A Guest Post by Abate Hagos
Abate Hagos attended high school in the Sidaama zone of Ethiopia and speaks Sidaama, Amharic, and English. He has a BA in English Language and Literature and attended the Postgraduate Diploma in Teaching Program and the Higher Diploma Program at Dilla University. He currently teaches in the Hawassa College of Teacher Education in southern Ethiopia.
I wrote this poem when I was a student at Jimma University and presented it on English Day at the university. I wanted to show how crucial it is that we learn English and how broad and important its use is around the world. Now I use the poem with the high school classes that I teach. I have found it to be very helpful to make the students aware of the importance of English in everyday life, anywhere they go, so that they will be motivated to learn English.
Although my students and I don’t always have opportunities to use and develop our English in our everyday lives in Ethiopia, I recognize its importance for our involvement in the world at large, and I want them to have this understanding as well. English teachers in other countries might use this poem in their classes to give their students a sense of the perceptions of the language that we have in Ethiopia.
Power of English
Birds speak, people listen.
Go to America. Come to Africa.
Be on the earth or on the moon.
Move on the land or on the ocean.
There is English in every place.
Words in the dictionary,
Utterance of the mouth,
Pronunciation of Natives,
Dialect of Britain or America?
Tell us how to learn,
To gain English,
To make contact with the world.
To Mr. Hagos –
You show a truly nuanced and poetic understanding of English prose. To communicate in another language, such as English, is an accomplishment in and of itself. To grasp the subtle touches of its poetry is a whole other level. Bravo, and please keep writing.
To Mr. Kenmuir –
I too am an English teacher who has lived and taught in a number of different cultures. I completely sympathize with the notion of feeling a bit like an imperial force, pushing my language on the minds of others. But in the end I came to the conclusion that language is really a fleeting and fluid medium for us all to communicate universal ideas and feelings. Ultimately, there are aspects of each language that bring different nuances to communication. I speak fluent French and Spanish, and conversational Russian and Japanese. I’ve played in Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Farsi, Arabic, and Mandarin. And with each of these, I’ve found they all have their unique properties of delivering different aspects of the human condition. English, mostly through cultural advantages which promote adoption and dispersion, has become the NEW lingua franca. But that’s not something to feel ashamed of or to shy away from. If anything, it should be embraced, because it facilitates even MORE communication. Not just among unique dialects, but across nations borders and continents alike.
right. I also
Mr. Hagos, my name is John and I am an esl teacher who has taught in China, Malaysia, South Korea and Canada (my home country). Congratulations on the poem, it is beautiful, and I think you are brilliant for not just teaching English but also for giving your students a concrete purpose that they can use for themselves.
I have always worried that the spread of English can, and is, having an adverse affect on other cultures; as such, I am a strong proponent of cultures creating their own English dialect so that the language can reflect their culture and not the Western ideology that is inherent in what we teach. But I am very interested to hear your opinions about the importance of a universal language, be it English or some other language.
I think that you are correct in your opinion about the importance of English; I am curious if your students or countrymen who speak English have adapted it to their own use, adding idioms and colloquialisms that reflect your culture? I hope that you can reply to this email, I would very much like to hear your opinions about this.
I agree with John, beautiful poem! Let’s keep English as a “supplement” and tool always… not to replace or take away the rich culture found in other native, global tongue(s)!