Knowing one language fluently allows one to fully understand the knowledge behind this language only. Each language is different, and exposure and experience to multiple language helps expand your own ways of knowing.
There are many different languages spoken around the world. Sometimes it can create a barrier when trying to communicate. Other times it may cause you to be judged because you have a different accent or you use different terminology. Language can play a small role in how people’s identities are formed. The effect language has on our identity comes from the different varieties of languages in each country, dialects, accents, and terminology used in each language. A good example of this comes from Gloria Anzaldua, a former professor at multiple universities such as Norwich University. In her excerpt “How to Tame a Wild Tongue” Anzaldua speaks of the many different types of languages she speaks or is forced to speak. How can someone speak so many languages? They do it regionally.
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One region will speak a certain language, and when you are there you must speak that language in order for them to understand you, or simply to fit in and not look like an outsider. Anzaldua speaks of this regional diversity herself and how she must speak so many languages just to look normal. This is how language can affect one’s identity. If someone is afraid to look different then they will conform to the society around them.
Language is key when around a different group of people. Some people will look down upon someone who speaks a different language, and others will view them as unique. The fear of being looked down upon though will cause someone to change how he or she speaks. When they change how they speak they change their identity. Speaking is one part of an identity that sets people apart.
Nobody speaks exactly the same. Every person has a different voice and a different way of talking. This sets their identity based on language.
If someone can speak many languages then all the languages represent their identity. If you want to be different than you do not have to change how you speak in a different region. If you want to blend in with the local people however, you must change the way you speak be similar to how they speak. This is just another choice that helps develop our identity. This important to define what we mean by “culture” and “identity.” After a bit of reading and thought, I came up with this working definition of the first of these concepts:”Culture. The collective ideas, values, and patterns of behavior of a group of people; culture consists of a set of intertwined subsystems, the generally blurry borders of which do not necessarily coincide; these cultural subsystems are transmitted and learned, and are constantly adapting to the changes in the geographic and social context of the group.” These cultural subsystems include things like economic strategies, social organization, material technologies, music, dance, visual symbolic systems, verbal symbolic systems, etc.
If you were to construct a three dimensional graphic model for plotting the distribution of cultural subsystems throughout space and time, then place within it data from groups of people living in some concrete geographic and chronological frame, you would probably find that each subsystem has distinct, blurry and overlapping boundaries. In some cases there may be no overlap at all. The complexity of the situation makes it difficult to make a clear association between language and other cultural subsystems, since these do not line up along neat boundaries, like those of political maps, which give us an extremely limited vision of human cultural complexity. Ethnic identity is a separate but related matter. Language may be an important factor in defining ethnicity, but it is not the only one, nor is it a necessary component. Any cultural subsystem, or combination of these, may come into play.
An individual’s or a group’s ethnicity is flexible and may change in a short span of time, as a response to a changing social and cultural context, and to internal processes of transformation. Nationalism may be thought of as a sort of macro ethnicity, usually invented and imposed upon a population by a nation-state.In this framework, a bilingual person sometimes (but not always) learns to transcend his or her ethnocentricity, realizing that there are other equally valid ways of being and doing. This transcendental perspective permits one to have deeper interpersonal relationships with people from other cultural contexts, acquiring what I like to call a “horizontal gaze,” that is, a healthy acceptance of their otherness.