My Literate Parents

According to UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), there are relatively 750 million adults who are considered illiterate around the world. Many adults are unable to answer the question that UNESCO uses to collect their data. The question is, “Can you read and write a simple sentence?” The UN aims to ensure that all youth and most adults are able to achieve components of literacy as part of their 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

In light of International Literacy Day on today, September 8th, this is a message to my immigrant parents, and many others, who left their homeland in order to pursue the best for their future. Personally, my father left his country to ensure that his future children receive a better education than the ones they had back home. Although the education system is problematic, he didn’t know that when he came. Therefore I am grateful for his sacrifice and his learning experience in the immersion of the English culture.

 

Dear Mama and Papa,

Thank you. Thank you for the long and hard nights that you worked and continue to work. It wasn’t easy leaving everything behind and starting fresh and learning a new language, especially English. English is known to be one of the most complicated languages to learn considering all the different aspects that go into it, particularly the word order.

I know it isn’t easy learning the language. Every day you encounter a new grammar aspect that revolves around it. You still can’t spell certain words properly or even say them, but you try. 

For example, c’s become k’s like America becomes Amerikkka. Every syllable is pronounced. For instance, Georgia is essentially pronounced as George-ee-a. You still mess up on the pronouns, even though you don’t mean to.

I know you both have a beautiful grasp of your native language Urdu, but converting it isn’t so easy. I am so proud of you for learning the things you have. You effortlessly read/write your way through phrases on the computer and speak the words that I have grown up to learn in the school with that thick Pakistani accent. Both of you laugh at the way I speak your native language considering that I’m so “Americanized” and that everything around us is only English related, therefore, we can rarely practice our mother tongue. The relationship we have works both ways; you learn my language, I learn yours, and together we have a compromise of code-switching between the two. The world yells at immigrants to learn the language, but how come they never learn ours and give you credit for learning? The journey you and many others have gone through to come to this point and the small things you are continuing to learn are accomplishments that deserve more recognition as opposed to ignorance. So for International Literacy day, I want to celebrate you and many others who share the same story as yours.

Your beta,  

Syedha Noreenia