Native Languages and Hijabs

One of the things I like about living in Melbourne is the free weekday afternoon newspaper, MX, available at all major train stations around the city. My favourite section is MX Talk where the readers get to have their say. I learned a lot about what my fellow Melburnian commuters think just by reading their printed letters and text messages.

Although I like the talkback section, it sometimes causes me great distress when I read stupid, ignorant and rude comments sent in by some readers. One of the things that always gets discussed on and off is the issue of people not talking in in public. There are some people who just can’t accept that there’ll be people in public who would speak to each other in their native tongue. I understand that this may seem rude if done while in the company of friends who do not speak the foreign language.

However, when I’m in public with my wife, I should be allowed to speak the language we’re most confortable with. It’s not that we don’t want to speak English or can’t speak English (we can, as evidenced by this very blog), it’s just that speaking in the language we grew up with is just a lot easier. We’re just talking to each other so why go over the hassle of translating everything we want to say in our heads before we actually speak out?

I bet that if these whingers take a trip to France, they’d be talking to other Aussies in English, whether or not they can speak French. I bet if they go to Bali for a summer holiday they’d speak English amongst themselves and not Bahasa Indonesia. I bet that even if they decide to live in Bali and master the language, they’d still talk in English when talking to other Aussies who may have similar Bahasa skills. It’s not that you can’t speak the second language, it’s just easier to speak with your first.

Of course, I totally agree that if a person intends to live in Oz for good, that person should learn the local tongue, if it’s in their means to do so. It just makes it easy for everyone if we can all communicate with each other using a common tongue.

Another hot issue in the talkbalk section right now is that there are people who want to ban muslim women from wearing a hajib, a sort of head scarf. According to the people calling for the ban, it’s a symbol of male oppression. The only problem is that there are women who prefer to continue wearing the hajib regardless. Maybe they want to keep on wearing it not because of any religious reasons at all. Maybe they just feel exposed without it.

I thought we live in a free country. If people want to start wearing daggy oversized shocking pink 80’s shirts again, I can’t stop them (even though I secretly wish that trend doesn’t come back). If some women want to wear turtle neck shirts instead of shirts with plunging necklines thereby showing much of their cleavages (which I think is quite popular here in Oz), I say let them. If nuns want can wear habits, women who prefer to wear hijabs should be just as allowed to do so.

Published in: on September 1, 2007 at 8:24 pm  Comments (9)