Changing Demographics and Diversity: Connections between Theory and Practice in Cultural and Language Diversity

Yuko is her name. She is a typical Japanese woman with the light skin and slanted eyes, and enchanted smile. She has two beautiful daughters, Hatsune-the eight years old girl and Ayaka, another five years old daughter. Hatsune and my daughter have the same interest in after-school activities such as swimming and ballet dancing class. Our daughters attended the British curriculum school here in Muscat-Oman; a country with majority is speaking Arabic. Here we are, Yuko and me, coincidentally having the mothers’ club every week while we are waiting for our daughters have the swimming session or ballet dancing lesson.

After so many conversations with her, I found out that Yuko and I have so much in common. We are both came from Asia, Yuko is from Japan and I am from Indonesia. Yuko and I are also the expatriate wives and mothers who live in Oman, Middle East and having two young children with English as a second language. When I highlighted our conversation into the concern about losing home language, yes, Yuko was eagerly responding that it was her greatest concern as well for her children. Yuko explained that she did not want to lose her culture and identity as the Japanese; therefore, she needed to pass the culture to her children by teaching them the Japanese language.

Living far away from the home country, Yuko was lucky enough to have the support to cultivate their culture and language from the Japanese Embassy here in Muscat, Oman. The Japanese Embassy would hold an afternoon class for the Japanese children to learn the Japanese spoken language, Nihonggo, and also the written system which is the combination of three scripts, the kanji –the Chinese character, and the two syllabic scripts made of modified the Chinese character, the hirakana and katakana. I wish I would have the support from my community and embassy so that the resource for my two children to learn to speak Indonesian language is not just from family conversation at home. How lucky Yuko is!

Every day, after school day, Yuko’s daughters and the other Japanese children who live here in Muscat attend the Japanese class in the Japanese Embassy. Although there are only six Japanese children in Muscat, the class still go on. Hatsune and Ayaka often said that they attend “two schools” here. In the morning, they attend The British School, and after that, they attend Japanese school-not to mention that they are also still actively engage in after-school activities! As the mother, Yuko really realized that by attending two schools, her children could be so exhausted. Yoko often said that her daughter complaint that they were very tired and exhausted sometimes, but it did not mean that Yuko would stop them from attending two different schools. Every time her children complaint about that, Yuko said she just tried to listen and understand them, but still encourage them patiently to learn Japanese. As the expatriate, Yuko really needs to do all these things above. It is not merely because she needs to pass and cultivate the Japanese culture in her children’s life, but also for the reason that if someday they come back to Japan, Yuko’s children will be easily cope again with Japanese life, culture, language both written and spoken and school curriculum. At the end, Yuko and her children should work hard and do anything they need for the sake of the children’s goodness.

Be courageous, do your best! Ganbatte Yuko!

There's really no great translation of the phrase 'ganbatte,' but it's essentially a mixture of 'stay strong,' 'work hard' and 'don't lose hope.'

There’s really no great translation of the phrase ‘ganbatte,’ but it’s essentially a mixture of ‘stay strong,’ ‘work hard’ and ‘don’t lose hope.’

The issues and trends about changing demographics and diversity in a country often produce the other issues related to it. For example, with so many immigrants from around the world come and reside in the United States of America, the country will face the specific issues such as cultural and language diversity, the issues that draw my personal interest most.

From my personal and local awareness lens, I really realize why this issues about cultural and language diversity personally resonates more to me. Even though I am not an immigrant, the issues such as cultural and language diversity resonates more to me because of my family life as the expatriate, the skilled professionals who work in another country. After a certain time, as the expatriate, we have to be ready to move to a different country as well as the part of the job. Therefore, the expatriate families will always face the different demographic of the new country they live in, the culture and the language that they never know before. This is the challenge that Yuko’s family, my family and many other expatriate families have to face every day.

Day by day, for many kinds of reasons, children at younger and younger age are dealing with complicated transition between their home and environment around them that reflect a great diversity of language and culture. As a professional in early childhood field, where we should stand to respond the linguistic and cultural diversity? The NAEYC’s (National Association for the Education of Young Children) position in the article “Where We Stand on Responding to Linguistic and Cultural Diversity’ (2009) can be a great recommendation for early childhood educator to properly take the right action to educate and address the children’s need according to the issues of cultural and language diversity. From this article it is said that ‘early childhood programs are responsible for creating a welcoming environment that respect diversity, supports children’s ties to their families and communities, and promotes both second language acquisition and preservation of children’s home languages and cultural identities’. The NAEYC’s position statement is a great recommendation not only for working with young children, but also provides the recommendation for working with the families and for preparations of early childhood professionals to have better strategies to encounter the cultural and language diversity issues.

According to NAEYC (1995) in the article with the title ‘Responding to Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Recommendations for Effective Early Childhood Education’, at younger age, children are negotiating difficult transition between home and educational settings, requiring an adaptation to two or more diverse sets of rules, values, expectations and behaviors.

As a preschool teacher who works in International preschool and deal with the children from various nationalities around the world, I need to be very sensitive with these issues about the cultural and language diversity. From my professional awareness point of view, the article from  NAEYC about the recommendation for effective early childhood education  (1995) gives me wonderful insights to have more understanding about the cultural and language diversity that the children have to face nowadays, such as entering any new environment-including early childhood programs that can be intimidating for some children ( NAEYC, 1995). This article from NAEYC (1995) also defines this problem and have the suggestion that educational programs and families must respect and reinforce each other as they work together to achieve the greatest benefit to all children.  

The challenges that early childhood professional may encounter are also presented here in the article from NAEYC (1995). Therefore, it opens my professional awareness that early childhood educators need to become more knowledgeable about how to relate to children and families whose linguistic and cultural background is different from their own. In this NAEYC (1995) article also presented another challenge for a teacher to provide high-quality care and education for the increasing number of children who are likely to be linguistically and culturally diverse.

The other useful recommendation and practical tips and tools for working with the dual language learner is very well presented in the other article I read from Zero to Three with the title ‘Dual Language Learner in Early Care and Education Settings’ (2008). The practical and easy to read tips and tools explain some terminologies such as what the language development is, language mixing, the concern about losing home language and another ingredient for language that the quality of the relationship that the child has with the adult who is helping her learn the second language is important (Cryer & Harms, 2000).

Aubrey and Fernando, my children of the sun...dressed up in Omani traditional outfit, cherish their childhood in the rocky mountain in front of our house in Muscat-Oman

Aubrey and Fernando, my children of the sun…dressed up in Omani traditional outfit, cherish their childhood in the rocky mountain in front of our house in Muscat-Oman

As the early childhood educator, I understand that to achieve professional ‘fluency’ about the complexity of issues and trends in this field take a lifelong process. The issues and trends that every professional will encounter in every country may vary, but still each of us can relate and learn from each other. With the help of the awareness tools, I confident that it will sharpen my analytical way of thinking and keep my mind open to interact with the other early childhood professionals around the world in a respectful, caring and authentic manner.

My Fernando-now is cherishing his new life in the new country-Brunei Darussalam in Sout East Asia.

My Fernando-now is cherishing his new life and adventure in the new country-Brunei Darussalam in Sout East Asia.

By Evita Kartikasari-2012

References

National Association for the Education of Young Children. (1995). Responding to linguistic and cultural diversity. Recommendation for effective early childhood education.

Retrieved from http://www.naeyc.org/files/naeyc/file/positions/PSDIV98.PDF

Copyright by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

National Association for the Education of Young Children. (2009). Where we stand on responding to cultural and linguistic diversity.  Retrieved from http://www.naeyc.org/files/naeyc/file/positions/diversity.pdf

Copyright by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

A Conversation with Yuko (personal communication, March 8, 2012) stressed the important of cultivate personal culture and language for our children.

Zero to Three. (2008). Dual language learners in early care and education settings.  Retrieved from http://main.zerotothree.org/site/DocServer/Dual_Language_Learners.pdf

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