One tongue does not fit all

First published: 16th November 2010

It is interesting that Charmaine Chan chose Britain and the United States as examples of countries where a national language unified the country ("Language can unify nation", November 1).

The real situation is quite different.

English developed initially by the merging of the languages of successive invaders, and later by stealing parts of other languages, along with countries.

Some parts of Britain still speak totally different languages: Welsh and Gaelic, and even some English dialects may be unintelligible to natives from other regions.

The US also formed its own versions of English, incorporating words from many immigrants' languages. Some parts of the country also recognise Spanish as an official language. To say these countries were united by their national language ignores the facts.

Insisting that children should learn in a non-parental language at school under the pretence of not wanting minorities to be disadvantaged in fact does the opposite.

It deals them the double blow of denying them their family culture and forcing them to learn in an unfamiliar language that their parents cannot support them in. Children should have the opportunity to learn both their national and their cultural language.