Language Autobiography 2013: Adapting to language

In Mr. Block's class, (English) we wrote an experience we had where we had an incident with language; good or bad. In my story, I wrote about being forced to change your language. I learned through my work and reading that everyone has had a bad experience with language.


When I was a child, around eight to ten years old, I began to see the differences in language. My home language was a completely different dialect than those used by my schoolmates; others alienated me. At my home, I spoke “Proper English;” I spoke with “correct” grammar, proper subjects and predicate, and knowledge in my words. When I was in the fifth grade, I learned quickly how to adapt to my surroundings, language-wise. Around a month after school started I began to realize the way that my classmates spoke and the tone and stressing of certain letters and words used. To me, at the time, it seemed completely irrelevant to speak in that manner. But, in need for friends, I tried to adapt to the language . Not just the language of verbal, but the language of clothes, hobbies and act.

  I began to scope out the words that were used more than others such as: Dawg, nigga, yo, chill, damn, bitch and more.  I also taught myself quickly how to dismember someone mentally. I started to watch sports more often so I could talk about it with others. I also began to use language with girls jokingly that I would never use near an elder.

 It was lunchtime; so as we were at lunch, this day I sat with Dede, Christian, Nelly, Jose and Brandon. Brandon and me were already friends; Jose was like a bodyguard to me. I helped Jose in schoolwork, and in return he watched my over back. Nelly and I rarely spoke, but because he was husky like Jose, I decided it was best for us to be friends. Dede and Christian were the two most popular kids in fifth grade and I would have preferred them as friends than just voids. I was not that unpopular in my grade, so it wasn’t a big deal about where I sat, but I wanted to get in deeper. As I sat down we began to speak, let me remind you, this is one of the first times I used this “Slang”,

“ Wat up KaBoni?” Jose asked

“Nothin’ bruh, chillin. How are you doing?’” I replied.

“I’m on my grind, cuzzo.” Jose said.

“ Yo, big head KaBoni, you saw da Eagles game last night?” Christian asked.

This was my moment to prove my worth in language, so of course I was nervous. As the words of bliss left my lips, I mentally smiled with glee.

“Yo fat ass, you know I saw da game yesterday. McNabb: booty cheeks yestaday’ but McCoy, dat nigga fast as hell; he run like a fat bitch chasin’ em!”

As the sound of cheerful laughter from the kids filled my ear drums, the sound of acceptance entered my heart. I was accepted by the other school kids as the funny kid and the class clown. At the time, this didn’t seem very major to me, only that I was in the clique. From that point on, I began to tell stories and tales that would make other laugh. I would talk about someone to get respect and props from individuals. From that point on, I began to dress like them. We had a school uniform, but I would start to sag my pants a little, let my jeans flow past the anklet of my shoe and wear head attire in class. We all thought it was cool at the time, but little did I know that it was only slowing me down.  What was realized later on was that I was only halting my mental and language capacity. The more that you adapt to language, the less you will be able to as you gain age.

To this day, I still preserve the language that I learned in elementary school. It is helpful in situations where I am not familiar with the crowd and if I have to adapt to new environment. In high school now, I still use this language with certain crowds when it is necessary to code-switch. For example, I will speak a certain way with Nadir and Richard then I would when I speak to Ronald and Stephen, even if I do not mean to. It is “Proper” vs. “Irregular”. But it is a different kind of hard to put a label on the way that people speak; you cannot just say that there is a proper language because there are many languages/ways to speak and to express your opinion. So with that being said, speaking in any way is just . . . expressing who you are. As an individual though, I was subjected to adaptation. If I did not adapt, I did not fit in.[4]  It is an incentive for many to fit in so they feel like they belong somewhere in the “World” where you are alienated. It is the same reason why people who don’t smoke cigarettes would start smoking to get in cahoots with their boss. It is a way to make things better than the norm.

What I happened when I learned to adapt in middle and elementary school still follows me to this day. Without intending to, I learn how to mimic the acts and language of others easily by taking out key words and incorporating them into my own language. But there is always a cost to substituting yourself. A piece of me is now missing; the piece of me that was myself. [5] Everything changed when I adapted to what was not myself: I lost the part of me that was raised with my mother for 11-12 years, I lost the part of me that took what I like into incorporation before others. Changing or adapting your language has a very high price, regardless if you realize it or not, you will change. It takes a real man to look inside of himself and say, “I’m different, how can I find myself again.


Comments (1)

Caitlin Thompson (Teacher)
Caitlin Thompson

KaBoni, This is a very touching piece of writing. You raised some interesting points that I had not thought of before. Thanks for sharing your ideas and your personality with the world.

Ms. Thompson