Does language affect identity?

Most people think about their identity at least once in their life and the time comes when they have to answer the questions such as: “Who Am I?,” “What am I doing?,” “What should I do in the future?” In developmental psychology, puberty days or time of youth is most important period of forming your life’s identity. But, mainly, how does language affect identity?

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 the book I read in my English class, “How to Tame a Wild Tongue” by Gloria Anzaldua, a former professor at multiple universities such as Norwich University. In this text, Anzaldua speaks of the many different types of languages she speaks or is forced to speak. These languages include Standard English, working class and slang English, Standard Spanish, Standard Mexican Spanish, North Mexican Spanish dialect, Chicano Spanish, Tex-Mex, and Pachucho.

How can someone speak so many languages? They do it regionally. 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, 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.




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