My Language Belongs to Me

“Hey, do you want to come with us to Chinatown?” the people I knew in my stream would ask.

“I don’t know,” I said in an unsure manner.

That is what I usually sound like when I am in school, with people I feel uncomfortable around. I am not a very extroverted person and when it comes to being social, I’m not sure about what I should say, do or how I should act. When I’m around people that I hardly know, I feel like they won’t accept me for who I am. In times like these, I am unable to make decisions for myself because I feel out of place and I feel like I’m the center of attention. When I’m the center of attention, I feel uncomfortable, like I am being judged and that affects how I make decisions. Sometimes when I can’t make decisions on my own, I go further into the corner that is my shyness instead of breaking out of my shell and thinking for myself. When I put myself in these situations, I am always questioning myself like, “What should I do?” or “Should I just do this?”

My first year of high school was very tough because everything was new to me, especially the language people used. I heard people using slang words that I didn’t know the meanings of or what they were saying. After a while, I did get used to the slang and started to use those words when I spoke to people at school in order to fit in. The way I spoke was different whenever I got home from school because I respected my parents enough where I wouldn't use slang words.

In my sophomore year of high school, things have changed, especially the slang. I do feel like it’s my freshman year because of my new stream, new friends, new languages, even though everything still seems new, but different to me. This year is different only because of my new friends, languages and everything that goes along with it. I am still very shy and aware of what I say because I’m afraid that I will sound unintelligent to them. As James Baldwin said, “People evolve a language in order to describe and thus control their circumstances, or in order not to be submerged by a reality that they cannot articulate.” This relates to me because he is saying that people change their language to fit in, not be judged and to be on the same level as everyone else, and my case, it would be the level of intelligence. He is also saying that it is easier to understand someone on your level, instead of being left “clueless” from someone on a different level of intelligence.

Sometimes when I am around people that I don’t know in other places, I think that I sound weird to the people. Also, if they ask a question that I either don’t understand or hear, I would be afraid to ask if they could repeat the statement. I am a very shy person, so that really doesn’t help with speaking up and asking people to repeat. When it comes to situations like that, I just don’t want to ask them to repeat because I always think that is rude. I am also a very kind person, which also plays a big role in being shy.

“So, who had an awesome day today?” I would ask my family when we were sitting down, eating dinner. When I am in my own environment, I feel “free” and able to do what I want and be what I want. I don’t have the pressure of being different or being weird because I was being myself. I think the way I speak determines how I feel or act around people. I think language plays a big role in determining someone’s identity because some people talk differently and act differently around certain people. I know that I do act differently around my immediate family, than I do around my cousins, aunts and uncles. With my cousins, it’s usually easier to talk to them, even though some of them fall into the category of people my age. I feel this way around them because I grew up with them and I have always felt close with them. With my aunts and uncles, they tend to try and make me the center of attention because they are used to their kids being more out-going than I am.

My parents, on the other hand are the complete opposite because they let me be who I am and don’t try to make me be something I’m not. They are fine with me being introverted because they can understand and have explain how they can relate to me. They let me use my own language, even though they try little by little to break me out of my shell. They tell me to talk to people if I am having problems, such as being my own advocate and tell me to try and speak up if I have a question. My language derives from the language they use, which I always used for as long as I can remember.

“Wow, your daughter has an extensive vocabulary? Where does she get it from?” people always ask my parents.

“She’s always been very mature and she has always very courteous. She sometimes surprises me.” My mom would respond.

The language you use says a lot about a person because language is multiple things. It is mainly your dialect, your accent and the words you use, which does say a lot about one person. It tells a story about who you are and where you are from. Language and identity go hand in hand because one determines what the other is like and they are both used as ways to express oneself. You will never know who a person truly is until you are able to meet with them, talk to them and really get to know them.

Comments (5)

James Thomas (Student 2018)
James Thomas
  1. I didn't really know Jess until this year. So learning about her freshman year enlightened me on her personality.
  2. She begins her piece with a story about her classmates asking her if she'd go with them to Chinatown. She then explains to the reader how she felt and her personality as of that moment and as of now.
  3. I'll probably remember that Jess has a wide vocabulary and is a really hard worker.
Christopher Irwin-Diehl (Student 2018)
Christopher Irwin-Diehl

Jessica sometimes will use an anecdote to strengthen and give an example of what she talked about in her reflection. Other times she will use reflection to describe an anecdote and give insight on it. The variety is nice.

Gabriel Copeland (Student 2018)
Gabriel Copeland

Jessica as grown quite a bit in the two years she has been at SLA language wise and uses her way of speaking to show who she is. Jessica uses the anecdotes to give her story a sense of conversation through it and the reflection is also happening all the time showing a good deal of questioning as she writes in the story. That I am not the only who has changed the way they speak to fit in is a good comforting feeling will definitely stick with me.

Zoe Chernowski (Student 2018)
Zoe Chernowski
  1. I learned more about Jess's family versus school language and how they differ.
  2. The anecdotes and reflection are used to prove her point and shows how her language differs in different situations and how you shape your language and your language shapes you.
  3. I will remember the reflection especially because I agree with the points stated and it really caught my interest.
Jevon Price (Student 2018)
Jevon Price

I learned that Jessica is not the outgoing person she seems to be sometimes, and that is was a transition from the person she used to be to the way she learned to act and speech around the new people at sla. The experience of coming to sla has really changed the way she speaks.