Me, Languages, Colonialism, Community and Identity

I’ve probably talked about being a TCK before on here, in an “oh, by the way” sort of way (actually, I’m not convinced I am a TCK, but I read a statistic a few years ago that something like 80% of TCKs doubt their TCK-ness, and most of the time it seems like a better explanation for some of my weirdness than me simply being weird, even though I was born and raised in my mother’s home country). Even though I’m Australian, I went to the German Ethnic School, and I spend a lot of time on the internet claiming to be a Scottish Gael. I’ve never really felt the need to explain why all this is, really.

But recently, there’s been a bit of kerfuffle in the language-learning community over “eco-linguism” vs. “linguo-tourism”. Insults have been slung about selfishness and about thoughtless name-calling. You’re colonialistic, or you’re ignorant, and so on. If you really want to know what’s going down, go and read about it for yourself. This post is based on a comment I made over on Loving Language.

colonialism

The picture.

It was probably the picture at the top of the screen that set off that rant-like comment. I’d been mostly ignoring the whole debacle, but a single picture turned “linguistic colonialism” from an abstract concept to something that hit a little too close to home. Other things seem to have worked their way into the rant, too. Things which have been simmering for probably a long while. Conversations I’ve had, articles I’ve read and written. Things not worth commenting on individually, but which all contribute to the whole which resulted in this reaction I had to a simple picture.

The thing is, colonialism is something close to me. Close to my family. And not in the best way. It’s something I’ve learnt to ignore and not talk about, particularly since I’m working in an ethnic radio station side-by-side Indians and Bangladeshis and Pakistanis and Malaysians.

It’s not just because I live in Australia, and I have relatives who will happily refer to my family as “living in the colonies”. It’s because both of my father’s grandfathers served in the Indian Army. It’s because my grandmother was born in British-occupied Lahore and my grandfather spent his youth in British-occupied Malaya. It’s because my great-grandparents knew each other in India long before my grandparents met and married in the UK. It’s because my grandfather taught me to count the chickens in Bahasa, and because I’ve been known to say “jaldee, jaldee” to little kids to get them to move along.

And it’s because all this is shameful. “Colonialism” is such a bad word, particularly in Australia, where it means “white invaders killing the locals”. Home Rule is a good thing, and it didn’t dispossess hundreds and thousands of Anglo-Indians who had never known a home other than Lahore or Lucknow, Culcutta or Bombay. My grandmother was stopped in the customs queue every time because her paperwork said she was born in Pakistan, but I didn’t even realise until I was a teenager that my family had spent two generations in India, or that Urdu (“Hindustani”) was part of my vocabulary.

Colonialism isn’t a clear-cut thing. I’ve known Aboriginal people to get stuck into me – and any white person – for maliciously coming over here and invading. It’s a major point of debate, argument, name-throwing and campaigning here at the moment. I don’t speak back against it, because my family was literally in the army that did it – if not here, then in other countries like here.

And you know why that is? Because after the English invaded our land, my clan had the good sense to be traitorous and swear allegiance to the English (well, German) king. That’s the only reason we’re one of the largest and most powerful clans today, and why we weren’t killed and scattered across the globe like so many of our brother and sister Gaels, most of whom won’t recognise us as Gaels because we were Anglicised so quickly. The colonised had become the colonisers. So many of those “white invaders” in the 18th and 19th centuries in Australia weren’t invaders at all, but refugees, looking for a new home after having lost theirs for one reason or another.

So, do I do the same thing? Or would I, rather, given the money and half a chance? Yeah, sure, I’d travel to Scotland in a heartbeat to immerse myself in the language my ancestors lost. I’m getting more and more curiosity about Lahore, so I wouldn’t half mind visiting this place I’ve only just realised had such an impact on my family. I’d travel the world if I could, yeah. I’d see the sights and have delights on every foreign shore. I’d probably try and learn a bit of the language, and I would almost certainly come away with a few new dishes, just as those evil colonial ancestors of mine did.

I’m pragmatic enough to realise that there are languages I probably should be learning just to exist in my local community. Doing the hospital chaplain thing and realising that I can’t communicate with half the people in the ward. Finding three Italians but exhausting what little I know within a minute with each of them. Greek and Vietnamese and Serbian and Madi: there’s a long list of languages I should come to grips with to be useful in my community.

Is it “colonialism”, then, in this new and negative meaning of the term, to say that they’re not my language, and that frankly I don’t care about them as much as I should? It rankles at me that I’ve lived in Adelaide all my life, but don’t speak the local language, Kaurna, even though there are only a few dozen speakers of Kaurna in the world and all of them speak English first. I can learn community languages for their use, but it’s dying (and reviving) indigenous languages that really make me care.

Learning Gaelic is like discovering part of myself that’s been squashed over the centuries. It doesn’t make sense, here on the other side of the world, but it’s helped me build a community in both countries, and to see the colonial history of Australia in a whole different way. It used to be the third-most-spoken language here. There are now less than 1000 speakers in the whole country.

My family’s been on both sides of the colonialism thing, and it’s easy to emphasise the one side over the other. The Gaels, the indigenous people of Scotland, were invaded and brutalised and suppressed and brainwashed and poorly-treated and re-educated and bribed and helped just as much as the indigenous people of any other country the English invaded were. It’s just that, with our white skin, we blended in after we learnt the language, we joined the military and joined the occupying forces and became half of the “Britain” that formed the British Empire.

My family escaped the Clearances by assimilating, and so even though we lost our lands to the government, we didn’t suffer at English hands. We became part of the hierarchy, part of the establishment, part of the military. So many of the rulers and officials and land-owners and everyone else who made the Clearances happen weren’t English invaders at all, but Scottish landowners – Gaels themselves – who had to turn on their own people to survive.

And my family spent two hundred years on the other side. The British Empire learnt how to build empires on its own soil. Even into the last century, “England” could stand for the whole of the United Kingdom, even though that included Wales and Ireland and Scotland. Every trick that the British Empire ever used to subdue and assimilate and destroy local cultures was trialled and tested and perfected at home, and it was those people on whom it had been trialled and tested and perfected who then carried it out on the next generations.

You see, there, I’m emphasising the “victim” part of my ancestors’ colonialism saga. I shouldn’t do that, because it obscures the truth: my family, my own grandparents and great-grandparents served in the occupying force. There’s a lot of pride in that, pride in the Empire, pride in what was achieved and what it makes us. My cousins speak with posh Public School accents and plan to join the army. My grandmother – that same grandmother who used Scots and Gaelic and Urdu words in her speech, who was so down-to-earth and sensible, cooking in the kitchen and weeding in the garden and teaching me to sew – was one of the most ardent imperialists I’ve ever met. “The Crown can do no wrong”, regional accents have no place on television, and just why “the colonies” want to become republics is a complete mystery.

And that’s a part of me, too, probably more than singing in Gaelic about the Clearances can ever be. And sometimes I need a reality check to remind myself where I really come from.

So I’m a TCK. It’s something borne out of three centuries of colonialism and the resultant generational homelessness. There’s always going to be two warring parts of me, one saying “put down roots, form a community”, and the other one saying, “move already! your horizons are too narrow!” Hopefully one day I’ll be able to do both.

Until then, there’s no use in getting upset over a bunch of twenty-somethings travelling the world and learning languages. They’ll get older and wiser and more pragmatic. They’ll put down roots and get dug into their communities, and their youthful “linguistic tourism” experiences, however colonialistic they might have been, will give them a little more perspective than someone who’s just stayed cemented in the single community all their life, and an extra way of connecting to the others in the community, and of building it up for later generations.

george-campbell-hay

George Campbell Hay in the 1970s. [Gordon Wright]

And as for me, I’ll continue speaking Gaelic, immersing myself in reclaiming that part of my heritage. I’m not the first of my clan – my family – to do so. One hundred and one years ago, George Campbell Hay (who looks scarily like so many male members of my more immediate extended family) was born – I’ve only just discovered that. Like me, he was born and raised English-speaking. Like so many of our clan, he served in the British Army and was an ardent Scottish nationalist. Like me, he was caught by a love of the Gaelic language as a teenager, and he persisted in learning it.

I’ve learnt important world languages. Yes, they’re all European, and I can’t help that. Now, I think, it’s the time for me to learn those endangered languages I’ve mentioned earlier. Learning Gaelic has given me a deeper understanding of language loss. Yes, it’s sad when an immigrant community loses their language, but there’s always the lingering thought that “they still speak it in the homeland”. When indigenous languages die, that’s it. They’re gone.

I’ve been told by people that Gaelic is dying. I’ve been told by people that Gaelic is dead. It’s not, as far as I can see, and I don’t think it ever will die. The numbers of Gaelic-speakers are rising among the younger generations. There’s government support for it. No, the Celtic languages that are alive now aren’t going to die. Two of them already have, and they’ve come back to life.

What about Kaurna? It’s been revived, but it doesn’t have the sort of support of Cornish or Manx. What about Narungga or Pitjantjatjara or Barossadeitsch? Maybe if I took the time to learn them, to build up – even if it’s just with the addition of a single person – those communities, maybe they would start to stand a chance at surviving. Maybe I can begin to undo some of the destruction my ancestors (and all those like them) wrought.

I still get bitten occasionally by a love of some exotic foreign language. Okay, more than occasionally. I’ve been harbouring a secret desire to learn Maori for years. Russian’s been on my list for almost as long, and Arabic is also vying for attention. Would it be so bad, if I had the money, if I travelled to learn one of those languages?

Yes, maybe I wouldn’t stay there indefinitely. Maybe I would. I don’t know that. As I’ve said, I’m a TCK. I’ve a feeling my feet will keep me moving my whole life. Or perhaps I’ll find somewhere I can settle down and contribute. I really don’t know.

But all the while, I am building connections. Maybe not always in my local community. Gaelic is useless as far as the local community is concerned, although it has given me a small handful of people within the same city with whom I now socialise regularly. It’s also given me connections across Australia, connections in Scotland and the potential for connections in Canada and New Zealand and Ireland. Maybe they’re not building my local community. Maybe they are. Maybe they will one day.

Gaelic and German together have helped me understand the immigrant experience, such as it is. Being a white “Anglo-Celtic” immigrant – or the child of a white “Anglo-Celtic” immigrant – is not being an immigrant at all. But you don’t get to lecture me on not understanding what it’s like to have to study in my second language, because I’ve both studied and functioned day-to-day in my second and third and fourth languages. And you don’t get to lecture me on not understanding what it’s like to live in a foreign country, because I’ve been confused by foreign supermarkets and got lost in foreign towns and been unable to communicate with foreign authorities.

And maybe that’s what “linguo-tourism” does, in the end. Yes, maybe all those young twenty-somethings who are going off to spend two or three years splashing all their western money about in some other country can seem young and arrogant and naïve at the moment, and maybe it does seem a bit pointless to spend time in a city and not put down enough roots to stay there, but in the end, if they end up going back to wherever they came from, they’re going to better understand the people who don’t have that choice to go home, and they’re going to be better people, and better communicators, and better community members.

Young people don’t always have the same perspective as someone who’s “been there and done that”. And I say this as a young person. Even I think some of the “linguo-tourism” behaviour seems a little arrogant and spoiled at times, but I won’t judge it as wrong.

Community is important to me. I tried to pretend I didn’t need it for a lot of years. But not everyone’s community is the same, and not everyone’s way of relating to community is the same.

In Gaelic, the first thing one Gael asks when meeting another is not about the weather, it’s about the ceangal. It means “connection” or “link”. We’re all connected, we just need to work out how. Sometimes it’s as simple as speaking the same language (although in a language community that small, it’s rarely just the language, even for someone with no Gaelic-speaking family members like me). From those links, then, we can build our community and our future.

The first title I gave this rant was “Where are you from?” I can answer that, I suppose: “Not here. But also here.”

The second title I gave it was “Why I’m a TCK”. I suppose I’ve answered that one, too: “Colonialism.”

So I’m going to have to settle for giving it less a title and more a collection of nouns. Me, Languages, Colonialism, Community and Identity.

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Hear Me On the Radio

Tune in to 5-EBI at 103.1FM, digital EBI-World, or via live-stream at 1230h (12:30pm) to hear me:

Tuesday the 18th of October (as a guest co-host with Jim and Des)

Tuesday the 25th of October (as a guest interviewee with Margot)

Tuesday the 29th of November (as host and operator)

Remember, 12:30 on Tuesdays is Reidio Albannach (Scottish Radio Hour). Don’t worry, it’s (almost entirely) in English. Stay tuned afterwards to listen to Raidio Eireannach (Irish Radio Hour) from 1:30 until 2:30, or listen on Saturdays at 5pm for Celtic Hour. All times are Central Australian time.

 

Some (Mis)Adventures with Korean

This is written partially in response to a challenge issued by Loving Language about telling our language stories. It was also inspired by his most recent post regarding language preconceptions (the first anecdote, anyway).

Before I begin, it is important to note that I am not Korean. My ancestry comes entirely from north-western Europe, and I do not – in any way, shape or form – resemble a Korean person.

-=-=-=-

When I was about twelve, my family went to South Korea for my uncle’s (wi sukbu) wedding. Most of my mother’s extended family was there, and one night, we went out to dinner with the soon-to-be-in-laws – Uncles First to Third Brother and their wives and children.

After dinner, the children left the hotel’s dining room to sit and play in the lounging area. We had a range of ages, but for the most part we all had “doubles”, new cousins of our age and gender. One of the pairs were two little girls of about three, my cousin (imo’s daughter), who – as is crucial to the story – was adopted from China.

At one point in the evening, Hyon-Ji wandered away from where she and Peng-Peng were playing near the wall of glass which passed as a window in the hotel. I can’t remember what for – perhaps to talk to one of her sisters – but we definitely had clear view of both of them.

While Peng-Peng was by the window, ostensibly by herself to any onlookers, a Korean woman came up to her and started addressing her in Korean – I presume to ask where her parents were. Peng-Peng just looked back at her in confusion.

Sensing a situation, I went over to try to do something about it. Unfortunately, Peng-Peng and I do not look like we’re related.

“She is Korean.”

“No, Australian. Hoju. My sa-chon.”

“She look Korean.”

“She’s from China originally. Jungguk. She’s Australian, though.”

“Australia?”

“Yes, hoju. She’s my sa-chon.”

The thing is, Peng-Peng doesn’t – and didn’t – look Korean, either. But I suppose she didn’t look like she belonged with all the white Australians in the room, especially given she had been playing with a quite obviously Korean girl.

-=-=-=-

About a year later, I had started high school back in Australia and International Day was swiftly approaching – the day when the student body (hailing for more than sixty countries) got together with other people from that country in order to represent that country in a big festival on the oval.

At that point, with my weeks in Korea fresh in my memory, I talked about it a lot with my friends – one from China, one Chinese-Australian, one Vietnamese-Australian, one Indian-Australian, one French-Australian, and me, whatever I am. For the purposes of several discussions we’d had about westerners being unable to tell different nationalities of Asian apart, westerners being unable to use chopsticks, and my strange obsession with bulgogi, let’s just say I’d played up the “Korean relatives” thing a bit.

Anyway, in home group, discussion about going along to country meetings and representing countries reigned supreme. It turned out that we had a Korean in the class – one of the boys to whom I’d never payed much attention.

“I’m not actually Korean,” he pointed out, “But my parents are from Korea.”

“That’s Korean enough to go to the meeting,” Thuy-Anh informed him. “I’m going to the Vietnam one. Rachel’s Korean.”

The boy – Andrew or Anthony or something – was rightfully confused about that statement. “No, she’s not. She’s Australian.”

“Yes, she is,” another of my friends insisted. “Her family’s Korean.”

“Actually,” I pointed out – and it should have been just as obvious as Albert thought it was – “I’m not Korean. I just have Korean relatives.”

As it turned out, I went along to the Great Britain meeting and ended up dressing in tartan on the day.

-=-=-=-

Several years passed, and for some reason, I didn’t lose what little Korean I’d managed to gain in the lessons my family had taken before we’d visited. If you’re going to learn a second language, I don’t recommend you start with something as different to your own as English and Korean, because I was eleven, it was the first language I’d seriously tried to learn, and I didn’t learn much.

I know as much Korean today as I did when I visited Korea – which means I can read the alphabet and know a handful of phrases. Some of my sister’s friends took advantage of this a couple of times, writing down things in Korean and getting me to read them out before collapsing into giggles – they knew full well that I was just reading the sounds without any comprehension of what it meant.

When I was sixteen, I volunteered as a bunkhouse leader at a local youth camp. Two years in a row, I had the same girl in my bunkhouse – a Korean who called herself Amy (I knew several Korean Amies at that point). She told me towards the end of the first camp in my bunkhouse that her real name was Su-Mi, and I dutifully wrote out my own name in Hangul for her – Le-i-chel (yes, I need to do something about my name.)

At her second camp in my bunkhouse, there were several Korean boys she knew in another bunkhouse who were – if we’re being honest – very much our problem campers, constantly getting into mischief. Almost every time we were near them, Su-Mi would sidle up to me and whisper, “Rachel, he said a bad word in Korean!”

Things came to a head on the second-to-last day of camp, when they were making nuisances of themselves at dinner, talking to each other loudly in Korean, safely assured that quiet Su-Mi was the only one who could understand them. (Which was true – although her little voice in my ear assured me that what they were saying was rude).

My table ran out of water, and I leant across the aisle in the dining room and tapped one of the boys on the shoulder.

“Mul ojuseyo?”

The two boys went so pale! “You speak Korean?”

The answer is ‘no, not really’, but I didn’t let that stop me. “Nye, gulochyo.”

Silently, they handed the jug of water over.

Su-Mi didn’t tell me they were swearing for the rest of the camp.

-=-=-=-

It’s been eight years since we were in Korea, and a lot has changed. When we first came back, there was just one Korean restaurant in Adelaide, and no-one had heard of Korea, kimchi, bulgogi or bibimbap.

Somewhere along the line, K-pop became the newest fad in Australia, and suddenly every teenage girl around was an officinado of Korean culture, music, and kimchi. A lot of Korean takeaway shops opened. I stopped talking about Korea – and bulgogi – quite so much, because I didn’t want to look like I was just following the latest fad.

But I’m still a massive fan of bulgogi – even though I don’t really like kimchi – and given that I’ve overfilled myself on ₩2000 of actual, genuine bulgogi with rice and lettuce and banchan sitting on the floor of a hole-in-the-wall establishment somewhere in the back-streets of downtown Daejon, I have a limited tolerance for the rice-and-meat-in-a-plastic-box combination that Korean takeaway shops in Adelaide try to pass off as “bulgogi” (or, even worse, with the English translation of “beef teriyaki”).

So sometimes there’s nothing for it but to visit one of the local Happy-Go-Lucky Marts and buy a bag of thinly-sliced beef and a jar of bulgogi sauce (yes, yes, I know, dear sister, that this creates sub-standard bulgogi and I should make the sauce myself) and make myself banchan and peel myself lettuce and eat Korean food the proper way.

With thin metal chopsticks, not with round wooden throw-away ones.

I’m planning a massive bulgogi (with banchan! with banchan, I tell you!) feast for the next weekend and made one of those trips into my favourite Happy-Go-Lucky Mart this afternoon.

It may be my favourite, but I only go in once or twice a year, and there’s always someone different in there. You know that feeling when you walk into a shop and you know you don’t belong? It wasn’t very full – there was only one other customer – but eyes followed me, thinking, “What is this white woman doing here? Should I ask her if she’s lost?”

I didn’t want much – just beef, bulgogi sauce, savoury pancake mix and puffed rice honey sticks (ssal-gwa-ja) – but there weren’t any rice sticks and I had trouble finding the pancake mix. I toyed with the idea over going over the counter and asking “do you have any pancake mix?”, but I didn’t know the word for “pancake” and asking “pancake mix issoyo?” is just confusing, because in Korea, pancakes are savoury and have vegetables in them, but in Australia, they’re sweet (in Korea, “hotcake”).

I eventually found the pancake mix and made my way over to the cash register to pay. The interaction was silent – they never know what to make of me – and as the man handed over my shopping, I bowed and murmured, “Kumsumnida.”

With K-pop and all things Korea so popular, I wonder every time why they’re so surprised every time.

“How do you speak Korean?”

“I was in Korea once when I was a child. My uncle lives in Daejon.”

“This is very good! Very good!”

“Chonun hanguk-olul haji malhanda.” (Officially the longest sentence I know, and probably wrong).

“Very good! Very good Korean! Here, is free!” He handed me a packet of squid-flavoured two-minute noodles, “Free for speak very good Korean!”

“Kumsumnida, kumsumnida!” More bowing as I leave. “Annyonghi kyeseyo! Kumsumnida!”

“Annyonghi kaseyo!”

-=-=-=-

When we were in Korea, free things came to us because we had small blond(e) children with us. Here in Australia, I get free things because I know a handful of phrases in Korean.

The area where I grew up – at the time, almost entirely Italian – is now the largest concentration of Koreans in the state. It’s a little sad that a white “local” knowing a few greetings in Korean is such a rarity that it warrants such excitement.

I can’t stand K-pop, just for the record.

A Few Thoughts on Baptism

As I was reading one of my texts this week, my mind wandered to a conversation I had over the weekend. I was at the baptism of the four-month-old son of a classmate. The father, like me, had studied at ACM, and admitted to me that he had considered not baptising his son after some of the things he had heard there.

This classmate and I are in the unique position of being familiar with both views on baptism and not coming down firmly on one side or another. He grew up in a Lutheran church, while I grew up in a Baptist one; I grew up hearing the vitriol a lot of Baptists spout regarding infant baptism, including from my own father. As a child, I accepted that as the truth, and infant baptism as something errant and wrong. I now know it’s not so simple.

Yes, there are strong and compelling and Biblical arguments for both sides. I myself wasn’t baptised as a baby, and in some ways, I’m glad I was allowed to make that choice for myself. But on the other hand, I don’t think I’d have lost anything in having been baptised as a baby. When I was about six or seven, I approached the pastor at our church to say I wanted to be baptised. “You’ll have to wait,” I was told, “You’re not old enough to make that decision yet.”

I wasn’t baptised until I was about eleven or twelve – old enough, apparently, to know what I was doing. Yet, at the age of six, maybe I didn’t understand the nuances of it, or the full significance of baptism, as I do now, but I knew what it was. I knew being baptised was about being a Christian, about identifying with Jesus, and I knew that I wanted to be part of it. I was ready to be baptised at six, but the “believer’s baptism” church I belonged to wouldn’t allow it because I wasn’t old enough.

My sister still hasn’t been baptised. It’s not because she’s not a Christian, because she is, and she knows vaguely that she should be baptised at some point. She’s getting to an age where everyone’s going to just assume she’s been baptised already. But for us, the journey to being a Christian doesn’t have some clearly-defined life-changing salvation story. If anything, the journey to being a Christian started when we were born into a Christian family. People who convert to Christianity when they’re older are first baptised when they’re saved, and then go on a journey to discover what it means to be Christians. Why shouldn’t children born to Christian families likewise be baptised at the beginning of their journey, rather than halfway through?

The classmate I was speaking to told me that he had been baptised as a baby, but his wife hadn’t been baptised until she was ten or eleven. “Sometimes I think something’s been taken away from me,” he said, “That I wasn’t given the opportunity to make the decision myself. If you’re baptised as a baby, then being baptised and making the choice to follow through with that are years apart. But that’s very individualistic.”

I hadn’t thought of it like that. Is adult baptism just a reflection on the individualism of our culture? In the text I read today, it described a difference between today’s Western culture and the Bible world. It spoke of how today’s world is made up of individuals, while the world of the Bible was made up of households. In the Bible, children were baptised when their parents converted; the household was baptised, not the individual.

I grew up practicing a very individualistic faith in a very individualistic world. I’m still trying to work out what it means to practice one’s faith in a community, but I am sure that’s the way it’s meant to be done. Community – family, clan, nation – was more important to the people of the Bible than themselves as individuals. Many traditional churches have retained this, while modern churches have lost it somewhere, taking community as fun events and not faith. In many modern churches, our faith is individual, while traditional ones values cohortative prayer and communal song. The idea of the group being more important than the individual, or of everything have consequences for others, is at loggerheads with today’s culture.

We like the idea of adult “believer’s” baptism because it places the emphasis on the individual and the individual’s decision, while we eschew infant baptism because it takes the choice away from the individual and places responsibility on the parents, on the wider community, and on the church community as a whole. The vows made by each of these groups at an infant baptism are something special and touching, a promise to welcome the child, to teach the child, to help the child to grow.

And yes, there are so many people who get their children baptised just because they think it’s the thing to do. We touched on that in our discussion; we’ve both seen so many people come through our churches, having their children baptised and just standing there, sometimes not even making the promises. We both see this as a problem; I wish there were some out for priests and ministers who are approached in this way to say, “I’m sorry, but I can see you’re not going to uphold these promises, so I can’t, in good conscience, baptise your child.”

I was so thrilled to be invited to be part of this classmate’s child’s baptism, because I knew that his parents would take it seriously. This, to me, is the beauty of infant baptism; a sincere statement by the parents that this child is loved and welcomed by the community and by God, this child is one of us, we’re going to teach this child about God with every waking moment and one day, we pray, this child will stand beside us, mature and strong in his faith in God. This child is beginning his journey today, as with hundreds of thousands of millions before him, in trusting God and living as part of the wider Christian community.

I’m not saying there’s something wrong with adult baptism. I don’t know where I stand on re-baptism; I can see that there is early church precedent for a baptism for re-commitment after having strayed for a bit. Adult baptism is what some people need. There are so many thousands of people in the world who haven’t come to faith, or who, believing as teenagers or adults, are baptised then. I can see all the arguments for how babies can’t honestly make this decision for themselves; how does a baby know what he believes? I concede all these arguments and understand them.

But who ever makes a decision for himself? Who ever makes a decision which doesn’t affect someone else? Is there such a thing as being truly individual? Should Christians who have been baptised as babies resent their Christian parents for robbing them of an individual choice? Or should they rejoice in being part of the Christian community from birth, in being part of something so much larger than themselves?

Which is better – to be an individual, or to be part of a group?

Should one’s statement of faith be made as an individual, or as part of the group?

Gemeinschaft – und ein Vorsatz des neues Jahres

Ich muss Deutsch üben!!! Hier ist mein Vorsatz.

Okay, hier ist mein Problem. Well, es ist nicht ein wahre Problem, aber ich liebe mein Dörfchen. (Ist “Dörfchen” ein Wort? Ja, dass ist wirklich mein Problem!) Unser Dörfchen ist nicht so groβ – es gibt vielleicht hundert oder zweihundert Leute. Aber wir haben gute “Gemeinschaft-heit”. (Ist “Gemeinschaftheit” ein Wort?).

Doch, jedes Jahr machen wir vielen Dorffeier – wir singen Weihnachtslieder, es gibt uns Weihnachtsfeier bei mir zuhause, es gibt uns auch ein Silvesterfeier bei andere Leute zuhause… Ja, ich liebe mein Dörfchen.

Wir sprechen mehr als vier Sprache in meinem Dörfchen! Dieser Abend, in den Silvesterfeier, gab es deutschsprachige Leute und französischsprachige Leute (und naturlich englischsprachige Leute). Und ich habe Deutsch gesprochen.

“O, du kannst Deutsch sprechen!” (Es gab Freundin der Groβsmutter der Kinder die ich habe babygesittet, als ich in Gymnasium war – aus Melbourne, aus Deutschland).

“Nee,” fragtet ich, “Ich kann Deutsch nicht so gut sprechen.”

“You have an accent, but es gut ist that you can Deutsch sprechen.”

“Well, ich lernte vier Jahre beim Deutsche Schule anns an… im Adelaide, und in der Schule kommte alle andere Schüler aus Deutschland oder Österreich, und wir haben nur Deutsch gesprochen, aber jetzt bin ich zu alt und ich spreche kein Deutsch jetzt… tha mi anns an oilthigh a-nis, chan eil mi a’ bruidhinn mòran Deutsch a-nis.”

“In der Schule? Two languages ist gut.”

“Ja, genau, aber two years I haven’t spoken German. Zwei Jahre hab’ ich keine Deutsch gesproch’n.”

Ja, kannst du sehen, dass mein Deutsch jetzt so schrecklich ist?!?! Ich hab’ an Akzent! Nie hat jemand diese Ding emir gesagt – über Deutsch, sowieso. Aber ich konnte meinem Akzent hören. Aber sgramhail! Wie schrecklich!

Also, mein erste Satz: ich muss Deutsch üben.

Wo? Wann? Wie? Ich weiβ nicht.

‘N uair a bha mi fertig leis an ardsgoil, hab’ ich gedacht, “Was jetzt? Wäre es nicht schrecklich, ob ich vergessen, wie man Deutsch sprichtst?”

Vor zwei Jahren, gab es nicht. (Well, vielleicht gab es Gruppe aber… in my defence, niemand hat uns gesprochen über den Gruppe. You’d think when teenagers graduate, someone should provide some sort of social language activity for them. Aber es gab nichts… auβer Disco in den Deutscheklubbe, aber… wirklich? Es gibt so viele middle-aged immigrants. Es war nicht so cool!)

Aber… ich habe im Internet gesucht, und ich denke jetzt, dass es zwei Möglichkeiten gib. Es gibt den “Deutsch Stammtisch”, zwei Mittwoch ein Monat, und es gibt den “Deutscher Volksliederchor”, auch Mittwoch.

Ich hoffe, dass ich zum Sprachgruppe oder Singgruppe gehen kann, nächste Jahre. Ich muss Deutsch üben. Ich kann jetzt Deutsch nicht so gut, und dass wirklich schrecklich ist!