Language is very important for all kinds of life experiences;-for survival, communications, and for starting relationships. Language includes the use of voices, words, gestures, and facial expressions. Therefore no society in the world exists without this form of language.
According to Maclure (1992) Language is also about power and control, and it can be used to persuade others to act: it is also about struggle and pain – about being controlled or ignored. People use language each day to suit their everyday life, style, occasion or circumstance. Comparing language to clothes is an example; – people dress in various ways according to where they may be going. They would dress differently when going to work, an interview or to a party. And this is the same with the use of language. We change our language to suit the particular circumstance.
Speaking a particular language or kind of language identifies you as a member of a particular group: and one way of showing which group you belong to is by speaking its kind of language: ‘using a groups language is putting on its uniform’.(Cook, 1979)
This essay will analyse the language and dialects spoken by my study group in terms of language and power, language and class, language and hierarchies as well as language and ethnicity. In my study group we had individuals from Nigeria, India, Saudi Arabia and England. Although we all came from different backgrounds, we all spoke English but others had their mother tongue as their first language and therefore studied English as a second. It was also interesting to note that they all felt positive towards the English language as it is a powerful language spoken universally.
‘The danger of stereotyping is therefore high. People can be disadvantaged by sounding disadvantaged- by speaking haltingly, or declining to use, whatever language is associated with getting on in the world. Similarly, their failure to ‘get on’ in the world may be conveniently explained away by treating their speech as evidence of poor ability or low ambition. (Tony Edwards, 1992)
The people from Nigeria struggled a bit during the group discussion because they had very strong accents and communicated less in the discussion. And this was due to the fact that the English language was not their first language. This might have also been lack of formal educational opportunity in the past, lack of contact with English speakers or non-availability of English-speaking relatives and friends.
Language choice is embedded within linguistic power relationships such as high status versus low status, dominant versus minority, European versus African. With the dominant of English universally, many varieties of English are emerging. Afro-Caribbean who do not speak Standard English tend to bring the (hierarchies) power of the English language down to their level of understanding in order to communicate or relate to each other. Some speak Patios but also tend to use it within their own community.
According to Penny, Henley, and Baxter (1985), Afro Caribbean’s in Britain speak different forms of English depending, for example, on age, class, experience and personal choice. (‘Some linguists consider Caribbean-forms of Patios to be a dialect form of language: Others consider them to be language of their own right. But the type of Patios spoken in the Caribbean varies from island to island. The main influence maybe French, Spanish or English depending on which was the dominant power in the colonial period’.)
It was emerged that although my study group conversed in English, some members of different ethnic group has to learn their own mother tongue for religious or traditional purposes. Although a colleague from India spoke fluent English during the discussion, she mentioned that she would have to speak Bengali at home with her family because her parents could not speak the English language. Due to this, she would usually have to accompany the older generations to most places to assist them with any confrontations. Therefore the steps she took were to teach her parents basic English so that they are not held back by their inefficient means of communication.
According to Mares, Henley, and Baxter (1985) ethnic minorities who did not grow up speaking the English language face the greatest problems with English speaking people. In addition, people who speak little English are often confronted with intolerance, blame, hostility or insults.
The groups’ attitude towards English language was very positive. The study group perceived English to be the language of intellectuals and the language of higher mobility or a passport to almost all job opportunities. The argument has some credibility since Fairclough (2001) stated that English enjoys usefulness and value in both the local fields of commerce and industry as well as the global economy.
In the United States it was believed that Black Americas communicated less well than standard speakers and in the UK the same charge was made against the kinds of English spoken by West Indians and working-class people who also speak standard English with a regional accent. V. J. Cook (1979) mentioned that the working-class people are handicapped to some extent because they are familiar with Standard English used in schools and West Indian children may be even less familiar with the Standard English used in Britain.
The misconception raised about Nigeria was that, each state in Nigeria spoke a different type of language. Therefore even though we had two individuals from Nigeria, they could not both speak the same language due to the fact that they both came from different states. As mentioned above, people learn languages for various reasons: example, for religious reasons. In this case, although they might not be able to speak or understand it, they can read or write it.
Other misconceptions that came about the Asians were that, although some members of the group were born in the UK, and therefore speak and dress like the native English, they always think and act like Asians.
The conclusion of this essay is about the misconception about the English. They believe that they don’t need to learn other languages in order to survive as the majority of countries in the world speak English. How ever we believe that the English should develop a communicative competence in an additional language.