A word-y debate

Don’t “dis-” me

Ohhhhh, as a linguist, I love these debates … let’s change this word for another word that over time will only become the next derogatory term. The article gets there in the end. Change the word all you want, it doesn’t change the attitude.

Last week I received an encouraging email from an expert in the field of …. I’m going to call it inclusion. That covers just about everything from diversity to second language learning to samenleven to whatever you like. He said my ideas and questions had merit. He said it was long-haul and difficult work. He also said he preferred not to use “anderstaligen”. He did not provide me with an alternative, though having recently attended a talk of his, I guess it’d be something along the lines of “meertaligen”. The problem with that in Flanders is that nearly everyone is technically meertalig (which makes the Flemish somewhat annoying from a language learner’s perspective).

So this article discusses the use of “disability” and “disabled” and not people coming into one land from another.

Disabled. Handicapped. Challenged. Differently abled. Special. Special needs.

Allochtoon. Anderstaligen. Meertaligen. Buitenlander. Vreemdeling. Foreigner. Immigrant. Migrant.

The problem in both situations and so many other situations is the labeling. Trying to fit people, all of whom are unique and special and challenged and disabled and more capable in one way than another and from one place or another place and believe this or that or the other thing and speak one language or 5 etc… What I’m trying to say is that perhaps we should just call people what they are – PEOPLE. HUMANS. BEINGS.

On a side note, it always strikes me as rather strange how official agencies get themselves so tied up with names and titles and logos and the words while the people they’re concerning themselves with are getting on with just getting on. By the way, very few people coming into Belgium and learning Nederlands have even the foggiest idea about what allochtoon means or that anderstaligen may or may not carry negative connotation. Seriously, connotation??? Unless it is specifically pointed out, connotation of a word is but whispering from the sidelines of our learning.


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