An article entitled The Missing Connection: Language learning as a tool for peace in Israel/Palestine published by Tikkun.org provides an interesting perspective about the fundamental need for speaking each other’s language in the peacemaking process. The article focuses most primarily on the importance of being able to speak and understand each other, perhaps the most common idea of language learning, but also takes a very interesting look at the way other forms of communication, such as action, should be interpreted within their context.
From my perspective as an American, it made me think of a situation happening in the U.S. right now, where the actions of looting and rioting in Baltimore have been understood in many ways, depending on which context the interpreter is viewing them from.
Though the article focuses particularly on the Israel/Palestine context, the message is one to consider as language teachers in our own contexts.
Some questions I had after reading:
* What are my goals in teaching the language I teach? Am I contributing to understanding between cultures or am I creating bigger disconnects?
* How can I better interpret communication through action within its context? Am I paying attention to teaching how to communicate well with actions too?
A quote from the article to ponder:
“The often-overlooked casualty of increasingly violent tensions in Israel/Palestine is the long-term vision of, if not peace, simple understanding. Such consideration for the other on both sides acknowledging their shared humanity—a feat that will never be achieved until both Israelis and Palestinians can, very literally, understand each other by speaking each other’s languages.”
What an insightful article about language learning and the practical connection to peace in a part of the world often mentioned in examples of conflict and peacebuilding. The line “we must draw a tight connection between high-level negotiations and grassroots language programs” really struck me. Yes, language learning as peacebuilding is about what happens in the classroom, but it goes much beyond that and we need to start understanding the role language plays in the bigger picture too.