Note: This is a bit of an experiment, and I’m definitely seeking feedback on whether it works. I may make changes according to feedback so that I can shape this into something that accomplishes the purpose I’m after.
I’d like us to visit a fictional country known as Musilinia. Musilinia is a large, prosperous country that dates back about 1,000 years, when several different tribes living in the same area banded together for protection and then grew steadily, remarkably avoiding wars due to their isolated geography. However, about 500 years back, the people of Musilinia invaded and took over the one corner of nearby land that was occupied by a different country, Wellatia. It was mostly a bloodless takeover — the Wellatians were too small and under-resourced to fight back — and Wellatians soon moved throughout Musilinia until neither group was more concentrated in one area than another. But one huge disparity remained: the Musilinians spoke the language Museen, and the Wellatians spoke Wellis. This wouldn’t have seemed to be a problem, especially since Musilinia added Wellis as an official language shortly after absorbing Wellatia. But despite having it in law that Wellis was an official language of the nation, all government documents continued to be printed only in Museen, all schools were taught in Museen, all job applications were written in Museen, and just about any sign you saw on the street was written in Museen. After all, Museen had been the nation’s mother language, and not only was change hard, but there was little reason to change when the majority of the nation spoke native Museen.
So the Wellatians learned Museen, you might expect. But that’s not quite what happened. The Musilinians thought of themselves as enlightened, so despite taking over Wellatia 500 years ago, they had encouraged Wellatians to continue speaking Wellis. Actually, they pretty much made it impossible not to: they were so insistent on Wellatians keeping their heritage alive that Wellatians were not allowed to attend schools that taught Museen, lest the language Wellis die off. Yet no alternative classes were offered in Wellis except those cobbled together in neighborhoods. There wasn’t really available funding to set up entire Wellatian schools, especially for such a small number of people spread throughout the country. So Wellatians tended to band together in Wellatian-dominant neighborhoods so that they could communicate with, teach and help one another. Aside from the law regarding education — which was only to protect the Wellis language — they had all the same rights and freedoms of any Musilinian in the country. Yet that education thing was, understandably, a sticking point.
Finally, after a couple hundred years of campaigning for it, the Wellatians earned the legal right to attend Museen schools as long as the student applying could pass a test showing fluency in Museen. This was a victory, no doubt, but it still left Wellatians struggling to learn the Museen language on their own, one that had virtually nothing in common with Wellis. Some who were particularly gifted in languages picked up Museen regardless and then, over the past 50 years since the law passed, have taught others. Yet even those gifted Wellatians who taught Museen to friends and neighbors had difficulty with Museen idioms or advanced Museen grammar, and they always spoke Museen with a thick Wellatian accent. It was hard for them to practice Museen as well because Musilinians had such a hard time understanding them with the accent that the Musilinians would give up on the conversation. Still, gradually, more and more Wellatians were able to learn Museen and attend the schools, making it now possible for them to fill out government documents for their needs (instead of hiring Musilinians to do so) and to occasionally get better jobs. Of course, their thick Wellis accent was still a turn-off to many Musilinian employers, who wanted to give Wellatians more opportunities but simply had difficulty understanding them. And if they had a hard time, so would their customers and clients, so they usually hired someone else who was just as skilled but spoke clearer Museen. This wasn’t discriminatory — it was simply a necessity for most higher-income jobs that the employee speak Museen very cleanly and intelligibly. More »