In recent years, more and more languages have begun to be added to the BC language curriculum. The newest of these is Farsi, and part of its successful introduction can be attributed to the Farsi Dar campaign.
Up to now, the Education Ministry had nine additional languages curricula for French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Punjabi, Spanish and American Sign Language.
Parallel to the Farsi-speaking community, estimated at over 43,000 according to the latest census numbers, Filipino groups across B.C. have been aiming for the same goal.
The Farsi Dar campaign is a grassroots campaign that was started in 2018. It began with the ongoing conversations within the Persian community about the challenges that families faced in their attempts to preserve their language and teach Farsi at home and rapidly developed into an organization. After years of campaigning, Farsi Dar was able to realize the dream of the Farsi-speaking Canadian community: to introduce Farsi into the educational system.
“This is a new chapter for our community because our community was not visible despite all of our contributions and all the roles it has played in our society,” says Farsi Dar president Amir Bajehkian. “Having the recognition of our language and culture to speak for us, and the fact that we can now work towards protecting and preserving the language for future generations is a great achievement and a great step forward.”
The new Farsi curriculum was developed by teachers from Coquitlam and Surrey, with help from a Simon Fraser University professor, according to the British Columbia Association of Teachers of Modern Languages (BCATML).
Although the group faced challenges, including the need to learn how a bureaucracy such as the school board operated and how to adapt to it, they continued because they did not want to deprive the children of their community of the opportunity to learn Farsi.
“For second-generation Canadians, [the ability to learn their own language] is a means to reconnect them and to make sure that they’re grounded, especially when there’s an opportunity for everyone to be proud of who they are and what their roots are,” says Bajehkian.
Although the campaign has been ongoing for four years, the introduction of Farsi into the Coquitlam school curriculum still feels new to members of the community.
Its introduction has built a concrete floor and will ensure that the language of Farsi does not slip through the cracks and is preserved in Coquitlam. It means that the young and the old speakers of the language will be able to communicate and maintain the bonds that make the Farsi-speaking community such a tight-knit one.
“I want [the children of the Farsi speaking community] to be proud of their roots, of who they are, and to learn about the profound impact their language had on different regions,” he adds. “Farsi has had an influence in a lot of different places. They should be proud, and get closer to other communities, because for centuries, Farsi is a language that would connect people.”
The possibility for the introduction of other languages to achieve what Farsi has and to enter the curriculum is one Farsi Dar completely stands behind.
“We are strong believers in linguistic diversity. We believe that we are all in this together, and we are allies to everyone who wants to fight to try to keep their language alive for future generations and to share with each other. So we are in this together, and this is about doubling down on who you are,” Bajehkian says. “As for anyone who wants to bring their languages to the curriculum, we are 100 per cent behind them.”
Tagalog, the language widely spoken in the Philippines, is another major language in B.C. that has had its representatives campaigning for its introduction into the B.C. school curriculum. According to a government census in 2016, of all the Tagalog speakers living in Canada, 18 per cent reside in British Columbia – and the number has only been increasing. As the population increases, so does the need for Tagalog to be taught in schools. The Embassy of the Philippines in Ottawa reports a population count of 123,170 Filipinos and Filipino-Canadians in Vancouver, forming the fourth largest visible minority.
Communication often breaks down between second-generation Filipino-Canadians and recently arrived Filipino immigrants. The introduction of Tagalog classes can bridge the communication gap.
“It’s another type of connection that would be fostered if Tagalog was to be introduced in the B.C. curriculum because many people who are already living here in B.C. – second generation Canadians – have already forgotten not just our language but our culture,” says Ian Caguiat, the former president of UBC’s Filipino Students Association, Kababayan. “Learning the language will give them an introduction to the culture that we are all very proud of in the Philippines and will also help them make the connections with the first generation Filipino immigrants.”
As Caguiat points out, language is a tool that can be used to help integrate Filipino immigrants into Filipino communities and Canadian society, in the same way that it has been for members of the Farsi speaking community.
As for Bajehkian, introducing the Farsi language in the B.C. Curriculum is simply a cultural and community-building campaign effort.
“We want this to be a step towards a more inclusive society in Canada,” he concludes.
For more information visit: https://curriculum.gov.bc.ca/curriculum/languages/courses
To get involved with Filipino culture visit https://www.instagram.com/ubckaba/?hl=enhttps://www.instagram.com/ubckaba/?hl=en