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The importance of identity, language and culture cannot be underscored in any community. Valuing and embracing cultural diversity is therefore in countering racism. Individuals should not be held back in their exploration of the uniqueness that comes with their cultural identity. If this cultural expression is denied, the passage of knowledge and the unique perspectives on life will not be passed to different generations. Language barrier is an issue that often comes during intercultural service encounters. This has the effect of generating negative cognitive and emotional responses. When the language of any community is limited, their world automatically becomes limited. Linguistic boundaries should therefore be broken, as this presents the maiden step towards realizing international prosperity. This paper will discuss language as a cultural issue of international significance. Further, it will synthesize ideas from two major schools of critical thought by connecting them to this contemporary issue.
When it comes to an individuals’ self-identity, language is critical. Not only does it enable individuals to share feelings, it also comes in handy in expressing emotions, conveying complex messages, as well as telling stories. Language represents the greatest mediator that people can turn to; especially given its role in ensuring good understanding is realized. Simply put, language is a structure of conceptual symbols which facilitate the communication process. It provides users with a critical frame of reference, as well as a relational context that comes in handy in sustaining our identities. The identities that individuals have do not necessarily have to be static. The understanding that individuals have regarding their own cultural identity, as well as that of others develops from birth. However, that understanding is soon shaped by the attitudes and values that are prevalent in their surroundings.
Over time, this identity becomes more fluid and complex, and as such, people begin to cultivate allegiances to various groups that are present in the broader society. Given that cultures are never static, they also change and develop with the current belief systems. New identities are normally cultivated by popular culture as well as mass media. Identification with numerous sub-cultures may mean that an individual has several identities. It must be noted that it is on cultural heritage that most identities are based. For a cohesive international community to be realized there is need to embrace the multiculturalism policy. This will ensure that the linguistic diversity globally is valued and recognized. This will consequently remove all fear and mistrust has always stemmed from the diverse cultural heritage.
As far as contemporary African literature is concerned, the pioneering work of Ngugi Wa Thiongo cannot be underscored. The Kenyan novelist bleeds politics, and this is something that can be attested to by his passionate commitment to ideals that are egalitarian. His book brings into light the question of cultural politics. Not even the revolutionary fervor that Ngugi had diluted his passion for literary achievement. He speaks negatively about corruption, as this is his greatest political ire. This is something that has over the years been influenced by business leaders, as well as Western-influenced rulers.
The views that Ngugi puts across are not only thought-provoking, they are also critical in highlighting the done by colonialists as far as the African language is concerned. As it stands currently, an overwhelming percentage of Africans take pride in the fact that their children are well versed in foreign languages.
This, simply put, is something that Africans should collectively be embarrassed about. It is disturbing to note that a significant number of them cannot even converse properly in their tongue of birth simply because they have been brainwashed to believe that being able to speak in the foreign languages flawlessly is a sign of intellectualism and that there is a certain prestige that comes with that. The book is therefore very insightful as it resonates excellently with the experiences that most Africans relate to, although most of them will not readily admit to it. It is evident that most language teachers in Africa have for decades struggled with this issue. Only that one has to do to verify this is to attend a foreign language class in an African country. There is a certain level of excitement and esteem that comes with such a fete and this is not rivaled by any other subject.
It therefore becomes easy to agree with the central points that have been raised regarding the role that language plays in the African society. Ngugi’s book is nothing like the Marxist hagiography that most people regard as misleading. As an intellectual tool, it is invaluable, especially since it dissociates itself from the Eurocentric culture that is the neo-colonial state. Most renowned African authors have often shied away from writing in their native languages, and this is what sets Ngugi apart. Although he kick started his writing career in the English language, he eventually resorted to his mother tongue. It is imperative that African authors embrace their native languages if they are to leave their mark in the arts. It must be noted that engaging in the imperialists’ languages might have its benefits, but the ultimate honor lies in making a positive influence in the African society using the native African language.
Africans, as studies have indicated, will always have views that are varying regarding the imposed languages. Writing and speaking in those languages will naturally differ from the languages that African people engage in when conversing with their families. Being a truly foreign language, the language of colonizers will never be fully accepted by the African natives because it will always be naturally different. Certain segments of the society perceive the foreign languages in negative light, and this implies that any works that have been written by such languages might not succeed in reaching the intended audiences. This is despite the importance that such works might have. Simply put, fully engaging in foreign language is a big gamble that might backfire badly because it gives the impression that a foreign language is being imposed on a native population.
Although it must be appreciated that literacy levels have improved across Africa, a significant percentage is still ancient in its thinking and will not readily embrace the established linguae francae that include English, Portuguese and French. The educational focus currently in Africa is one that essentially embraces only foreign works, and this is a matter that has been causing discomfort within literary circles in the continent. This is not only destructive to a continents language, but even its culture. There have been fears that the infiltration of foreign languages might spread to foreign languages, and this will eventually mean that Africans are left without an identity that they can call their own. The literature and languages of foreign cultures are always taking Africans from the values that they hold dear. More and more of them are embracing the ideals that have been imposed on them by foreign languages and cultures.
Any type of literature that is sold to Africans should be one that conveys their true African experience. It is the locals’ perspective that should count with regards to this, not the visitors’’ perspectives. When it comes to playing the African experience, the role that language plays cannot be underscored. It must be appreciated that it is in that very language that the local tradition has been conserved, and as such should be held dearly. This manifests itself in the form of stories and songs that are passed down to different generations.
The new generation has to struggle with the former imperialists languages because it comes in various forms. Admittedly, the Westernized worldview is the one found in film, television and music, and this only complicates matters. For any audience to be reached effectively, it is critical that the form of communication be one that advances its heritage. That way, an impressive level of trust will be ensured, and the culture will also remain intact. However, any efforts to public different material in the local African languages has always proven difficulty, largely due to financial constrains. The state of publishing in the African content is deplorable, and most writers are forced to write in languages that are popular internationally like French and English because a big chunk of their intended audience is the Western population.
A quick glance at the book shelves will paint a clearer picture of just how difficult it is to come across books by African authors that were initially done in an African language. This shows that much still waits to be done if the preservation of the African language and values is to be realized. Writers like Ngugi should therefore be praised for their brave effort because they stood up to preserve the African heritage through their writing. This is something that has largely been lacking in the African scene, and is therefore a positive step in unlocking African writers’ potential. The forces in African literature today are mutually opposed. On one hand is a resistance tradition, and on the other side there is the imperialist tradition. The worldview that Ngugi puts across is one that is profoundly Marxist, and this therefore brings the question of resistance versus imperialism. Although the class struggle that is currently being witnessed is universal, it must be noted that Africa has been affected more, especially when it comes to its literature and language in general.
African authors have an obligation to place themselves at their communities’ hearts. Literary genius rarely represents the genius of an individual. Most often, it results from a collective effort. The words that individuals of a particular community use are a product of their shared history. A keen analysis reveals that no individual can write honestly and fully in his oppressors’ language. This is a central theme that all writers should embrace. Most English speaking Africans have had an education that is based totally on the literature and culture of their colonizing power.
This obviously has a large influence on their overall culture, because as studies indicate, they will tend to lean more on the side of such colonial powers. Many African authors have sadly enough defined their work by their colonial language. This is a fate that has been accepted by most African writers since it represents a ‘fait accompli’. This conclusion has often been challenged as being too fatalistic because it betrays the richness that has always been associated with African cultures and languages.
The stories that have been told in native African languages are never short of creativity and power, and this should form the magic upon which African literature is founded upon. African literature has always presented a world view that is unique, and this should not be broken by the forceful use of English as the official education language. Language not only represents a means of communication, it is also a carrier of language. In Africa, it was common to see school children being punished heavily for conversing in their native language because it was forbidden in the school environment. This is like encouraging them to be traitors to their own communities. Technology and means may have been introduced by capitalism, but these consolidated further its elitism, as well as control of other cultures. The printing press had the power of whose work was published, and at that time, most African authors wrote with positive colonial themes. These trends were further strengthened by African universities as learners were taught in European literature at the expense of their own heritage.
It is necessary that African writers commit their creativity to novels and other literary works that are truly African. They have to go back to their sources and their roots if they are to be judged positively. The politics of language is something that all readers should be aware about, especially those of African descent. There are a lot of after-effects that comes with imposing a foreign language on another culture. Colonialism carries with it long term effects, and key among them is poverty.in a sense, the apartheid that has come as a result of the language barrier should not be overlooked. Legal separation was for a long time considered anachronistic. When African languages are dominated and the superiority of European languages asserted over them, the Western nations have ensured that they perpetuate a system which guarantees that native Africans are reduced to peasantry and blue collar jobs, whereas the Western nations give themselves the highest social strata.
A keen analysis reveals that it is this domination of the native African languages that has been the barrier of native Africans rising through intellectual ranks. When the European languages are embraced by Africans, it only has the negative effect of splitting their soul in two. This consequently forces African natives to relinquish their roots in a bid to move up the social ladder. Wholly embracing the colonial languages could be taken to mean total acceptance of colonial culture. Values represent the basis of any individuals’ identity, and as such, should be held dear. These values are carried by language. Most of the literature in Africa is oral. It includes sayings, stories, proverbs and riddles. It is impossible for the African literatures to be grasped without comprehending the particular oral traditions and cultures from which Africans get their metaphors, styles and plots.
There is an ongoing debate of what African literature exactly entails. A keen analysis with regards to this reveals that a structural problem exists. The indigenous African voices have always been given a blind eye, largely due to colonization. Research indicates that during colonization era, publishing houses were controlled by colonial administrators and missionaries. The educational content of novels also had to be verified by them. Only carefully selected stories like religious stories were lucky enough to make the cut after the assessments had been done. The colonial administrators were careful enough because they did not want young Africans to start questioning the manner in which their heritage was being challenged.
Colonization was not always a process that involved physical force. The bullets being used were only meant for physical subjugation. However, for spiritual subjugation, language was the means. In countries like Kenya, for instance, English was propagated by the colonizers as the formal education language, and those who did not embrace it were seen as illiterate. Native Kenyan languages slowly withered away from the academic scene. This was obviously a devastating move as far as African literature is concerned. It is language that carries culture and this is something that should never be taken away from any community. Consequently, culture carries the values that any society holds dear. The African experience can therefore not be expressed effectively using a foreign language. Independence and cultural identity are critical in freeing any society from exploitations.
The study of the realities of Africa has often been viewed in terms of tribes.
In some instances, even literature is assessed in terms of its authors’ tribal beginnings. The Western media has had its role to play when it comes to this misleading interpretation regarding African realities. The Western world has been quick to deflect attention from the fact that most of the problems being witnessed in Africa today stem from imperialism. Not even African intellectuals have been spared when it comes to this thinking. They have fallen victims through their failure to realize that they are only fronting the foreigners’ agenda through consistently shunning their native languages in favor of foreign languages. For the African realities to be addressed conclusively, it is imperative that lasting solutions regarding the resistance tradition and the imperialist tradition be found. Wholly embracing the foreign languages only strengthen the belief that the African tradition is one that encourages parrotry and apemanship. Until African writers move away from this habit, African literature will always lag behind.
Frantz Fanon, on the other hand, talks about the lived experiences that Black people have to live with. He maintains that although most individuals just want to be men, they are viewed differently in the white world. It is the skin color that matters most in that world and not the content that one has to offer. The achievements and the education of the black man therefore count for nothing in their assessment. Although the friends or families of Black individuals might hate one of their own for good reason, the same cannot be said of White people. In the words of Fanon, they are quick to hate before even getting their facts right. Simply, put, they are irrational to the black population. Fanon states that although he has proven academic credentials and is a doctor, no one sees him as Dr Fanon. People see him as the black doctor. The world, as Fanon will say, is never kind to the black population. Everyone is keenly watching just incase the Black man makes a mistake. There is a delicate balancing that is involved pertaining how the Black man is supposed to go about his chores.
Even in the real world, this is a situation that is very relatable. No one seems to notice the literary knowledge or refined manners that some Black people might have. All everyone seems to care about is preconceived stereotypes regarding them. Concerns have been raised by a majority of the black population who complain that White people never really notice them. All they see is their bodies. The Black person is regarded as an animal, as a wicked and bad individual that is ugly. His position in society is therefore put under constant threat. Instead of being an individual, a man, a person, he is simply a thing, an object and a black man who lacks any meaningful value. Black men were therefore seen as individuals who lack something.
Both science and the Church acknowledge that Black people, just like their White counterparts, are human. They both have hearts on similar sides. Even though in their own confession White people agree that racism should be condemned. Few of them will readily let their daughters be married off to the Black people. It must be noted that although much of the advanced civilization is associated with Whites, Blacks have in recent times made major notable advancements in various leading fields. The White population still sees the black people as the world’s childhood. There is a feeling of inferiority that is associated with them, and to put it bluntly, virtue is white as sin is black.
Fanon, just like Ngugi, underlines the importance of properly learning the White man’s language. Failure to properly do this will result in one being branded unintelligent and illiterate. This has always presented a dilemma for the Black population. The dilemma in question stems from the fact that learning the White mans’ language perfectly has its fair share of consequences. The most notable is being brainwashed. Consequently, Black people have slowly come to embrace the notion that beauty is defined by light skin, blonde hair and blue eyes. There is need for the Black population to decolonize their minds by not wanting to be equal to Whites. This has the negative effect of bringing with it the dependency concept. It has widely been suggested that this has led to Black people deeply desiring White rule, because they have been made to believe that they are useful on their own. This has further led the White population to believe that the power they wield on Blacks is positive and not racist.
Enlightened Black authors have always aired their concern about how the Black population will always be perceived, at least in the eyes of the Whites. They will act intelligently and seek that further education, but not even this will shake the status quo. Black people, upon doing all that is required of them suddenly realize that skin color means everything. It remains to be established why the White man is so scared about the idea of the Black man gaining an equal status in society. The White man, upon realizing that his position is under threat from a black, will resort to underhand tactics to gain the much needed upper hand. They are seen as being less moral, and to the White man, they are mere bodies that have very little to offer.
It is critical that individuals be understood not through their actions and words, but rather by the result that they are aiming to achieve. When this has been achieved, all their actions and thoughts will automatically fall into place. The fact that the White man has always struggled to impose a language on the Black population reveals a lot about the sincerity of their intentions. It could be suggested that there is an insecure frame of mind that the White population has always been associated with.
Few modern authors have been successful in having any impact that is profound in speaking out against the stereotypes that are associated with the Black identity. It has led to some authors suggesting that the world that we live in is a White one, and the Black psyche simply has no place in it. Writers have always struggled to show how insidiously the issue of color and race connects with images and words.
It is important to try and comprehend what goes on in both White and Black minds under conditions of White supremacy.
This obviously has strange effects, and as such, should be handled delicately. A keen analysis will further reveal that woman are most affected because most of Black women especially have never really been comfortable with the color of their skins. Deep down, most would jump at the opportunity of being White, and this only shows how deep the problem is. Men, on the other, are obsessed about the question of gaining equality to their White counterparts, and failure to do this greatly frustrates them. There have been suggestions that for the Black population to improve, it is imperative that their sense of self becomes secure. Simply shouting one’s blackness has been proven to have no effect, and this calls for greater effort if the situation is to be improved.
There should be no fear, or lack of trust between the two races as has often been the norm. there has always been the general misinformed perception that the average Black man is sexual and violent being who is destructive by nature. Individuals should distance themselves from such stereotypes if a compromise is to be reached.
Members of a social group can adopt the definition of culture in terms of the elements it contains which include the values, beliefs, and knowledge that re learned and shared. The concept culture has many different meanings globally. The term is used to describe activities r behaviors with close reference to the heritage or tradition of a grouping, describing the norms and rules, the learning besides solving, defining the organization of a group else the origin of a group. In this sense, we can use culture in our description and explanation of a wide range of activities, behaviors and events, structures in our lives. It is used in a variety of ways as it touches on many of the aspects of life. Indeed, culture in the truest and broadest sense, cannot be swallowed in a single gulp in any sort of program.
Not unless we speak of the very beginning of the human life, most human group have been known to live in a region with previous culture, thus, their previous culture will have had an impact on the kind of culture they now practice. These are particularly true for immigrants, they make movements onto a land that had already existing culture thus they must deal with the process of accumulation. All the above ecological factors are likely to influence society’s attitudes, views, also conducts, and eventually their culture. Humans, unlike other animals have the unique ability to symbolize their physical and metaphysical world, to create sounds representing such symbols (Morphemes) ,to crate rules connecting those symbols to meaning(syntax and grammar) and to put these all together in sentences. The fact that language is used an s vehicle through which members communicate with each other, and that it enables the acquisition of knowledge, skills and attitudes, makes it a key variable in the understanding of culture.
Through review of literature from diverse disciplines such as developmental psychology, socio-linguistics, and cognitive anthropology, it is possible to understand better the role that language plays in any particular culture. These are values that communities should hold dear because failure to do so will only result in a loss of identity. The final element that constitutes culture is language system. The role that any native language plays can therefore not be underscored. It describes a number of ways in which a culture systematically communicates ideas, feelings, and thoughts using sounds, gestures, or signals with commonly understood meanings. The language system shares with the symbol system the modality of communicating environmental stimuli. Education stimulates the development of a permanent capacity for questioning and critical thinking. Culture can be summarized as a unique meaning and informative system.
The heritage that a community has should therefore not be taken away from them. It is this heritage that will determine the language that they speak, and this will consequently shape their views and beliefs. It allows for complex social networks and relationships. It also allows individuals to pursue happiness. It gives them the ability to be creative in music, art, and drama. Human culture does all these by creating and maintaining complex social systems, institutionalizing and improving cultural practices, creating beliefs about the world, and communicating the meaning to other humans and subsequent generations.
It is the product of evolution of the human mind, increased brain size, and complex cognitive abilities, in response to the specific ecologies in which groups live. If another culture is forced upon a community therefore, these values will never be realized. Culture contains everything that most communities would be interested in. These range from the rites of passage including marriage, birth, circumcision, as well as baptism. A keen analysis reveals that when these values are taken away from any given community, then the said community automatically loses its distinctiveness.
Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks. Chicago: Grove Press, 2008. Print.
Gonzalez, Virginia. Second Language Learning: Cultural Adaptation Processes in International Graduate Students in U.S. Universities. New York: University Press of America, 2004. Print.
Mansoor, Sabiha. Global Issues in Language, Education and Development: Perspectives from Postcolonial Countries. Chicago: Multilingual Matters, 2007. Print.
Mowbray, Jacqueline. Linguistic Justice: International Law and Language Policy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. Print.
Sharifian, Farzad. English as an International Language: Perspectives and Pedagogical Issues. Chicago: Multilingual Matters, 2009. Print.
Thiong'o, Ngũgĩ wa. Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature. New York: John Currey, 1987. Print.
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