Eil 1010 Essay

English is now the most widespread language in the world. It is no longer the property of the so-called inner-circle countries, such as the United States and United Kingdom. There has been a significant increase of the number of English speakers living in different parts of the world, especially in countries that do not claim English as their mother tongue. Thus, the background of today??™s English speakers varies. As each group of English speakers speak in their own way, communication among different groups of today??™s English speakers becomes complex.
While investigating how language, identity, and worldview interrelate with one another, it is impossible to separate them from culture. ???Culture is a system of techniques for giving shape and power to human capacities; the values, tools, and ways of knowing of a culture equip members of a society with amplification systems??? (Hamers & Blanc, 2000). Language is both the component and product of culture, since they are mutually affected. According to Bloomfield, language is a system of vocal symbols. He suggested that language is a cultural system. Thus, each language may have its unique expression and special way to describe certain objects or ideas according to a particular culture (Bloomfield, 1935).
Identity can be organized into several categories, including social, cultural, and ethnic identity. ???Ethnolinguistic identity can be viewed as a subjective feeling of belonging to a particular group for which the language spoken by the group is an important characteristic??? (Hamers & Blanc, 2000). World view is a set of beliefs about fundamental aspects of reality that grounds and influences all of one??™s perception, thought, knowledge, and actions regarding the world (Funk, 2001).
As previously stated, language plays an important role in defining one??™s identity. This point can be illustrated in the case of post-colonial Hong Kong. ???Knowledge of English distinguishes Hong Kongers from their counterparts in the PRC??¦ [allowing them to] maintain a separate identity from the motherland??? (Chan, 2002). Unlike the PRC, English is not merely a foreign language in Hong Kong. It is one of the country??™s official languages and also a language for communication in the public sphere, including school and workplace. Therefore, English gives Hong Kong residents more than simply a Chinese identity. The identity of post-colonial Hong Kongers is intertwined in Chinese and British identity.
As a locally born and bred Hong Konger, I grew up when the policy of changing the medium of instruction from English to Chinese in the junior level of government-subsidized secondary schools in post-handover Hong Kong was enforced. I was a primary school student at that time, and I witnessed as some students??™ parents cried as news reporters interviewed them. The parents thought that the policy would ruin their children??™s future. My own parents reminded me that those schools were no longer our target, and they started to collect information about private or non-government-subsidized schools for me to attend. This reaction from many parents reflects the common idea that English proficiency is crucial for children??™s further study and career. Thus, language does not merely affect one??™s identity but also one??™s worldview.
In addition, I find the interrelation among language, identity, and worldview most noticeable when I am studying abroad. My fluency in Cantonese, English, and Mandarin is a key linguistic feature of my identity as a Hong Konger. Those who were born and raised in colonial Hong Kong, like my parents, are likely to identify themselves as bilingual Hong Kongers, instead of Chinese. The practice of learning English for them was essential, and they felt they had no choice. Proficiency of British English is a capital that makes them proud of their identity. However, for people of my generation who were born in and spent part of the childhood in colonial Hong Kong, a bilingual identity is not as valuable as it was previously, and we are likely to identify ourselves as multilingual. More importantly, proficiency in British English seems insufficient for multicultural communications for us. As the identity of Hong Kongers changes with different generations, the worldview of English changes accordingly. Although British English is still dominant in textbooks and government publications, like most members of the post-colonial generation, I am willing to learn other varieties of English. For example, some of my friends intended to use American English, instead of British English, in their academic work since they started to use American English software such as Microsoft Word. However, changing from one variety of English to another requires more than merely changing spelling or vocabulary. One teacher reminded us that there is a series of cultural differences in how British people use their language and how Americans use theirs. The combination of American spelling and vocabulary with British grammar and sentence patterns led my friends??™ writing to seem extremely awkward and confusing to our native-English-speaking teacher. This case implies that one??™s worldview of language can be influenced by technology. However, since ethnolinguistic identity is determined by the ethnical and linguistic features of an individual, partial changes in linguistic aspects do not change one??™s identity. Therefore, the changes make that language become strange and hard to understand to other ethnolinguistic groups.
Outside Hong Kong, the emerging English language has also created a great impact on Japanese??™s worldview and identity. ?????¦English texts are described as ???logical,??™ ???analytical,??™ ???direct,??™ and ???succinct??™??? (Kubota, 1992). This is true not just for Japan but also for countries in the outer or expending circle of the English language, and they assume that their identity is inferior to the inner-circle countries because they are not advised to use the logic of their own language when they speak English. There is a myth that English requires users to have a higher level of logicalness (Kubota, 1998). When someone thinks her identity is inferior to that of native English speakers, it is usual for her to adore English and foreigners with a mother tongue of English. One of my friends who is studying in Japan even told me that English become a champion and model of language in Japan. The young generation in Japan is addicted to learning and using English. For example, it is common for Japanese students to study abroad or participate in a cultural exchange programme with students from inner-circle countries. This consideration among the Japanese younger generation provides a case reflecting that the worldview of language can determine one??™s identity in the world and that identity can be a motivator for one to learn and use a certain language. English can be dominant in one??™s life because of one??™s identity and worldview of English.
The previous examples of Hong Kong and Japan illustrated that language, world view, and identity affect one another reciprocally. After understanding this relationship, it is no doubt that learning English is not merely an act of learning the language itself. At the same time that culture and worldview are being learned, a person??™s new identity is built. This interrelation is useful for our intercultural communication in English today. Proficiency in English and well-developed communication skills are equally important in using English in the globalized world. As English is no longer the property of inner-circle countries, once one picks up the identity of English speakers, whether he or she is from an inner, outer, or expending circle of the English language, he or she has the power to affect the language and other users of the language. Since English has become an international language and thus a means for intercultural communication, it is important for English users to bear in mind that today??™s English is composed using different varieties of English, including English from inner, outer, and expending circle countries. There is no such a thing as a superior variety of English (Kubota, 1998).
The case of my friend who tried to give up British English provides a reminder for me that, although I am not an English speaker from an inner-circle country, it is not necessary for me to change my way of communicating in English, even if I am communicating with native English speakers. A change in the way I communicate may lead to a change in identity and worldview. A sudden or intentional change in my choice of variety of English may lead to inconsistency in speaking or writing. It may be easier to cause minor misunderstandings in conversation than to use our own way and variety of English to communicate.
Moreover, after understanding the interrelation of language, identity, and world view, we should be able to respect and appreciate the different varieties of English and culture of different English users around the world. I think that a positive attitude toward the varieties of English is a key factor in effective intercultural communication in the global setting. However, the attitude that the Japanese have toward American English is not advised, since an extreme hate or love sentiment toward a particular variety of English does not benefit either the language user or the language itself. I tend to focus my passions on learning different aspects and different varieties of English. For example, my boss asked me to use different varieties of English when I took a summer job in a Canadian company, and he suggested that I use standard British English in most circumstances. I tried to write in simple structure and very short sentences, even bullet points, during my communication with an American company via email. However, I had to write a detailed background of our company and provide the purpose for sending the email for the British companies. In this regard, it was necessary for me to write in complete sentences and follow a traditional structure of a business mail. Otherwise, it is very likely that those companies would not reply to a simplified email. Therefore, keeping an open mind to the different varieties of English in various circumstances is essential in effective communication today.
Furthermore, respecting and appreciating for all varieties of English help us to develop respect and appreciation of the identity of different English users. This attitude does not only benefit users of English but also benefits the language itself, as it would encourage everyone to believe that he or she has the ability to create new meanings and a new way of communicating in English in the future. Thus, English would truly become an international language for intercultural communications.
This significant relationship can be illustrated in the cases of today??™s Japan and post-colonial Hong Kong. An understanding of this relationship is crucial for us in order to communicate in English today. By discovering this relationship, it is easier for us to develop appropriate attitudes toward different varieties of English and English speakers. Hence, effective intercultural communication, whether in everyday life, school, or business settings, can be achieved. After understanding this reciprocity, every English speaker has the power and responsibility to participate in the development of English in order to drive it toward becoming a real international language. Thus, non-native speakers should use their own variations in communication instead of modeling the way of communication of people in inner-circle English-speaking countries. The combination of the different varieties of English makes today??™s English communication meaningful and trendy.