My language world

This post is about my language world. In this unit, I had time to investigate deeper of my cultural background and language use, and how do people communicate in different situations. I considered myself as a bilingual, my education background let me grow to speak both Mandarin and English. My family is a mix of different cultural groups, due to my parents and their offspring were raised in different cultural environments. My language world is associated with both my speaking languages.

  Code shifting happens frequently in my daily life. My friends and I use a more relaxed way when we are chatting, it registers “our own teenager’s language”. We shift to a common topic when there are more schoolmates coming in. It is kindly that we can all talk about a topic we all interested in. There is an observation of code shifting in my family, we have a settled family meeting per month, it is basically about how was it going for last month and our future plans. There is a code shifting of my comments between my siblings and my parents. See the differences, “I always think you should get up earlier in the morning otherwise we have to shift the exercise time forward, this affects my whole timetable.” I speak in a relaxed and divergent way by pointing out my brother’s mistake. We are in the same age group so there are no status differences, this leads to a direct conversation. On the other hand, I shift to an indirect way when I commented on my dad, compared to my brother’s comment.“We should set a plan for Sunday exercises, the time we need to get up. Everyone should follow it !” The content does not specifically point out the behaviour of my dad. However, my dad is included in “everyone”, so he should also obey the rule. It indicates my respect for him implicitly. This revealed when people are facing different groups of people, we tend to code shift our language features and change the contents to show the relationship with the person or a social group. For my dad, I obviously want to show respect to him, on the contrary, I express my intuitive sense to my brother because we shared a similar statue in the family.

   Undeniably, my living environment affects my language use. North and South part of China has a clear difference in language features, it can be considered as a stereotype that people often argue Northern people seem more straightforward but Southern people are more introverted. This is actually based on their different language features, this includes slang when people are communicating. The lexical collocation is completely different between north and south. For instance, “What is wrong?”, is translated into “Zǎde” (Chinese pinyin) in certain northern provinces, while it is “chūzmièshì (Chinese pinyin)?” in some southern provinces. Even if someone is confused about the meaning, he can still infer in this example, that northern dialect sounds more direct due to this word has lesser syllabus than the southern ones. I was raised up in the north part of China but my parents are from South, so there is a mix of languages in my family, it is because my parents have a different cultural background with me. My parents sometimes communicate in the southern dialect which I can understand but can not use properly. They code-switch their language to mandarin when they are talking to us. Additionally, I sometimes communicate in English with my siblings. It is natural for me to switch between these languages due to the fact that I have grown to speak and learning both languages. No doubt to say, the mix of language use in my home is helping me to contact with more types of cultures, thus giving me a certain type of identity – I am an adaptable person.

 English is developed among different cultural groups. They shift their language features and adapt it to their own language. There are several branches, such as Chinglish, Singlish etc. These varieties sometimes changed English grammar and expressions based on their languages. Such as “long time no see”, which is directly translated from Chinese. It means we do not see each other for a long time. They modified English word order based on Chinese word order. Like Chinglish, other English varieties can be covert and overt prestige in different regions. The language that is covert is to show the membership of an “exclusive community”, while overt prestige language is occupying most of the local population. Singlish is a form of English used in Singapore. It appears to be overt prestige for major Singaporeans, it is considered as an official language for a culturally dominant group in Singapore. However, a standard English speaker will be viewed as tourists or “not pure Singaporean”. I had experience once when I want to order a drink when I first came to Singapore, at first I could not get what does “ Kopi peng ” means when the shop assistant said that, he switched his language after he found out I am not a local then I can finally understand the means “ ice coffee”. There is a language shift between the major language and foreign language in the situation. My position, in this case, is a switch from a local to a foreigner. Although standard English is considered as the major majority in the world, it is specifically excluded (view as covert prestige) in some other cultural groups.

  The variety of English form caused stereotypical judgements of language use. Speakers of the Chinglish accents are often pre-judged as lack of language education or playful and not serious person, sometimes viewed as impolite by people who speak standard English in China. I can see that there are reasons socially and historically for this perception, as after the opium war, Chinglish began to spread among businessmen and boatmen. Due to the low rate of access to language education, they spoke as a combination of English and Chinese( combined with Mandarin or Cantonese etc.). Therefore, Chinglish is formed under Chinese thinking and expression style, and the lack of understanding of Chinese and western cultural differences. That is why Chinglish is not considered as a serious accent in some way. However, with the growth of Chinglish speakers, many Chinglish phrases are placed in the English dictionary. English speakers all over the world are more open-minded about different expressions of English.

English was changing by different forces throughout history. It is directly related to the main focus of the society. Before the renaissance, English was changed mainly because of the occupation and wars. Power and status were involved in this period to distinguish the differences in English between classes. There were some specific words that certain class did not use like lower-class citizens can not discuss royalty. After that, the form of language was shifted by literature and it became more diversified. It is still converting today through communications, entertainment like social media and other social perspectives. Social media is a familiar example, we know many cyber speak through contact with the internet, and sometimes apply them in real life. We are all developing our language, with the development of society. When society becomes more modernized, people became more open-minded, they are willing to see the variety of English form. All the population who speaks English owns it, they have the ability to convert English for application use. It is not a fixed pattern, more likely to be a form of language.