Monthly Archives: March 2013

Southern Belle

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I really felt for Gloria Anzaldua while reading “How to Tame a Wild Tongue.” This woman was basically an outcast because she speaks Spanish and had an accent. People would look at her differently and not take her as seriously if she did not learn English and get rid of her accent.

 In a way, I can relate to this. I was born in Fort Smith, Arkansas and lived there until I was five. That was where I learned to walk and talk, and I still consider it my hometown. Then my family moved to a small town in Iowa, where the other children considered me an outcast because I had a thick Southern accent. I specifically remember the first time I met the girl living up the street. The first thing she said to me was, “You talk funny. What’s wrong with you?” As a five year old, those words were absolutely devastating! All I wanted was to make friends, but no one liked me because I spoke differently than them. I quickly learned to hide my accent, and I basically lost it within a couple of months. We moved to Omaha the next year, and I finally had a Midwest accent with a slight Southern twang. Over the years, I have completely lost my accent, but Arkansas will always be close to my heart. The accent still comes naturally to me, and sometimes my twang or an occasional “y’all” slips out. My mom and I went back for a visit last summer, and I picked up the accent again for the week we were there. It felt so natural and right.

 It was hard enough being an outcast in my own country for having an accent, so I can’t imagine being from another country and told you have to lose your language and accent, such as Anzaldua had to do. A line that really struck me from our reading is, “So, if you want to really hurt me, talk badly about my language. Ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic identity–I am my language.” It hurt me so badly that the neighbor girl made fun of my accent because she was making fun of my identity. Although I haven’t lived in Arkansas for 16 years, I still consider myself a true and proud Arkansas girl.

 

 

 

Shifting America

            Shift in language has been seen consistently over the course of American history. First, the Native Americans were forced to shift from their native language as a way to “civilize” them. Next, the majority of people spoke German in America around the Revolutionary War. Since gaining our independence, America shifted to predominately speaking English. While we were shifting, America was bilingual, speaking both German and English. This can be seen today as immigrants come to America.

            While I was working yesterday, a family of Mexican immigrants bought flowers from me. The mother obviously did not speak English, but her three young children did. The eldest daughter, who was probably in her early teens, completed the transaction and translated for her mother. The children spoke perfect English to each other and me, but they spoke Spanish with their mother. The children will most likely always be bilingual, but their children could shift to English. In this case, they would see a bottom-to-top death of Spanish in their immediate family.

But then again, America could soon be experiencing another shift in language, and those children would never lose Spanish. I personally don’t think America will ever lose English as its primary language and experience another shift, but I do think it will have to make room for other languages. With so many Mexican and other immigrants coming to America, Spanish is becoming a major language. This can be seen in school all around the country. Spanish is quickly becoming a mandatory class for all students, and very young children are learning the language through television shows and other means. I strongly think America will become a bilingual nation within the next 20-or-so years.

Conversation

I honestly don’t know how I feel about Nofsinger. On one hand, I feel as if I spent a lot of time reading an article about basic common sense. Most people already know proper etiquette when it comes to everyday conversation. It’s something that we all practice on a daily basis without even thinking about it. We all understand TRP’s, interruption, overlap, and pauses, but we never bother putting a name to them because they are all so obvious.

On the other hand, I was fascinated with the article. Like most people, I have never really thought about turn organization and etiquette; it’s just something I have always practiced. It was interesting that someone put a name to and studied the various conversational aspects. I found the section over interruption and overlap the most interesting. Everyone has that one friend who can’t keep his or her mouth shut during a conversation and has to chime-in on everything. It’s not always rude, but it sure is annoying! I always get really irritated when I am interrupted, so I thought it was fun reading about it.

While reading this article I kept thinking, “I wonder if other countries have the same turn organization that we do?” I haven’t studied other cultures in depth, so I have no idea how they converse. I think it would be very interesting to study this and see how cultures differ in terms of conversation and turn organization.