Blog #6 English Language

Bell Hook describes the English language as a double-edged sword, a weapon used by the oppressors to shame and colonize the thoughts and ideas of those who speak unfavorable forms of language before it is even produced. The English language also offers the opportunity to assimilate with the reward of reaching a more inclusive audience, IF you follow its prescriptive rules- admitting there is a right and wrong language. Initially haunted by the idea “This is the oppressor’s languages yet I need it to talk to you” Hook knows it is not the language itself that hurts her “but what the oppressors do with it”. It is used by the oppressor to discredit and dehumanize foreign voices with the goal of being the last language standing. However learning the prestige enables the oppressed to manipulate the “favorable” language in “unfavorable ways” that break away from standard usage and meaning.

Jamil Jan Kochai admits to becoming a word scratcher who fell captive to the written English language. He began to capture the spoken word of his family’s memories, “writing for the diaspora, for Afghans and Muslims living in Sacramento and Fremont and D.C. and London and wherever else our people had been scattered”. Very little had been written about the Afghan diaspora and he intended to record it to bring awareness to the unrecorded suffering that only existed in oral narratives. While writing he realized the memories of his parents had been distorted by the written English language. The written language did not capture the culture. The translation contorted the context to make it more legible and interpretable for the “white gaze”

I do not know how I am, or if i am subjected to the way the English language is often thought of, as a prestige superior language. Or if was born a subject to the language by choosing to remain a mono linguist. Last semester I had a professor leave a note on an introductory activity we handed in. She wrote something along the lines of “don’t worry, monolingual-ism is curable” she also next to it in parenthesis (it’s a joke). The fact that she wrote “its a joke” was more amusing to me then the joke itself. Why would she write “it’s a joke”? Probably to lighten the blow if I was offended by her comparison of monolingual-ism as a disease that needs to be cured when in fact monolingual-ism and standard spoken and written English is seen as a type of cure for America by those who endorse the superiority of Standard English.

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