Language Autobiography 2013: The Words Less Spoken

During this unit, I learned about the different aspects of language and the overall different views on it from a great deal of perspectives and opinions. As this unit progressed, we read analytical short stories and quasi-vignettes from many different authors including Richard Rodriguez, Amy Tan, and more, who spoke of their own deeper analysis of languages and personal experiences. As a wrap-up for the unit, we were given an assignment that entailed writing an autobiographical and analytical essay centered on both revealing one’s own experiences in their life, as well as analyzation of languages. We were given many topics to use as the focal point of our essays such as, code switching, regional dialect, and language versus emotion. Throughout the unit and completing the work given in it, I as an individual took an extremely inquisitive approach to what we read. I was highly interested in the multifaceted characters in the works observed. Mainly because of the unique exposures of the authors. In this essay, I attempted to apply the same characteristics that the other authors had within their stories.

There are many ways in which we represent the different things that were are influenced to how they affect us in every aspect of life, no matter how slight that change may be. This can be any number of things. The people that are around, the places they see and are present in, what they see on tv and the people they are introduced to. Those effects can be observed and narrowed down to the smallest detail. Sometimes, that detail can be as miniscule as the way a person talks around different people and groups. This becomes evident and can become noticeable as more and more people get used to how you talk to them and it can come as a surprise to them if they hear how you talk to other people that you don’t use the same tone of voice and or speech with when you talk to them as opposed to when you talk to that person. Unfamiliarity can be a strange thing. For instance, when you’re meeting someone new, it is always a quick decision on how you will speak to that person. Whether or not you will use your normal voice or something to make you sound more professional or mature. The choices are endless and everyone’s are different. It all boils down to first impressions and creating a persona for yourself.

I have discovered that through time, and through observing by listening, anyone can pick up on the manner with which one person talks to another. Even though at times it may not be apparent, the code switching is still present because everybody does it, no matter how slight it may be. The first time that I started to listen to people when they talk, I didn’t immediately think of it as anything out of the ordinary, but it was peculiar to me how that person’s voice had sounded, in comparison to how it sounded when they talked to me. The first time that I really deeply observed the trait that everyone develops at some point early in their life is when I had involuntarily done it when I was talking to my friends one day. It was about three years ago. I was holding just a normal conversation with my friend, Dave at our grade school. Now, before I get into how I analyzed our conversation, I want to preface my statement with saying that Dave was generally known as a tougher character, one that could throw a pretty hard punch, and take one, too. It was early in the school year, about November or December. Me and a my friend were sitting down in the cafeteria, talking about god knows what. Dave had gotten some of the less than appetizing food offered by the school for those who didn’t bring a lunch from home. Which, when I think about it now, was not worth the money paid for it. He sat down at our table, inhabited only by me and another person. I vaguely remember one of us cracking a joke about something and then I watched Dave look at his “lunch” and grimace with disgust. He then cursed and muttered something under his breathe. We both began to talk about our days and the oddities that tended to occur at our school. We shared laughs here and there and by the end of lunch, I had noticed something about my voice. It had gotten deeper, slightly, and I spoke much more loosely, not caring much for proper grammar or fluid pronunciation. I was trying to sound... tough, I guess is what I would call it then. In comparison to current day, I now call it “making a first impression.” The reason I did this was to... well, fit in. I felt it necessary to do so because I wanted to have that sense of toughness. Now, when I compare that to how I talk to my dad, it’s a whole other story. The words I speak are much softer and completely articulate when I talk to my father. Back to the story. The way I spoke to my friend those years ago, is generally how I’ll speak to strangers when asked a question or just when having a conversation with a store clerk. I always have tried to keep this demeanor and appearance of a tougher person.

The reason that it’s involuntary is because when you become so adept to talking certain ways to different people, it becomes second-nature to us, a passing thought. Not at that specific moment, though. I stopped myself, after I had finished my thought. I noticed that I just spoke in a different tone of voice to my friends... almost out of nowhere. It seemed completely new to me, even though I had been doing it so long - it just never occurred to me because I was unconsciously doing it.

In life, the people we meet and have human interaction with greatly influence and mold ourselves as individuals. One of the very first things people notice when meeting someone for the first time is how they speak and in what tone of voice they do it with. Depending on the impression the person makes, your voice and movement will be influenced. Often times, when a person has become so used to talking one way for a while, they become lost and unable switch their voice when they need to, especially when talking to someone who only knows of their voice one way. The main reason why people in everyday life code switch is to not only develop a relationship with nearly each individual they meet, but to know who they’re around in a sense that they know who they have to impress and who they can be open with. Lastly, people in society use code switching to learn about another person.

Code for Vimeo:

Rodriguez, Richard. Hunger of Memory. Boston: David R. Godine, 1982. Print. 

Baldwin, James. "If Black English Isn't a Language, Then Tell Me What Is." New York Times. (July 29, 1979): <>. 

hooks, bell. Hooks on the Language of Power. New Learning. Web. 11 Jan 2013. <>. 

Tan , Amy. "Mother Tongue." Home is Where the Heart Dwells. N.p.. Web. 11 Jan 2013. <>.