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Cultural Assimilation Essay

With globalization and people’s living quality advancing dramatically, every year, American universities welcome tens of thousands of international students from all over the world. The land of freedom and justice has opened its doors to those who seek new options and better opportunities and sometimes it asks for certain changes and adjustments fir those who come to study aboard. When these international students pursues higher education in US, fulfilling their life experience and learning something new from American culture, they too bring with them elements of international experience to an American university. Taking up a considerable portion of student population in the university, international students face difficulties to assimilate with local students, particularly in terms of linguistic and cultural differences.

International student struggles to become one with the world around him. Some popular cultural studies experts believed it is best for students from all over the world who come to the United States and lose their cultural identity and “melt” into or assimilate into the American culture. Assimilation occurs in many different ways in our universities, and it is unfortunately, a part of life that we all international students have to learn to accept, no matter the consequences. According to various critics, the process of assimilation occurs in two distinct forms: Language and Culture. My paper will demonstrate the distinction between these two types of assimilation, arguing that language assimilation is necessary, but cultural assimilation can be problematic or damaging.

I, being an international student feel that most important aspect of assimilation that an international student faces is language. In American society, learning to speak English properly is a crucial factor and is a form of assimilation. However, people who have decided to come to America to study have found it rather difficult to assimilate into American society for several reasons. International students are forced into an English – speaking classroom and expected to assimilate to the local language with very little help of the educators. The educators are not be blame, the demand for teachers is extremely high and the teachers we have fill the gaps, whether they share a language with their students or not. Linguistic assimilation is important for international students but they should keep in mind that they should not completely melt in other language, which results in eradication of their cultural language.

This situation is perfectly portrayed by Salman Rushdie in his essay “‘Commonwealth Literature’ doesn’t exist” that discusses the conflicts in India over the English language. Salman Rushdie in his essay “‘Commonwealth Literature’ doesn’t exist” discusses the conflicts in India over the English language. Some in India see English as the language of British imperialism and believe that it shouldn’t be used. Others disagree because the language that is proposed to replace English in everyday use is Hindi, which has strong connections to religion, which are not universally accepted. Rushdie states that this ideological divide is mostly between the north and south of India. He sums up his position by saying, “…it is completely fallacious to suppose that that there is such a thing as a pure, unalloyed tradition from which to draw” (pp. 2541). Rushdie believes that language is an essential part of expressing culture.

He explains that, though Indian and British literature are written in English but they are distinct from one another and that just because they share a common language doesn’t diminish the value of the Indian culture. Rushdie acknowledges the growing importance of global trade and that English is well suited to serve as its communication medium. There is essential technical and scientific vocabulary that is used regularly in international exchanges that have no analog in local languages, such as Hindi. He believes that India needs to continue to embrace English, in order to remain competitive in the global community. Rushdie’s idea of embracing language that is common in the society perfectly exemplifies that international students should embrace a common language which is common in the university in order to stay in competition with home students and communicate their ideas. I have personally experience this situation in my university. So, in order to express thoughts, we (international students) will have to learn a common medium of communication.

But learning a different mode of communication should not result into extinction of their cultural language. Rushdie tries to portray that international students should not completely evaporate into the new language and forget about their own mother tongue. We should assimilate into new language but should always respect their cultural language more then other Languages, as according to him “language is an essential part of expressing culture”. Linguistic assimilation as Rushdie shows often comes from coercion and force from outside, but can be necessary for simple survival. This argument is perfectly exemplified by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o in his essay “Decolonizing the mind” (1986) who tells us of when he was a grade school student in Kenya. The British declared marshal law over the country in the middle of the last century and in an attempt to curb the rebellion and insurgency, they decreed that English was to the sole language spoken. Suddenly Ngugi had to learn English and couldn’t speak the language of his people at school. These experiences shaped Ngugi opinions about the role that language fills.

He is of the opinion that language serves two distinct purposes. One is for communication (Pg. 3). He gives the example of how the different cultures in eastern Africa use Swahili to communication with among each other but use their own language when communicating among their own kind. The other role it fills is that of a medium to express ones culture. Different culture tailors different language to convey and pass down its traditions (Pg. 4). Ngugi argument about Language serves two distinct purposes is true for International students as they use “English” language as a common medium of communication whereas use their “mother tongue” as a medium of expressing their culture. “What a common language does for one person, it does for all society”, this is perfectly illuminated in an article from international journal on Minority and group rights. According to article, “Effective participation in politics as well as the market economy requires the development of common vernacular expressions, the free flow of information, and established codes of communication.

All of these exchanges are enhanced when individuals speak the same language”. The critic of the article, Chih-Yu Shih says that if fixed proportion of population does not speak the common language, the reach of the state and the market will, in turn, shrink. This is both because communication from one language to another can translate into different meanings and because different language structures themselves reflect diverse perspectives proportion of the population cannot speak the national language, the reach of the state and the market will, in turn, shrink. This is both because communication from one language to another can translate into different meanings and because different language structures themselves reflect diverse perspectives of modernity. To learn a different language is to learn a different lifestyle., international students will have to learn different languages in order to be in reach of state.

International Students studying and competing with the local will need to communicate with them, which is only possible if they have a common mode of language. So, in order to remain in touch with the local students and professor, students will have to learn language, which is common. After going through the essays of Rushdie’s, Ngugie and Chih-Yu Shih, we could say that language assimilation makes sense but authors like Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz and Richard Rodriguez says that cultural assimilation is also important. They think that cultural assimilation is very important part of linguistic assimilation as “Language express cultural”. According to them, one’s traditions such as cultural traditions also have an effect on the willingness and on the degree to which one assimilates.

Few international students have found that certain customs like social behaviors which may surprise, offend or offend others; eating food which may seem heavy or bland compared have not been accepted in American culture and might even be condemned. A student who has different traditions than Americans may be frowned upon and may be discriminated against because of the difference. I had experienced this situation as I was discriminated in my folklore class by my follow student. After experiencing this, a question came in my mind that why on a practical level it’s useful to assimilate but on an ethical level, it’s questionable? Sacrificing one’s traditions is a problematic concept even if it means that someone could blend into mainstream culture. International students will have to stick to there own cultures and tradition while assimilating. But this is not the case every time! Some students while assimilating forget about his own cultures and traditions and easily jolt into others cultures. Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz states a similar situation in her essay “Hispanics in America”.

She reveals the social position of the Hispanics in American society. She says that instead of letting Hispanics follow their own culture and traditions, they are forced to follow the lifestyles of Americans. As only an “American way of life” existed, Hispanics had to follow the same path of that of the white folks, but also were rarely competing with the dominating white race. Though the Hispanics are the biggest minority group in American society today, their native language and other cultural aspects were scornfully ignored according to Isasi-Diaz, which made assimilation a difficult task for Hispanics. Similarly argument is state by Richard Rodriguez who discusses about culture in America. Rodriguez says, “I am in favor of assimilation. I am not in favor of assimilation. I recognize assimilation.” By making these statements, Rodriguez is saying that he accepts what is happening in regards to culture in America. While he isn’t completely for or against what is going on, and he isn’t even trying to change it, he is accepting it and working with it. While saying this he doesn’t mean that racial and ethnic distinctions do not matter anymore in America, he thinks that differences are becoming a part of everyday life and they are just so common now that it really isn’t such a big deal”.

In this essay, Rodriguez states, “I do think distinctions exist.” Throughout the rest of the essay, Rodriguez goes into great detail of how he understands distinctions exist and how it is changing America. So, this is evident from both the essay that international students will have to blend into America culture in order to compete with American folks in the universities. But blending should not mean that completely giving up their original culture. It means that assimilating into different culture with maintaining the same love for original culture. In conclusion, it is wise to note that both forms of assimilation is adopted by international assimilation in some or the other way.

Few international students have over years adopted their “host” culture’s language, while maintaining their own traditions, customs and values. This common form of communication can also present more opportunities for cross-cultural understanding. International students get to learn many things if they can communicate in a common language. In terms of bilingual education: bilingual education provides the opportunity for a student to use the language that they have grown up with in school while learning another. This permits the student to retain and embrace their language and by extension the culture associated with it. As an old Czech proverb states, “learn a new language and get a new soul”.


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