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Ashly Lopez

Professor Batty

English 028

13 November 2017
Identity and The Power of Language

Language; "the system of communication used by a particular community or country" (Schrewe

5). Language is being used every day to communicate with one another but it also comes with an

important factor that has great power to identify who we are as individuals. Our language defines

our culture, letting others know whether we're Hispanic, Asian, Armenian, Muslim etc., also it

allows us to represent who we are in society. Although we're a society, we each speak different

languages which helps us to define who we are as individuals. By speaking a certain language,

others can define your cultural group you belong to, therefore culture defines a person. For

example, when you speak teenage slang or advanced vocabulary, these can define the age group

that you belong in, just like language can define your cultural identity as a person. Language is

part of the contribution on the formation of our identity, allowing us to represent who we are.

Cultural language is an important value when it comes to the formation of one's identity. You are

part of a specific group that maybe have similar beliefs, values etc. With language you're able to

communicate with those of the same cultural backgrounds. Sylvia Chen, a psychologist from

Hong Kong, stated that "language is regarded as a carrier of culture and a marker of group

identity."(Chen 1). Of course, there are other factors that make up your identity but language

represents where you come from and it gives others an idea of your identity. "[C]ulture marks

out the differences between ourselves and others." (Pratt 7).


However, some can argue that individuals find it hard to use language as a contribution to their

form of identity. For example, emigrating to a different country that has a different cultural

background or spoken language. Psychologist Chen states that, "Individuals become absorbed by

the dominant culture and lose identification with their culture of origin." (Chen 2). Being

exposed to two different cultures or more may be hard for individuals because sometimes they

might identify themselves to one identity based on a culture or won't identify to any specifically.

According to Julia Alvarez's book, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, the parents of the

four girls tried to hold to their ways, but the girls tried to lose themselves and find new lives.

Yolanda, in one hand, lost her Spanish, "What's an antojo?"(Alvarez 8) she asked. She's

frequently stuck between two cultures that include different morals, values, beliefs etc. This may

be how some individuals feel when they don't know how to identify themselves.

Furthermore, these individuals can start combining different cultures and their traditions, a

mixture of both languages can come into place as well. For example, people will mix English

and Spanish, making it Spanglish. This may make it hard for people to identify themselves as

one culture, because language comes from culture and culture defines a person. But some can

also argue that it may not be the person's option to speak a different language than their own.

Immigrants come into this country for a better life, the only chance some may have of achieving

that is learning the language to obtain a minimum wage paying job. Through this process, a little

bit of their own cultural language is being taken away, their identity starts to change. Some may

struggle due to being demanded to speak a certain language in one place and having to speak a

different one somewhere else.

As time goes by, there is a slight chance that our identities start to change. "Immigrants become

Americans through a linear process of giving up their old beliefs, patterns of behavior and
language." (Chapell 6). Although some individuals may be dominated by a different language,

this still shows that language is a great contribution to the formation of one's identity. It seems as

one is losing their identity when being exposed to a different one but you're also gaining a

different identity. You'll become dominant to their language, beliefs, values etc., and people will

still have the opportunity to identify themselves to one culture or to a certain type of group.

Another small factor proving that language is a contribution to the formation of one's identity is

simply accents. When one speaks a specific language like British or Australian, the accent comes

into place and it may let others have an understanding of where they're from. For instance,

people to emigrate from their country to a different country may build up an accent once they

start speaking a different language. But accents are not a negative factor although some may be

ashamed for sounding the way they do when they speak. Latinos are being ashamed when they

start speaking English with others. Some will change the way they speak to blend in with

everyone else and not be embarrassed by their accents. But overall accents are part of these

individuals and their identity is shaped around them as well.

Overall, language does contribute to the formation of one's identity as an individual. With

language we're allowed to express who we are by simply speaking. It gives others an idea of

where we come from or what our cultural background is. Language has the power to form our

identity and defines who we are. It is the thing that no one can take away from you, your

language because it is part of you and it has the power to be used as identity. In other words,

language can be considered a badge to identify who you are, just like police officers use their

badge to identify themselves as law enforcements. It is a contribution to our identity.


Works Cited Page

Alvarez, Julia. How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. Algonquin Books, 2013.

Chappell, Sharon, and Christian Faltis. Spanglish, Bilingualism, Culture and Identity in Latino

Childrens Literature. Children's Literature in Education, vol. 38, no. 4, Sept. 2006, pp. 253

262., doi:10.1007/s10583-006-9035-z.

Chen, Sylvia Xiaohua. Toward a Social Psychology of Bilingualism and Biculturalism. Asian

Journal of Social Psychology, vol. 18, no. 1, 2014, pp. 111., doi:10.1111/ajsp.12088