Linda E. Taylor

LANGUAGE: The heart of a nation
January 1997 R/L Taylor Publishing Consultants Limited

"Language is the essence of a culture. It's the essence of who I am and where I come from. If the language becomes extinct, the culture will become extinct." This is how a Manitoba Metis explains the importance of language to our sense of ourselves.

Language is a continuous thread of contact with our ancestors; it connects us with our past. It enhances our sense of belonging. And, that sense of belonging is one of the most basic of human needs.

How can I know who I am if I don't know where I 've come from?

Mostly, we don't give our language a second thought. It's there. It always will be there. That's true if your language is English. It's less true if you speak Gaelic, Xhosa, or Burmese.

The evidence of history strongly supports the belief that "If our language disappears, then we as a people will disappear." This explains why people become passionately defensive when their language is threatened, and why language is so closely linked with nationalism. In defending a language its speakers believe they are defending their nation.

As the English essayist Samuel Johnson is quoted as saying: "Languages are the pedigree of nations."