Language Autobiography 2013: Look! I Can Speak Without Opening My Mouth!

For the Language Autobiography, students were assigned to create both an autobiography essay and a digital story both descriptively describing the writer's personal connection with language. In my essay, I chose to write about non-verbal human communications that we tend to subconsciously ignore. Language, in any form, in an unconscious possession of the human mind.

Look! I Can Speak Without Opening My Mouth!

Language is a system of human communication used by a particular community or culture. With this being said, it is impossible to argue that the only form of communication between humans is verbal. Everything that has been put into existence is a form of language whether believed or not. The hair-do on your head, the jacket on your back, the iphone in your pocket--it’s all speaking a language for you. So with this in mind, what do these specific languages do to people of the native tongue and minds and to the tongues and minds of those “learning” the oppressive language. These languages essentially define what you are. Since “you are what you eat” who’s to say you aren’t what you speak.

“Language like desire disrupts—refuses to be contained within boundaries. It speaks itself against our will, in words and thoughts, that intrude, violate even, the innermost private spaces of mind and body.” These are the first words spilled onto paper by bell hooks in her essay, This Is The Oppressor’s Language / Yet I Need It to Speak to You. When Hooks writes this, she is inferring that language is a self-imposing violation on the human mind and body. One of the most self-imposing languages is body language. Body language is a little more complex when it speaks. It not only speaks to the subconscious mind of the possessing human, but to other humans as well. One day while I was on the train, on my way to school, I sat by a very unwelcoming-looking man. As I took my seat, I noticed my knees turned outward away from the man’s knees (I hadn’t done this on purpose) which were inward. He could have turned his body from mine as I did to him but instead he was telling me that he didn’t mind my presence. I, on the other hand was telling him that I was not entirely comfortable sitting next to him while also telling everyone on the train that I had no relationship to him. I decided to look around at others sitting down. There was a teenage girl and teen boy sitting next to one another across from me. Neither of them spoke to one another, looked at one another and both got off at different stops. However, during the ride I noticed their knees remained close to one anothers. The girl had earphones in, silently bobbing her head to whatever beat she’d been dragged into, while the boy had been burying his face in a book. They’d established to both each other and those on the train that despite them being complete strangers, they were comfortable with one another’s presence.

On another note, it is a fact that our Earth is run by both positive and negative judgments. But who’s doing the judging? Not only were we born into a world of judgement, but into a world where our possessions are the ones that judge us. I remember when my older sister and I were in her livingroom at her old apartment. She’d called me downstairs from my third floor apartment to babysit my nieces while she went to a girls night out. As usual, she came out after putting on her outfit and her not-too-much-not-too-little make-up for my opinion. She’d been wearing a red and white glittered strapless shirt, black tights and tall red heels with successfully put together accessories. I applauded her fashion, which was speaking out to me that she was coordinative-which was essentially true about my sister. What my sister and I hadn’t realized was that it didn’t matter what we thought of the outfit, it’s what the outfit thought of her. The red heels were telling her that she looked taller than her regular 5’6” height. Her black tights were telling her that she had skinny legs (skinny enough to wear them) and attractive thighs. The strapless shirt was scorning my sister about her shoulders, that they would need to be postured the right way all night if she were going to expose them, and the makeup was laughing at her. Both cackling and whispering to my sister subconsciously that it was her beauty enhancer (as if she needed one), and that without it, she’d look too plain. The reason my sister needed my opinion was because her clothes “tampered with her speech” as Maxine Hong Kingston said in her essay Tongue-Tied. My sister was forced to learn the symbolic language of her own possessions, causing a subconscious oppression-She lacked the liberty to self-judge and she didn’t even know it. Could it be that we do not judge based off what we see, but are judged by the things we see-and it mirrors our mental perceptions. Could it be that we do not own our thoughts? Our own opinions?  

So if all humans were to realize that both their possessions and their own bodies have always been and always will betray them, how would they react? What would change? John Berger once said, “One can say of language that it is potentially the only human home, the only dwelling place that cannot be hostile to man.” It is true that language is the essential human home. Communication is the key to survival. Everything that surrounds us is language and any form of language is a form of communication-making it impossible to escape it, nor can you confront it. No matter how the human mind reacts to this realization and try to control it, they’ll find themselves in a loop of no return. How does it feel to realize that we, the humans, have been the walking puppets all along?

Tick Tock, Listen to his language.

(My Digital Story)