the global language of the world, Mandarin is the language with the most speakers in the world and Spanish is the most predominant language in Latin America and Europe. If I reach my front door with this minority language, I’m far enough.

“But, who says these things? Who thinks this way? Is it the ones that have been taught Papiamentu at school, or the ones that have not been taught nor bother to learn it elsewhere?” I still recall the reactions of the pre-school children, when their teacher told them that it’s time for Papiamentu classes. This brings me back to the days when I was in elementary school, where Papiamentu classes were only given a few hours a week. As I recall, those were happy times. The lessons were interesting and easy. However, Papiamentu became intriguing to me, when I decided to study at the university to become a Papiamentu teacher. There, is where I got in touch with Papiamentu again. Oh, what a delight! Phonology, morphology, syntax, literature, ability to write, listen and speak, projects, teaching, internship, research and more research….and these were only the foundation of the program.

By studying my own language, I got to know myself better.

I’ve learned to appreciate and value what’s mine.

I’ve learned to believe more in myself,

speak my mind in a clear and concise manner.

It is remarkable that you do not have to fight others, be jealous or be afraid of changes when you know yourself and you are well aware of what you are capable of.

If these are not valid proof of what my language has me accomplished, I can still provide you with some actual and measurable proof. To name a few:

The Papiamentu language has provided many, and still is, with jobs in different areas.

My language has provided me with a steady income for 10 years.

My language has allowed me to visit Holland, during a project that allowed me to broaden my knowledge. And now, in 2018, my language has taken me to Ireland, where I got the chance to share my language, my country, my culture with several people from different parts of the world.

My native language – Papiamentu – has created opportunities for me and several others, to explore the world, because it helped us know ourselves better and to believe in ourselves.

What do you think of your native language?

Elvira Bonafacio, Belfast September, 24th 2018