Language and Identity Essay
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Who am I? What is it that defines that personality? Anzaldua argues in her essay that the language is what defines one’s identity. Language is indeed an important component of culture, and culture is known to be a crucial definer of identity. People use language to connect to their identities and communicating their realities and values to themselves and to the world around them… In other words, language is important because people use it to express their thoughts and beliefs.
“People evolve a language in order to describe and thus control their circumstances” (Baldwin 109). Consequently, language does not necessarily define identity as much as identity defines language. People decide on what language to use in order to communicate with their communities according to their identities. One’s identity defines and regulates the use of language and not the contrary.
People speak different languages; this difference is used to identify and distinguish between different people, different ethnicities and races. The human need to belong to a group makes them abide to a specific language and dialect that represents their specific community and differentiate it from the rest. Language is what connects people to their communities; they are directly connected to people who speak the same language as them. Anzaldua argues that “Ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic, I am my language” (Anzaldua 136), which strongly supports the fact that language is used to ensure that people belong to group. Talking the same language and using the same expressions defines to which group people belong to, it also evaluates the truthfulness of the affiliation. “Until I can take pride in my language, I cannot take pride in myself”, which basically states that language shapes one’s identity.
This statement however, does not apply to all situations and communities and is certainly not constant. There are people who cannot identify to a specific group but rather to a variety of communal affiliations. Most people speak multiple languages; each language connects them to a specific culture and group of people. Tan clearly mentions in her story that she had to speak two different languages to her Asian mom who had her own made up English. Tan relates to both her Asian descent and American belongings by using her mom’s made up English to speak with her mom, and uses the proper English to give lectures and speak to most Americans.
On the same grounds, Anzaldua learned through her life experiences to frequently use multiple types of English, and many other Dialects of proper Spanish and Mexican Spanish. She uses each language to communicate, connect and affiliate to specific people according to their background. This proves that the assumption that language defines culture and identity fails. What happens to the people who speak many languages, do they not get the benefit and pride of belonging to a certain community? Rather the contrary, they belong to multiple communities and they choose which group they want to communicate with and with which language. People have the ability to switch from a language to another to be part of a group and this supports the idea that identity defines and shapes language, and not the opposite.
Language is used as a way to identify with people, but it is also used to distinguish between them. People use language to differentiate between people and associate them to a specific culture and community according to the language they speak. America is known for having a diverse population, and people are identified based on their language; Mexicans can be recognized to be Mexicans because of their accents even though they might be Caucasian. Tan argues that her mom spoke broken English that limited the people’s perception of her capacities. “People in department stores, banks, restaurants, did not take her seriously” (Tan 144)which strictly proves that people who do speak the proper language of the specific group they happen to be in generates a different treatment than that a true English speaker. Baldwin denounces that black Americans are treated differently than white Americans because they speak English with a different accent.
When speaking “Black English, you have confessed your parents, your youth, your school, your salary, your self-esteem, and, alas, your future” (Baldwin 110) according to Baldwin. People associate language with background which then leads to choose to treat that specific person a talk to him a way they associate with the people who speak that exact same language. In this case, for the minority, it is language that assumes their behavior, but for the other dominant group, it is identity that shapes behavior. It is their identity that tells them that a specific language must be allocated with that specific type of person and then treat them in the way it is conventions set. People speak a specific language because it is in their identity to do so, and they choose to treat people differently according to language. This allows me to conclude that identity defines language, and language triggers behavior.
Language is a major crucial component of our everyday life; it is used to differentiate between different categories of people, connect with one each group, and then choose how they will address those people. People argue that it is language that defines which type of person you are and shapes your identity. The arguments and the authors I quoted obviously proved the contrary, and stated that it is one’s identity that sets up and decides on the language used.
Anzaldua, Gloria. «How to Tame a Wild Tongue.» Nancy R Comley, David Hamilton, Carl H Klaus, Robert Scholes, Nancy Sommers, Jason T ougaw. Fields of Reading. New york : Bedford/ St. Martin’s , 2010. 131-141.
Baldwin, James. «If black english Isn’t a language, Then Tell Me, What is.» Nancy R Comley, David Hamilton, Carl H Klaus, Robert Scholes, Nancy Sommers, Jason Tougaw. Fields of Reading. Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010. 109-113.
Tan, Amy. «Mother Tongue.» Nancy R Comley, David Hamilton, Carl H Klaus, Robert Scholes, Nancy Sommers, Jason Tougaw. Fields of Reading. New York : Bedford/St. Matin’s, 2010. 142-147.