“Lol..did she just say sankes you?” – How Speaking English is a Luxury and not a Necessity

“Di alet pikini…da al fery much..bee2a awi..hahaha” 

Many non-English speaking Arabs, or Arabs who don’t speak the language with high fluency, are relentlessly ridiculed for the way they express themselves. Even though their limited ability to speak the language is due to lower opportunities available within the educational system, they are still mocked regardless. This leaves us failing to realize that those given said privileges are a luxury that only a minority around the world shares. 

Yet, how is it that those who fall into the supposed ‘educated’ bracket in upper society have such an ignorant lack of empathy regarding on dealing with the matter? Why is that they deem it acceptable to mock for their own entertainment, instead of being a source of education? And why is it that this behavior has been normalized and is ‘ok’? 

It takes a level of unwarranted conceit to make one feel okay or comfortable around condescending others. Having said that, it is more common to be part of sharing a said meme or joke, instead of not taking part at all. Why? Because the intention is a moment of entertainment, yet they must ask themselves, at whose expense? And what do we represent as a society that applauds such behavior in the long run?

It is, to feel above others for not being as linguistically educated as they are, yet they themselves may not share the same capability when it comes to the native language itself. Having difficulty in doing simple tasks such as reading a document, signing their name, or ordering from a menu, are all struggles that are perceived as ‘cute.’ So, where does the entitlement come from, and why is one ‘cooler’ than the other? Where does the double standard lie?

Language is crucial in one’s life. It can take you past borders without leaving your space, it enables the transfer of ideas and culture, and it connects us as humans. If anything, it makes us human. And it is inevitable that different individuals will have higher levels of fluency in different languages based on the environment they had no choice in growing up in.

So why is the ‘B’ and ‘P’ mix up such a big deal?

Why is it that someone’s incorrect pronunciation or incorrect grammar gives us a sense of entitlement to mock them? 

And, more importantly, why does this act of mockery often feel instinctual or natural, when from a closer look, it is unarguably ridiculous? 

Sure, speaking English is an asset, but it is not an asset they necessarily worked hard to earn, it is an opportunity that was given to them simply because they were lucky. And to look down upon others simply because they were not granted that same opportunity is not only hypocritical, but it is insensitive and rude. By failing to be mindful of why they have the resources they have, and further belittling others for not having them, is to have an unfounded level of pride that in truth, is a product of privilege. A privilege that makes them lucky at best, but in no way better. 

You are not superior to others because you went to an international school and they went to a governmental one. You are not superior to others because you can correctly place the b’s and the p’s, or the f’s and the v’s. You are not superior to others because they didn’t get a chance to learn a language that is not their first. And you are not superior to others because you happened to be privileged, and to think so is to delusionally boost your ego. 

Even though making fun of English feels automatic, it is time to abnormalize and discredit this feeling. Instead of making others feel small or not “good enough” merely for mispronouncing a word or misplacing a pronoun, you should constructively correct and educate them. And, you should make them feel comfortable enough to make these mistakes. If you don’t stop judging and disrespecting non-English speakers, they will never feel at ease speaking a language that is not easy for them to communicate through to begin with. If you can’t offer these individuals the same opportunities you had, the least you could do is use what you have to validate them rather than make them feel small for ill-advised reasons. Disparaging others through your privilege rather than supporting them through it, feeling superior for no reason other than being lucky, and lastly, being unable to shift the narrative from “being better than” to “being equal to” within the bounds of your differences, is not only a misuse of luxury, but an abuse of it. So, if you find yourself within this bracket of placing yourself on a higher pedestal because you speak better English than someone else, it is time to ask yourself: are my thoughts reflective of reality, or are they reflective of my inability to tolerate a reality I had no say in its making?  

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