Saturday, August 16, 2008

Why you are so lucky to be an immigrant. Why Lawrence of Arabia got it all wrong. Why the Welsh language is modern and exciting.

Here, check this out then come back to me. Here - go go go - follow the link like a pigeon that's flying high in the sky then spots a crumb of bread 40 foot below on the ground - and swoops down like a guided missile - go go go - but come back.

Do come back.

Are you coming back? ... No, it's okay, I'll wait. Read it yet?



Okay, now is that good, or is that good? I think it's good.

‘poptŷ ping’ = microwave – or ping - oven.

‘malu cachu’ = bullshitting – literally ‘mincing shit’.

'pry heglog' (pree heg log) = Daddy longlegs.

'bwrdd smwddio' (boorrdh smoodhyo) =
ironing board.

!!!Bord smoothio!!!

as I like to spell it in my pidgeon Welsh style.

How I would like to be bilingual! What a gift it is to learn a second language as a child. Of course it may not seem like that at the time, when you're forced - perhaps as a newly arrived immigrant to learn to speak Ingerlish at a pace you find difficult and seemingly impossible.

School days are obviously going to be hard. But later on? You're laughing. I went to Cardiff University and met this guy there whose parents were Italian. This guy, Luigi, I'll call him cos I can't remember his name - his parents - slightly stereotypically - well apparently it was a stereotype to Welsh people - if not to me - owned a chippy in the Welsh Valleys. So Luigi, like lots of kids of immigrant parents, got to the age of 9 or 10 and was perfectly fluent in 2 languages. Spoke Italian at home & English (with a little bit of Welsh thrown in for good measure) at school.

!!!Poptŷ Ping!!!

The point being - what did he study at University College Cardiff?

Joint honours: Italian & Welsh.

"Hmmm, so Italian GCSE & A Level - how hard was that for Luigi?"
"Not ver-rry."
And the year spent abroad as part of his degree course - yeah, that's right - in *Italy* - didn't prove that taxing either.

So good for him. He studied languages he already had a knowledge of - and as is usually the case - once you get your head round learning one 2nd language - it just gets easier and easier to learn even more. The lucky 2nd generation bastards! What do we children of the Irish get? Huh? An ability to drink till we fall over? An ineffable poetic sensibility? Skin that burns at the very mention of the word *sunshine*. Hmmm, cheers, Ireland. I'll be back to have a word with you at some later time, just you wait....

So when some Latvian boy chooses to take Russian A Level at the age of 18, or some girl with Iraqi parents completes a degree in Arab Studies - it's gonna be undoubtedly easier for them. And good for them. My point is getting lost here. Hurrah. It's a good thing. You go immigrant kids! Bring us your new food, bring your new genetic mix to stir into our island blood, bring us your music, your dancing, your hard work and your smiling initially baffled faces...

There's a very cute article in this week's Observer about the thoughts and reactions of young children who have recently migrated to the UK. It makes ya think, I think. It does.

What must it be like to be dumped in a school where you have NO IDEA what anyone is saying? How crazy, how Kafkaesque must that be?

[kafkaesque - characterized by surreal distortion and a sense of impending danger; "the kafkaesque terror of the endless interrogations"]

Looking on oneself as something alien, forgetting the sight, remembering the gaze. - Franz Kafka

Back in the 1970s & 80s under the fantastic Tory goverment there was a lot of economic migration out of the UK. Builders and plumbers going to live in wooden cabins in Germany while they worked on building sites (As usual, my research for this information comes from watching UK Gold).

I had a friend at school whose dad had a job working for Shell (or some oil company) in Saudi Arabia. Now when the family migrated over there - if they ever did - when I say friend I mean someone I vaguely knew. When the family moved over there - let's say - did they send the little lad to a regular Saudi school? Nah. Course not. He went to an Ingerlish Language school. Of course. Commmon sense. Because they could afford that. Yeh, that's the difference here.

So praise the child that makes the effort to learn our lovely language. And help her out if she finds it a struggle, if she wants to give up and retreat back into the easy security of her family and original tongue. The early years are not gonna be easy.

Respect and a sense of wonderment to the teachers that put in all that effort every day. But keep on working harder y'all, cos right there is where the hard work gets done - and if it doesn't - our society suffers. No integration. No communication. No mingling. No love, no sorrow. No Ugandan boys learning to support Manchester City and then realising what a mistake they've made - but cannot undo once the love affair has started. Bonded to a silly, ridiculous football club. Walking around in a lazer blue shirt talking with fellow misery guts fans about how unlucky we were this week... For a change. A weekly bout of sorrow and footballing misery, it's all part of being a true blue Mancunian.

After all, everyone in Manchester is an immigrant. Everyone in Liverpool is an immigrant. And London? Blimey, how did Morrisey get told off for saying that he could hear a lot of foreign voices when he was walking around near Harrods. I mean, aren't the only people that go to Harrods either ridiculously rich or tourists? And possibly both?

But hey hey, let's just back up there, baby. No way are we gonna let that first sentence there just slide through unquestioned. "Everyone in Manchester is an immigrant..." O really? And that's a statistical fact is it? Or just a wild generalisation thrown out there by some irresponsible idiot?

Yeh, okay, probably the latter. But you get my point, right? We are most of us in these industrial cities, folk who originated from elsewhere. Irish, Scots, Welsh, Picts, Vikings, Goths from Leeds, Visigoths from Halifax (Yorkshire is a foreign country, so if they've moved to Lancashire, they're immigrants). Then the commonwealth of nations people from the West Indies, Uganda, Pakistan, India. Then more recently our 'European cousins' and people from unfortunate, hideously grim places like Zimbabwe, Iraq & the Congo. Places we should all thank our stars that we didn't end up being born in when the babies were being handed down by the storks that arrange world baby deliveries. Yeh, I'll admit, Gosh am I glad I live in *Great Britain*.

All the rubbish things. The occasional tabloid fueled fear of knifings or terrorist bombings, the bad weather, the expensive everything, Big Brother ... (insert your own bugbear here, but don't bother me with it) ... all of those things. All of em. Even the weather - I would not swap - for the chance to live in the warm, sunny holiday climes of Zimbabwe, Iraq or the Congo. Yeh, so what? All so obvious, right?

And all equally true when Jews were escaping from Stalin in the Ukraine in the 1940s, when Ugandan Asians were escaping from Idi Amin in the 1970s, when the Irish were escaping from economic doom & gloom (every year up to the 1990s) - and coming to settle here. In Manchester, in Liverpool, in London.

Weirdly, prior to the recent temporary influx of casual foreign workers into the countryside to help with the chicken plucking & strawberry picking trades - our rural villages have always been pretty light on immigrant families. I guess that's always the way with the countryside, hence the propensity for marrying cousins and having banjo playing offspring...

Cos isn't that one of the things that makes us such a warrier, weird and wacky nation - the fact that we kinda aren't sure who we are? We're a little bit this, a little bit that, a little bit the other. So a big thank you to all you - all of us - immigrants. Thank you for your food, music, shops. Your help with strengthening our gene mix. What the world needs now, is love, love, love, it's the only thing, that we just can't get enough of.

"When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, 'Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!'"
The I Have a Dream speech by Martin Luther King

And that is why Lawrence of Arabia was wrong?

Not wishing to get too het up about a subject I know very little about - I struggled with The Seven Pillars of Wisdom - and am I allowed to say? - I think the 220 minute film is a little over-long...

But Lawrence - here's what you did wrong - wearing the traditional Arab clothes - you should have worn a bowler hat and carried an umbrella, man. What is wrong with being proud of where you came from? But then again, what is wrong with wanting to blend in with the place where you moved to? Perhaps a bowler hat and a pair of sandals? It's a look I often go for. A good one I think...

I had a point here, but it may have got buried. But some Welsh words are nice, aren't they? Is someone going to tell me some clever new foreign words I can learn and use? I wish they would.

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