A short essay exploring the outcome of diverse languages & cultures coming together
We sit in a traditional Balinese, open-air, building with ornate woodwork and richly decorated furniture. This restaurant sits right in front of a large temple in Ubud, Bali. Right next to the restaurant is that ubiquitous emblem of American culture: Starbucks.
At the table to our right, we hear the familiar sounds of the Korean language. Because we had recently spent five days in Seoul, the rhythm as well as several familiar words stood out to us.
In front of us were two tables. From one we heard the rather aristocratic sound of British English from two young, blond women. A dark-haired couple sat at the second table, talking softly in the sophisticated lilt of the French language.
Behind us our Indonesian waiter with two waitresses chatted in Bahasa Indonesian.This added some local color to the mingling of languages.
Sitting in the middle, having done a little study of Indonesian and an even smaller amount of Korean, we felt like our brains were a strange blur of many languages.
I don’t know if the older Balinese resent having a restaurant and a Starbucks sitting on the doorstep of their traditional temple.
All I know is that cultures are coming together in our world in a way as never before. So it’s extremely important, therefore, to learn other languages. And we need to develop open communication and flexible minds in order to avoid conflict.
Reflecting on my early teaching experiences
As a young high school teacher, I taught in Anchorage, Alaska in an inner city school with 62% minorities. The largest minority group was perhaps 8%, and the school was like a mini-U.N. with students from cultures all around the Pacific Rim.
In that school, the diversity led to cliques, gangs, miscommunications, and a total clash of cultures.
It made me realize we need to communicate with each other and expect differences. I’m not saying it’s necessary to avoid all conflict. In fact, working through conflict constructively opens up new avenues of understanding. Doing so, we can move away from harmful, less valuable ideas towards new ones. The result is we grow intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually.
We just need to listen respectfully to the voices around us. And have a willingness to engage with difference and develop open dialogue.
How does growing diversity in our world impact you? Is it a factor in your daily life?
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