Bosnian immigrant children speak, can't read Bosnian
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Language gap affects young Bosnians at school, home
By Eun Kyung Kim
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
FILE PHOTO: Alen Besirovic, 11, a Bosnian boy speaks his native
language in a class at the Islamic Community Center.
(ODELL MITCHELL JR/P-D)
Every Sunday, about a dozen young Bosnian children gather to rehearse
a play based on a popular Bosnian children's book, "Hedgehog's House."
But Emir Hadzisalihovic, 9, and the handful of other kids often recite
their lines from memory rather than reading from the script. They
can't read the words on the page - they're in Bosnian.
An increasing number of Bosnian pupils who were either born in the
United States or arrived here as babies don't have the ability to
speak or read their native language. And that's creating a problem for
the Bosnian community in the St. Louis area. A refugee population once
criticized for not speaking English better now finds that the young
speak it too well. Many fear that it could lead to a communication gap
even within families.
"We have a conflict of two generations. Grandma is not able to talk to
the grandchild. That's big. We have to figure out how to survive
that," said Sukrija Dzidzovic, publisher of SabaH, the largest
U.S.-based Bosnian language newspaper.
Most of these Bosnian children are in middle school or younger. Few
can read or write in Bosnian, although many can speak it with their
parents. But to siblings and friends - even fellow Bosnians - English
is often the language of choice.