Language Discrimination In America

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Up close, language can seem almost trivial; after all, language is “simply” a combination of sounds that people have given meaning to. Yet the influence of language is immeasurable; communication—through the use of language—has given way to peace, war, creation, destruction, unity, division. In America especially, language is an aspect of life that cannot be overlooked, for the nation consists of so many people from distinct cultures who speak different languages. Although the shared language within each culture serves as a means of uniting people, the differences in how people speak has given way to racism and nativism—usually from native-born Americans of European descent—towards immigrants or people of different cultures. Ultimately, language…show more content…
This can even be manifested in names; when people have foreign-sounding name, they are often not associated with the English language and face ostracism on the grounds that they aren’t like Americans. Firoozeh Dumas, in her essay “The ‘F Word,’” explains how her unfamiliar name, which was considered normal in Iran, resulted in her being discriminated against in America. After deciding to go by Julie instead of Firoozeh—due to remarks from her peers—her American classmates became accepting towards her, prompting Dumas’s realization that “these people would have probably never invited [her] to their house had they known [her] as Firoozeh” (Dumas 740). In this, Dumas shows how her American classmates were far more willing to accept someone who spoke English and had a name that was familiar to them. Dumas’s original name, Firoozeh, suggested that she wasn’t born in America, so her peers excluded her. In Dumas’s case, her foreign name had the power to show that she was Iranian—or at least from a different country—so people discriminated against her because they were able to recognize that she was unlike them. Moreover, Dumas’s situation demonstrates how only when English is completely adopted by an individual (extending even to a person’s name) will she be accepted by her…show more content…
In her essay “Mother Tongue,” Amy Tan reveals how Americans mistreated her Chinese mother because her English wasn’t impeccable. Tan even discusses how she was embarrassed by her mother’s English, writing that she “believed that her [mother’s] English reflected the quality of what she had to say” (Tan 702). Essentially, the difference between how Tan spoke and how her mother spoke—in Tan’s point of view—suggested that Tan’s mother was unintelligent because she couldn’t speak English as well as Tan. Many people make the inappropriate assumption that a person’s intelligence can be measured by how well he speaks a language; when people notice a mistake when someone else is speaking, they are more likely to view that person as less intelligent, which often gives way to mistreatment of these people who are perceived as unintelligent. In the case of Tan’s mother, “people in department stores, at banks, and at restaurants did not take her seriously” (Tan 702). For others, perceived ignorance might result in people disregarding what someone has to say. Ultimately, this impacts both the person being labeled as “dumb” and the person who is judging the individual who is unable to speak the language perfectly. The person who is perceived as unintelligent will likely feel discouraged from
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