Language and Literacy and Connecting Community

I  (Yiola) am sitting in a Tim Horton’s, sipping on a double double with milk, and very (yes I just used the word very when it was completely unnecessary!) suddenly feel inspired. I was in the midst of writing about this terrible “work to rule” strike happening in our public schools when a topic far more inspiring came to mind… the power of language and its connection to community.

Moments ago, as I had my head buried in the lap top focused on my blog, out of the corner of my eye I saw a group of older men chatting in their native language… a language that happens to be my own native language, Greek.  I felt a sweet spring of inspiration and connection to these men who gather around the table, sipping their coffees and socializing. It brought back the stories my parents shared of my grandfather walking 2 kilometres each day to the local “cafenio” where he would meet his friends and chat the afternoon away.  I visualized the cobble stone road that led from my Papous’ (grandfathers) house in his village (Yermasoyia); the narrow, hilly road that was lined with small villas and heritage homes. The more I heard the Greek phrases channel through their discourse the more at home I felt in this generic Tim Horton’s shop. I tried not to stare at them as they spoke. What occurred to me, and what may seem obvious and yet not entirely understood until felt, was the intensity of connection and understanding I experienced simply based on my understanding of language. I felt empowered because I knew their language. I felt connected. It felt familiar and safe.

Shortly after another group of men entered the Tim Horton’s and they too began socializing over coffee. This time I did not recognize the language spoken and yet I deeply appreciated the value of their connection. How wonderful to have people in your life that you are able to connect to through shared language. Shared language = understanding.

I look behind me. A couple sits in the booth in silence, each reading a section of the newspaper. Again, a strong sense of literacy at play; a strong sense of cultural connection.

Language and literacy is everywhere. Our language identifies us and connects us to the world.  How magnificently simple and yet so directly relevant to literacy and language development. Immersion in language, opportunities for sharing, talking, communicating, relevant reasons for reading and writing… a simple class field trip to Timmy’s may be in order…

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