But he didn’t always know the language. When he first began teaching in the area, one of his students asked him, in her native language, where he was from and when he would be leaving. At the time, Parry did not understand what she was saying, but now he is able to comprehend the complexity of her question: Parry explains that his student was really asking, “Are you staying long enough to connect with me? My language? My culture?” Here, Parry illuminates a pitfall of education. If an educator is unable to understand a student, they are incapable of empathizing with a student. In Parry’s opinion, if there is a lack of communication, there is a lack of mutual understanding and an inability to take perspective.
When educators are unable to understand their students, a disconnect grows which, in turn, inhibits any true progression from the student, academically, and the teacher, pedagogically. As Parry clarifies, “Language is our superpower. It is the key engine behind the success of our entire species. It enables us to communicate, to connect, to compel.” Language promotes understanding and fosters connection, thus allowing educators the ability to inspire, or “compel,” students.
But Parry goes one step further in his argument. He believes that the best way to communicate with students who speak another language or more than one language is to speak to that student in their native language. Parry references Nelson Mandela, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart;” connection sustains when an educator makes the effort to communicate in the student’s native language. Parry became an educator because he “discovered, in [his] travels, that education [is] the key social lever for change,” so he made himself uncomfortable. He threw himself into language and failed every day, and experienced the discomfort that comes with being misunderstood or not understood at all. And now, Parry speaks five languages.
With language, Parry concludes that “And you’ll also be able to connect, to take perspective, and to understand what it means to be somebody else. And that level of connection is exactly what we need in the world today.” As educators of dual language learners, we understand that language opens minds, widens perspectives, and deepens connection. We also know that learning more than one language is a gateway for promoting tolerance, a cornerstone value to the TWIN-CS community. We continue to celebrate multiculturalism and multilingualism every day in our schools, but it is always refreshing to see other do the same.
Continue to follow the blog for more inspirational posts!
-Melissa Hoppie, Graduate Student Researcher