Giving back what ain’t mine

The other day in class, Donald Preziosi made the statement that we are born into a world not of our own making, a world that essentially is not ours.
That makes sense. I was born in a hospital that was built by people long before I was conceived. There are roads and telephone lines and farms and factories, supporting my existence, that were made by other people before I even got here.
Donald went on to say that among those artifacts made by other people is the language that we use.
Think about it: our language (syntax, grammar, vocabulary, all of it) is a pre-existing artifact just like the houses we grew up in.
Think about it < --- and you're soaking in it. When we think about it we are thinking in the very language that we were given. My language, my words are not my own. Just like that hospital I was born in on Februrary 8, 1972 is not my own. Just like the houses, apartments, motel rooms, and trailors I grew up in are not my own. So when I write inspired fiction what am I doing? I don't know but I've been doing it for 30 minutes a day all week. Word Yoga. WooHoo! Although my language is not my own, I'm lucky to be living in a place where it works reasonably well for me. Not just as a writer but in day-to-day life. I can go to the grocery store and know what is one sale. I can ask directions on the street. I can order coffee and chit-chat with the barrista. I can make friends. This week I started teaching ESL four nights a week. On Mondays and Wednesdays I tutor a man from Mexico. He is in his early forties and speaks pretty good English. He works for a construction contractor who speaks only English and gets along fine. Many of his friends are Anglos who speak only English. But in Mexico he was an event organizer for several politicians, including a Senator. As he says, in Spanish he can talk with anyone high or low. He can talk with workers, people on the street, as well as the rich and powerful. He wants the same ability in English. I'm helping him. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I am tutoring three women, also from Mexico. These woman are all mothers. In the evening, after work, they bring their children to the community center. The children have Head Start type classes while the mothers learn ESL. Tonight I asked the women why they wanted to learn English. Blank faces stared at me. I said, This is an important question. Answering this question will help you learn. So you can answer in Spanish if you need. ? The women answered with a flurry of sounds which were to me mostly incomprehensible. But from all three women I heard among their answers the phrase para mis ninos ?. For my children ?. My language, my words are not my own.

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