Fareena Mohuyudeen (Salesperson): `I was born in Suriname, so I speak Dutch, English and Hindi. In Suriname, about nine different languages are spoken and all nine are taught in schools. I really think foreign languages should be compulsory in schools, the earlier they start the better. I would say from primary school, because they will understand faster. Knowing a foreign language is very useful, especially for the customers I interact with, because a lot of Dutch people come from time to time. You cooperate more with customers if you know exactly what they want.
Casper Evans (Architect): “I was exposed to a foreign language in high school for about a year. I dropped it, but at that time I had no idea how important it was and how much it would interest me. Currently, it’s a bit difficult to learn a second language, it’s much more difficult now. I have a great interest in learning other languages now, and have been looking for places to learn a second or even a third language. I didn’t have time though. I’m interested in learning Chinese and Spanish, the two languages that pretty much take over. For the Chinese, they come a lot. We know China is overpopulated so they are migrating to third world countries and starting their businesses and so on. For Spaniards… A lot of Guyanese migrate, and the main language for me seems to be Spanish. Spanish is beginning to become a universal language, and it won’t hurt to learn it. I think foreign languages should be compulsory in schools and should be taught from an early age. I have a nephew who is three years old and he speaks Dutch and English, so I think if you instill it in a very young child he will get it because he can’t tell the difference between the two.
Colleen Bovell (doctor): “In high school, I was exposed to French and Spanish. I wrote Spanish at CXC, but French, I did it just for fun. During my university studies, I also did some Spanish, so now I speak the language fluently. I was also exposed to a bit of Portuguese because of my job. I plan to go back and learn French, but first I will take a Portuguese course with the Brazilian Embassy, then after that I will seek to learn French. I think learning a foreign language is very important and it should be compulsory because, for example, when I was studying Spanish, I didn’t imagine going to another country or anything. Eventually I got a scholarship to study in Cuba, and in Cuba the official language is Spanish, so I was ahead of the class because I had the basics. The other reason I’m interested in learning other languages is because of my job — because I’m a generalist, I have to work where needed. Now the need is in Lethem, so I was transferred to Lethem. When we are in Lethem, we have to transfer patients to Boa Vista, Brazil, where they speak Portuguese. Now, if I had known Portuguese before, it would have been much easier for me. I didn’t know Portuguese, but I knew Spanish, which is very close to Portuguese, so that helped me a lot, and being there for a while, I also learned some of the language. That’s why it’s important, at least one language. Because you may not see the need for it at the moment, but later in life, maybe for work, travel or something else, you may need this knowledge.
Annie Deonarine (Salesperson): “On a daily basis, we deal with customers and not all of them speak English. As a salesperson, you might want to learn this because otherwise you can’t build a relationship with the customer or find out what they want. I had an incident where a customer was asking to buy a food item and they said they didn’t understand, so I was showing them signs. And we were both laughing because neither of us could understand. When it came to calculating the price, I had to use the calculator to show them.
Selwyn Jones: “Many people who come to the restaurant speak a foreign language. If they don’t understand, show them signs or someone will tell them. So I think people should learn a foreign language. I never had the opportunity to learn one, and honestly, I never really thought about it.
Faye Frederick: `I speak English and Wapishiana but I want to learn Spanish, and if I had the chance, I would. I see that speaking a foreign language is very, very important in our society, especially when you are involved in an organization like mine. We go to different countries and knowing another language can really help you understand what is going on there. Knowing another language can also help you to express your point of view, because in Guyana we only speak English, and when you go to these other countries, they can speak Spanish, and therefore have the knowledge of a language Foreign language is so important to Guyanese and therefore I would like to encourage people to go out and learn another language. I also think it is important to integrate foreign languages in schools, especially schools in the hinterland. We don’t have the opportunities there because there’s a shortage of teachers, but it’s so important. It is very important for us as indigenous people to make our voices heard.
Dillon Seetram: `Learning a foreign language is very important for the profession in which I work. Moreover, I think it is important in this globalized world to know another language than the language you speak. At the moment I don’t know any but I plan to learn French because I think it’s a very unique and good language to learn and I think I’ll pursue that next year. I think the language institute here in Guyana is very good in this regard, but there are also a number of applications available online that can help. For example, I downloaded Duolingo to learn French. I haven’t done it much, but it’s a very good app and I think people can search for more apps online that can help them learn another language.
Francois Mandukin: `I speak Portuguese, Wapishiana and English. My mother tongue is Wapishiana; I learned English in school and I learned Portuguese when I went to Brazil for a while. It helped me to move freely without depending on anyone. In my community, we need people who can speak the language to be teachers. Maybe someone from Brazil who can speak English can come and teach in the schools. But you have locals like me, but I can just speak it, I can’t write it, or I know the structure of the language. So we need someone trained on that. Even our own language, we want someone to teach our people. Because I work with the Wapishiana Language Project, I translated the Bible into Wapishiana…right now they are training teachers from other places to go and teach the language.
Martin Luke King: “Why not learn a foreign language? We have a lot of Brazilians, Colombians, Venezuelans, Cubans, so I think it’s important for Guyanese to know how to speak other languages, especially those languages, because we’re going to have to be able to get along with these people. Especially these stores, when they are looking for employees now, they ask you to have some knowledge of a foreign language. I tried Spanish at school but didn’t follow it through. I think foreign languages should be included in the school curriculum, I think it’s important. If I have the opportunity to learn another language, I would; mainly those related to neighboring countries.
Shane Demattos: ‘I never had the opportunity to learn Spanish but I always wanted to. Lately, many foreigners have entered the country and it would be better if we spoke their language. You should enjoy learning a foreign language as it can take you far. This will greatly improve your communication. I’ve always wanted to learn Spanish, so I think I’ll give it a go.