Part of our work in the office at CDCE-I, is to assist with a training course where young people, aged between 14 to 16 are learning English. In the most recent lesson, the task was to come up with everyday words for each letter in the English alphabet. The class did it together, agreeing on words that are relevant in their own lives.
What we realized, when observing the exercise, was that the words these kids came up with, were different from what we expected. The words mentioned included things they see, experience and hear about. The words they agreed on are an honest reflection on what they know from their surrounding, that of course is different from what we know from our own childhoods.
What would be your first association, if you think of something from your immediate environment that starts with the letter A? And what about B? C? D?
Children growing up in Palestine will naturally have different associations than children elsewhere. From an early age they are completely aware of what is happening around them, in their refugee camps, at the checkpoints, on their streets, in their country. They are not being spared with the details, and any attempt to do differently would most probably fail. This is why, they know and use different words, than children in other countries do.
Palestinian children manage to constantly surprise us with the things they say. It is shocking witnessing children speaking so easily about soldiers, killing, death and violence, just to switch in a second and talk about something else, like food or the crazy hot temperature outside.
Tea: “But maybe for them, this is something normal. It’s their everyday life. Maybe it is not so shocking for them. And for me, this is the most shocking thing of all.”
Ida: “This shows so clearly how humans are able to adapt, and how the life of Palestinians has become “normal” in all its peculiarity. When young people express these things that are just normal aspects of their life, but so strange to me, I find it upsetting.”
There are probably differences in this regard also within Palestine, and we can only speak about the young people and children we have met, most of them who live in a refugee camp.
The picture below is a list of words in English, as an outcome from the English lesson and written down by one of the students. Would these be your choices too?