The many tongues of language

Maggie Long


The many tongues of language


“Ayo, Maggie! What’s happenin?”

“Nuthin much man, how bout you?”

“Eh, it’s alright, you know, just chillin. See ya tomorrow iight!?”

“Yea dude, for sure”

            This language would be my “second language”. My first would have to be how I talk to some of my friends and people who are more educated than me. I was brought up to talk with respect and to speak with words that you would mainly only hear in a thesaurus. Since I moved to Philly, I have gotten more used to the slang and speech that people down here use. Now, I can adjust myself for different people. This helps me fit in and get along with different people. This helps me identify myself as a person because I know that since I can change my language with anyone, in the blink of a second, I feel more bilingual because of that. I feel that having more experience with different people’s language can help you in the long run because you will know more about the culture and speech hands on.


“Hey Maggie! I read that book you gave me! It was superb! May I suggest a book to for you to take a look at?”

“Yea, sure! What is it called?”

“A Clockwork Orange”

“Ohh! I read that already! It’s very…well…haha, unordinary. However, it is well written.”

“I concur”

“Alrighty, well I have class, but I will see you later!”

“See ya!”


Along with the many other languages I possess, I can also know when to turn off the other languages to talk to someone and have an educational talk with them. I adjust my language in order to fit in more with that group of people who are talking that way. This makes it easier to relate to them and to make them and myself more comfortable in the environment, since we all will speak the same way.

In the story by Maxine Hong Kingston, it describes how different languages are used and how people in the world try to hide behind them. In the last pages of the story, she talks about how you can speak in certain areas and why you should. In the words of Maxine Hong Kingston, “You can’t entrust your voice to the Chinese either. They want to capture your voice for their own use.” Saying this she explains how she feels about the Chinese without even describing her feelings toward them. To me, this is offensive and too general of an explanation. I feel like her generalization is affecting more than just the Chinese. She is saying that if you talk to a Chinese person, they will try to copy your voice and your language so that they can use it also. I feel like it doesn’t have to just be the Chinese that you talk to where this can occur. If you talk to someone of your own race, then they could “capture” your language also. This is kind of like how I change my language for different groups. I learn by listening to the people talk and then “capturing” that language and vocabulary and then repeating it back. I feel this makes it easier to fit in and talk to that group of people.

During Maxine Hong Kingston’s story, the mother is talking to the child about how she “cut his tongue”. She obviously did not mean this literally, but more as an expression. She continues to talk about how it affected him and how she cut it. “I cut it so that you would not be tongue-tied. Your tongue would be able to move in any language. You’ll be able to speak languages that are completely different from one another.” I take this as her saying she made him able to speak multiple languages by speaking multiple languages to him and making his environment different also. By putting him in an environment where people speak different ways, he will learn all of those ways just by being part of that community. I can relate to this saying because when I moved to Philly I take that as the “cut” of my tongue. I went from being in a place where people talked all the same way, to Philadelphia, where it is more diverse and integrated. I feel multi-lingual because of that. The “cut” of my tongue was a good thing for me in my opinion.

Out of all of the languages in the world I am very happy with the ones I know, and are still learning. Different ways of talking are all over the city. Engaging yourself in conversation with different languages is definitely worthwhile. I have learned from my own experiences how and when to talk to somebody and what language I should use. This has made me a better person and more multi-lingual. In conclusion, I think learning more about people’s language and experiencing it yourself can help you out in the long run.