Language & Identity Essay

1023 WordsApr 3, 20135 Pages
Language and Identity Language is a central feature of human identity. When we hear someone speak, we make speculations about gender, education level, age, profession and where they come from. A language is a powerful symbol of our identity which can also be a weapon of destruction. Language is essential to the expression of culture. It’s a means to communicate values, beliefs and customs. It has an important social function and it promotes feelings of group identity and solidarity. It is how culture and its’ traditions and values may be transferred and preserved. Language is a complicated dance between internal and external analysis of our identity. Our external identity is genetically passed down from our parents and is basically what you see on the outside in terms of gender, hair and eye color and so on. Internal identity is more complicated, in that it comes from a number of diverse areas of life such as, family, peers, teachers, community and media. Not being able to speak or understand a language effectively excludes a person from a group or nation, and may make that person feel like a second class citizen. This occurred when the Europeans first came to Canada and encountered the First Nations People. Neither spoke the others’ language and chaos ensued and wreaked havoc on the First Nations People, who are still dealing with those repercussions today. The Europeans wanted the natives to become “more white and less Indian.” Conquerors of any land try to stamp out the local languages to reduce the cultural longing for the previous structures and customs of the past. Cultural and linguistic diversity is a feature of most nations today, as people from different groups live together as a consequence of migration and historical events. Within multilingual societies, the preservation of the languages of
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