Skip telling our kids to dream high
What if it only takes one word to change the world?
I am a teacher in language and culture, and one topic that my students and I enjoy discussing is how our language can influence our thoughts and affect our behavior.
For instance, it is typical for Filipino parents to tell and expect their children to dream high — or, in our language, “mangarap nang mataas.”
A father bragging about his son would tell his kumpare, “Mataas ang pangarap ng batang ’yan!” (He’s aiming high!), followed by “Pangarap niyan maging doktor (o abogado).” (He wants to become a doctor [or a lawyer].)
But what magic would it do if, instead of teaching our children “mangarap nang mataas,” we teach them “mangarap nang malalim” (to dream deep)?
In our culture, dreams or “pangarap” are expressed in height, not depth. That is why our metaphors for dreams include those that are above us, like stars.
Remember the song “Pangarap na Bituin”? Or those classic lyrics — “sama-sama nating abutin, pinakamatayog na bituin” (Hand in hand, we reach for the highest star)?
Add to that, we also describe our dreams as “abot-kamay,” that image of a hand reaching upward.
Depth or “lalim,” meanwhile, is associated with emotions. That’s why we are inclined to describe our “galit” (anger) at our enemies and our “pag-ibig” (love) for our partners as “malalim,” not “mataas.”
Our heartbroken BFF always has “malalim na hugot” (deep angst). We describe our thoughtful friends, those with strong emotions or advocacies, as “malalalim na tao” (deep people).
How, then, would a child’s perception of dreams change if, at an early age, he or she is taught to dream deep, rather than dream high?
To teach our children “mangarap nang malalim” is to give them not wings to fly, but roots to grow.
Imagine if dreams are fueled by strong emotions, longing and desire. This way, children see the depth in their dreams — that they dream to become a lawyer or an engineer or a doctor, not to qualify as “may mataas na pinag-aralan” (well-educated), but to be a lawyer for the unheard, or an architect for the homeless, or a doctor for the poor.
What if it only takes that one word to create a better world?
Just imagine a father bragging about his son, telling his kumpare, “Malalim ang pangarap ng batang ’yan!”
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Daryl Pasion, 26, is a UP Los Baños teacher and a linguistics graduate student in UP Diliman.
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