Monday, May 9, 2011

Is Losing Language Leading to Success?

By Leslie Tapia

There were many times in which language became a cultural awareness to us. We pointed out that through language, people show their culture and where they come from and most of the time that culture cannot be taken away from a language since it is what helped it flourish. What would happen if that culture were lost? Locked away deep inside your mind so that you can hide from a world that can cause you harm? This is what we come to question with Magaly Lavadenz in her article Como Hablar en Silecio (Like Speaking in Silence). “The linguistic diversity that exists among Central Americans who immigrate to the United States serves to identify each group with its homeland…” (page 99) So you may notice, the linguistics that our parents have come to this country with cannot be lost. It is a hereditary trait that they possess in their language, almost as though their manner of speaking has its own DNA that is shared with others of the same ethnic background. Lavadenz backs this statement up by saying, ““The linguistic diversity that exists among Central Americans who immigrate to the United States serves to identify each group with its homeland…” (page 99). The example found in Central Americans is that of the population found in California, specifically in the greater Los Angeles area. Countless are the times in which these Central Americans almost lose their identity in order to have a shot of being able to migrate into the United States. At times not only did they have to pass off as American citizens but also as Mexicans. Lavadenz further explains this: “Countless tales of deportation hearing reiterated the importance of avoiding identification as Central American, if only to increase the chance of being deported to Mexico rather than to El Salvador or Guatemala.” (page 106). To these people, it would be a much better shot if they are identified as Mexicans to be deported to Mexico rather than make them go back home and face the same challenges all over again.

We can then emphasize that language creates identity. We have spoken about it so many times in class before. No matter if it means cultural identity or individual identity, language helps simulate who you are. We can talk about the countless times that language has been the definition of identity in class. One example I found on this lies in a video about a Filipino being criticized about his accent. He emphasized the comments he got from fellow viewers and these were his reactions:

According to his viewers, he has a very westernized accent and it makes him lose his “Filipino” identity. In terms of identity as we have discussed in class before, language should not be the only way to define yourself. Yes, a language can identify you as part of your culture (biggest example is your accent to say where you came from) but you are still who you are. Language still has an individualistic side and one accent can have multiple dialects just like a language can have different dialects (such as the Filipino language of Tagalog). Many people can relate with their own language because in different regions, different dialects are born. A better understanding should come from such knowledge and language leads to that.

One thing I frown upon is the loss of an accent. Accents help diversify a language and help bring out your culture. It even allows you to be different and stand out amongst others. In the workforce, many feel that social mobility is gained through the perfection of your English language. I had mentioned it in my previous blog, but social mobility should not be only based on your language. As long as you are able to communicate your thoughts and your opinions at your job then you can succeed. One video that I was able to obtain talked to people about reducing their accents and by doing so, then you can succeed in the United States. It is related to the Lavadenz piece, showing Central Americans as being scared to show off their accents since they may not only be deported back to their country but they can also lose their identity by losing their language and all for the success in this country.

Your identity has relied so much on language that people tend to mock or try to mimic. It goes back to the stereotypes people have on others and at times it creates silence amongst the people of that culture or people that have the same characteristics. A popular show that comes to mind is South Park and their continuous emphasis they have on our Canadian neighbor. All the stereotypes are interpreted and this man has something to say about it.

I understand his identity has been attacked and it seems unfair for some people to do. When one mocks a language they also mock the culture of that language. There is a history behind why people talk the way they do in a certain country and this can relate to our own identities within our language.

Finally, I wanted to point out that no one needs to hide their identity behind their language. I feel that language is so rich in culture and diversity, and so when hiding it like the Central Americans did in the article, it creates tensions and people become ashamed of their language. When people become ashamed of that language, culture is affected. The last thing this world needs to come down to is a fully monoglot society in which diversity is gone and culture is lost. To leave you with a good laugh, here is the following message on how your accent can always shine. 

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