All throughout my life people have told me that I’m very well spoken. I take it as a compliment. Even though most of the people telling me that are friends of my parents, who say stuff like,
“Oh you’ve grown so much since the last time I’ve seen you.”
“Oh, you’ve gotten so much taller since last time.”
I think of myself as being pretty impressionable and easily influenced. If I see someone that I look up to doing something, I tend to mimic their actions because I look up to them and want to do things similarly to them. I think that both what I’ve been told and what I’ve assumed go hand in hand for me. I think it is because I tend to spend a lot of time around people who have wide vocabularies and are very articulate. According to my mom I’ve been that way from a very young age.
I heard the phone ringing. I was only four years old and I loved answering the phone.
“Who could it be?” I thought to myself. “Is it for me? Is it about me?”
I picked up the phone.
“Hello, am I speaking with um Karen?” the man behind the phone asked.
“No, this is her son, I’ll put her on.” “MOMMMM! Someone is on the phone calling for you.”
“Okay, thank you, Isaac.”
I walk into the other room to hand my mom the phone. My mom put the phone to her ear.
“Hello… No thank you, bye!” said my mom as she violently hung up the phone.
“Who was that?” I asked.
“Oh it was just some annoying person trying to sell me something.”
I kept wondering why my mom would be angry with someone for calling and trying to sell her something? It didn’t seem so horrible to me.
“Why were you so angry with the person calling?” I asked.
“I’m on a list called the “Do not call list” and I get really annoyed when those people continue to call me when I’m on a list that states I don’t want to hear from them.”
Finding out that my mom didn’t like when people called our phone trying to sell something to her gave me something new to look out for while being at home.
A few days later I was sitting at home one night with my mom. The phone rang. I jumped up to go answer it.
“Hi, is this Karen?”
“No, it’s her son.”
“Oh okay my name is…”
“Are you her friend or are you just trying to sell her something?” I asked.
I heard laughter come from the other end of the line.
“No, no, no I’m her friend. It’s her friend Susan.”
“Oh, okay. She’s here. I’ll go get her.”
I handed my mom the phone. I listened to what she was saying just in case the caller had tricked me.
“Hello… Oh hi Susan.” My mom said.
All of a sudden she started to laugh.
“He really said that? No, no, no. He is only four years old.”
A few minutes later my mom got off the phone with her friend.
I interrupted her mid sentence.
“Who was that mommy? What were you…?”
My mom interrupted me.
“She is a new friend of mine.”
“Oh okay. What were you laughing at?”
“Isaac, she thought you were a teenager because of the way you answered the phone.”
How did I sound like a teenager? I thought to my self. Is that supposed to be a good thing or… I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Was my voice deeper than the average four year old? Did I have a wide vocabulary? I had no idea what could have led my mom’s friend to jump to that conclusion, but I guess I took it as a compliment.
“Why did she think I sounded like a teenager?”
“I don’t know but I heard you ask if she was either my friend or trying to sell me something so I guess it might’ve been the manner in which you talked to her.”
How could asking such a simple sounding question make people think I’m more grown up than I actually am? On the outside I felt overjoyed and excited but on the inside I wasn’t sure how to feel. It surprised the heck out of me that someone just, would assume that I was a teenager all because of a few things that I said.
Before that, I never really had thought about how people’s ways of speaking can tell other people a story about them and their identity. James Baldwin who wrote the essay If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is? Wrote,
“Language, incontestably, reveals, the speaker. Language also, far more dubiously, is meant to define the other- and, in this case, the other is refusing to be defined by a language that has never been able to recognize him.”
This quote is relevant to my story because it says that language can reveal a lot about a speaker. Since the person had not ever met me or heard me speak, she couldn’t have known how old I was. Yet she thought I was much older. This occurrence really made me think about how powerful language can be. I guess now that I am sixteen years and in fact a teenager; maybe my language on the phone makes people assume that I am twenty-six. I’d love to find out how I can use it to my advantage, but I have no idea how that could occur.
In Mr. Block's english class we had to write a language autobiography. In a language autobiography, the author talks about different aspects of language in their lives or family's lives. They also talk about the struggles language brings and the hardships or joy it can bring. Language is a powerful tool. Behind every person's language or dialect is a story. With that said I hope you take the time to listen to mine.
My language autobiography is about the term code switching, what it means and how often we subliminally code switch. My process was pretty sketchy for a various reasons. I felt like i didn't have a unique story because i was born and raised in America and I speak standard english fluently. Therefore, I had trouble finding an initial concept to write about. By the end i think i did pretty well. I did well with my conclusion and explaining moments in time vividly.
Aaron VanBuren 1/13/12The history of the language in the Present
“Quan, Come here”
“Here I come, Popup”
“Pick that up”
“Okay, wait what is this?”
What I saw was a book with the cover reading “The Brooks Family Heritage”. I started to flip through the book looking for pictures, as a little kid would do. I saw my relatives dressed in business suits and nice clothes. I came to the thought that my relatives weren’t slaves, so I asked and found out that my family were free Africans when they came to America. I started to wonder what did they do when they came to America and how did they get free? My grandfather and his sisters and brothers all had nice houses and were wealth, when my grandfather got sick I came over his house all the time to help out and I learned a lot of how to build and fix a house, learned how cook and also how to flirt with girls.
A couple years earlier when my grandmother alive, my mom, dad, sister and I visited her and my great-grandmother in Virginia. It was like we were going through a jungle going to see my family in Heathsville. We came to a road named Brooks and I asked “Mommy is that street named after Grandfather’s family?”
“She said yes and she said do you see that old house right there?”
“Well that house belongs to our family”
“We ring the doorbell”
“Who is it?”
“Hey Mama Daye, Its Tannie and the family”
“Hey baby’s come on in”
“Mama Daye what is that smell?
“Its fish, eggs, pork chops”
“Mama Daye where did you learn how to cook like that?”
“There is a long line of skills passed through our family and cooking is one.”
Thinking back to the book I found back in Philadelphia at my Grandfather’s house, I thought this was different because my Great Grandfather on my mother’s side was Native America and Irish. My Great Grandmother are African American and Italian. The thought of my family never being slaves on my mother side was shocking because I thought everyone was slaves, Not being slaves, my family had opportunities to do more as free Africans who adapted into African Americans. One thing that came from not being slaves was education that led to wealth with in my family. From the wealth my family has or had I was taught how to invest, how to be a salesman and how to build a house and how to reconstruct a house.
Visiting my father’s side of the family and knowing where they are from, they are from an area where slavery was high in numbers. I was curious what roots ran through my father’s side and I found out that there is some Polish but mostly African American descent. I know I have similarities as my dad but not a lot. He is a hard worker and he can fix anything given to him. I think that’s where the roots of slavery fall into play.
I have seen how being a different descent or race can cause problems. People look at me differently because of my skin color, which is black. Although, within my bloodline I have Native American, Polish, Italian, Irish and African American mixed to form who I am today. “It goes without saying, then, that language is also a political instrument, means, and proof of power. It is the most vivid and crucial key to identify: It reveals the private identity, and connects one with, or divorces one from, the large, public, or communal identity.” My language is set up from my ancestors who went through hard times and made the best of them. My history defines my language. When I think about how differently I get treated I think about how worst some else has it and deal with the situation at hand. If my history is speaking then it is speaking through experience that will help form the next generation of my family and prepared them for all the drama and life loving experiences.
My history defines my language because over the years my language of being simple and needy has evolved into me being a definition of my heritage and the future legacy of the Brooks and VanBuren Family. The roots of my Native American, Polish, Italian, Irish and African American ancestors show through the way I learn about new things and or just learning new things about my family and how I teach people about who I am as a person and how my history defines my language. Overall the language of my ancestors is my history of my language, which my language is define by my history in the present and past.
Do you change the way you speak, depending on who you’re talking to? Do you Code Switch?
No, but I’ve had plenty of confrontation over the subject of code switching in my life anyways. I’ve noticed my dad does, for example when he’s at work, or when he’s with his friends. But even then, he talks differently with people he has recently become friends with, then when he’s with people he grew up with. It’s like a different side of him when he’s with people he’s always known them. It’s always natural, but it seems more fluid or…just normal, when he talks with them. Like with people he grew up with it’ll be more of a “yo, whats good” while with friends he recently acquired, it’s more of a “Hey man, what’s up?”
Me , myself, I don’t do it as often or as severely as he does. I’ve had people ask me why I talk “white”, or why I talk that way. When peopleusually ask me this, it’s generally not in a kind or happy tone, and it usually leads up to, the ever so wonderful. “So you think your better than me or what?” My favorite question…ever. I’ve lost friends over the subject of my speech. It’s like people think I’m just being rude, like I’m talking this way because I put myself above them or something.
I live in Germantown, on the rougher side and I didn’t really have any friends that lived near me until I came to Sla. I’ve just never….felt like I fit in with the kids around there. I did used to have one friend around there, and I really liked her...but her friends didn’t like me. They’d question why I was with her, and why she even liked me…
“What you mean why? I hang out wit who ever I want..”
“ Well you can’t jus leave us for…her.”
“Im not leavin yall, I’m just talkin to her calm down..”
“Why?? She think she better than all of us anyway”
At this point I wanted to speak up….but I’ve never been very confident, or one to speak up when I’m nervous or shy….but I wanted to tell them I wasn’t being ignorant. That I wasn’t trying to disrespect them by talking the way I do…That it was just the way I talk, and that isn’t something I could change, even if I wanted to. She didn’t stop hanging out with me though, not until she moved one day. She was having a sleep over at her new house, and I really wanted to go, I begged my mom and dad. They’d met her, she’d gone places with us, but they said no…because they had never actually met her parents…After that we stopped talking…and I lost the one friend I had, who had lived near me.
I went to summer camp at a church, behind my house, one year. The kids there were loud...and all seemed to know each other, and when I don’t
know anyone I stay to myself. We had an introduction circle, and the only person who spoke in the same “accent” as me was the camp counselor, and she was white. I felt awkward and out of place, not just because I was shy, also because these weren’t the people I generally found myself with. Some people didn’t talk to me because of the way I talked. So I never really had that many friends there, even the ones I did have, wouldn’t talk to me now if they saw me on the street. Some forgot my name, others just don’t care that much.
I went to a private school most of my life, and as you progressed into higher grades, you could find less and less diversity in the student population. In about 7th grade I was officially the only person who wasn’t white. There was a Mexican boy named Raul, who lived in Germantown too, and he always told me how I didn’t belong there…because I’m not black. He wasn’t the first to say that, and he surely wasn’t the last. When he said it, Ireally felt offended that he would take me away from my race like that. Simply because of the way I speak. I guess I got used to being told I’m not black though. I have friends who tell me it now, and I most likely will in the future, that’s not really something I can help though. They don’t mean it in a mean way. They just say it, like they’ll call me an “Oreo”, “White girl”, “ you’re a white girl, you just have black skin.”. These aren’t usually said to be mean, it’s just the way they see me I guess.
I can accept it though, not everything in the world we live in is perfect, and there’s something we just have to live with. This is just that thing.
“Hahaha look a bol he a whole joke”
He talkn like he some time of professional person cuz ”.
“ Yo Zakee do you hear bol isn’t he a joke?
“Ehh sure whatever” I said walking away.
Trying to walk away from the huge crowed I didn’t realize that this many people had come to make fun of this 1 kid. But I guess I couldn’t blame them. Everything he said he said was formal and well spoken like he was some rich kid who was too good to speak like we did. I guess you could say that him speaking like that just mad kids angry because he was way out of their language. People tend to get angry because people talks differently, they break off onto their on way of talk and to fixed how they see society. Often times they despise each other saying the way they talk is right and completely ignore that their will always be more then one way to talk to a person.
I didn’t really care how he talked as long as he didn’t start anything with me. In class he sat alone not one person even said anything to him. Until the teacher called on him to answer a question. At first he didn’t say a word. I assume he didn’t know that answer but he answered it right. Not only did he get the right answer but he corrected they way she talked. All the kids snapped and stared yelling at him and started saying stuff like nigga this and nigga that and a lot more. Even after that he told her the right way to use it.
That night when I walked home it made me think about how I say stuff. I use so much slang I don’t know how I never noticed it. It just became my language. It annoyed me knowing I talked like this and I wanted to change it. Finding help was going to be the hard part. just about everyone I knew used slang just as much as I did. I would have asked my mom for some advice but she works so much that I don’t see her. The only person I could have think of was the smart-ass guy who schooled a teacher. My phone rang and it was my friend ask me for home work. Within those few second I replied with so much slang that when I look at what I wrote I didn’t have even 1 word spelled right. I needed help quick. I didn’t want to become some street bum who didn’t have a job because of the way I speak and spell.
I tried going to the new kid but he just ignored me.
”Hello can you help my cuzz?
He said nothing but kept eating.
“Well if ya didn’t wanna talk den that’s all ya have to say.”
He replied with “well if your English wasn’t so terrible I could have heard you.”
Piss off asshole,” I said walking away mad.
At this point I didn’t even care about would happen. If I talk like dis all mah life oh well.the way I speak may sound wrong, but am kinda happy so I can live with it. The Phone rings and it my friends calling me about a party down the block from him and asked if I wanted to come at first I was going to say nah but then I changed my mind and said sure. Party time came and I was ready. I headed out the door and before I knew it I was there. People talked everywhere so loud I couldn’t think to myself. Look for my friend but the crowd was to much. I hear people yelling and screaming, I had to get away.
“yo zakee over here
“Dude their you are wtf with all dez people?”
“ Most is my family I didn’t know they was going to come”
“Theirs this chick I want you to meet.
He walks me over to meet her “yo this they dude been talking bout”
At first sight she looked ghetto. Her first few words were ghetto, every time she talked she ended every thing with n”s like talkn, sleepn chilln its was her accent with the words that drove me mad. But then again I talk the same way. Does this mean I”m ghetto? Mostly likely but at least I was trying to change that. A lot of other people I know just don’t care. I go home my mom says,
“how was the party?”
“ehh it was ok”
days past is and I don’t Care about anything, language what ever. Going back to my old English ways of sayn yo bol, ayoo,. Few years past and we moved to another place just out side of Philly. It was near the suburban area. Mostly whites not rally black. Before I even knew it I heard these two whites guys talking. While they were talking I noticed they didn’t use any slang at all. Pure English. It made me think. Where you grow up is how you learn they way you speaking. Basically if people live where people say Potahto potato there going to say it like that because they were raised in that area. Knowing this made it easier to grow out of this habbit but what if this habbit was my own insecure about how I speak. James Baldwin said “if black English isn’t a language, then tell me what is?” I think then what it means is what is language other then understanding each other. That’s what I always seen language as for that one purpose. It can stand for different things like power, and love ect, but with out communication would kill it whole purpose of the word. That’s why when people talk slang as long as they can understand each other then in my book that’s language. So I shouldn’t change the way I speak but learn multiply was to speak withoutchanging the true way I speak.
after all of this im able to say that my speaking skills is now on a better level then It was on before. Saying all of this you could say that languges is comucataing with each other to a under standing of who is saying what and then reacting to it using your own style of lanuge.
In my house, the five of us (six, with my dog,) speak many, many languages. Our languages aren’t the conventional “language” categories. We speak English and some Spanish, but those aren’t our favorites. Each situation we find ourselves in dictates which unconventional language we must use, and I personally remember many times when one of us has combined multiple languages so that they fit the circumstances. Growing up with these languages around me and using them for myself, possibly even creating a few variations, I have become attached to them. Just as the languages have become a part of my speech, they have also become a part of me and my family. These parts within us manifest themselves at certain times, quite often.
One night my family was sitting around the table eating dinner, and I was about five minutes into explaining why time travel wouldn’t ever be possible. My mom was clearly out of it, my oldest brother had a look of bemusement on his face, my dad was nodding with a “I’m going to disagree in a moment” expression, the dog was waiting for dropped food, and my other brother, who had long ago stopped paying attention, reached for his phone because he thought nobody was looking. Sure enough, my father did in fact have an objection to my theory. In the next minute he interrupted, saying in Lawyer, “That argument is specious.” Confused, I responded in English With an Accent: “Don’t rightly know what ‘specious’ means, mate, but cheers for the disagreement, ey?” At that point, the dog chimed in, speaking Dog, of course, and brought to the table the counterargument of “Bark, bark… grrr… woof, roof, ruff!!!” My oldest brother, Andrew, said “on that note, I’m gonna go get some water.” On his way to get there, he stumbled and caught himself on the counter, clearly dizzy. This consistently happens to my father, my brothers, and me whenever we stand up too fast. Disoriented, he asked, “why does this happen so much?” My mom responded to this in Doctor, saying, “well you don’t drink anything all day, you’re probably hypovolemic,” resulting in blank stares from the rest of us. Times like that, where a few of us have no idea what the others have said, are more common than you’d think. But, with each time, we learn each other’s languages and add the knowledge to our vocabulary. I now know that specious means reasonable on the outside, but due to either faulty logic or already proven facts, it is false, and that hypovolemic means that you have a low blood volume.
A month or two later, my brothers walked up from the basement and I heard (and mostly understood) the end of a conversation, speaking Sports, regarding their latest FIFA game.
“…then he did a rainbow and bicycle kicked it right past the keeper, it was great!”
“Yeah, can’t wait to try that one myself, it looked awesome. Meanwhile, I’ll stick to juggling while they’re trying their hardest to win. A demoralizing tactic if ever I’ve used one.”
Not a week later, they were using Sports again, this time debating the merits of potential players the Phillies might target in “free-agency.” “Batting average is nice and all but it’s becoming an outdated statistic, OPS is much more indicative of a player’s offensive value.” I decided to break in and confuse them by talking about the computer that I built. I decided that Nerd was the best language for this task. “Hey guys, wanna play a game on the new computer? It’s got 8 Giga-bytes of RAM, a quad-core i5 2500 at 3.3 Giga-hertz and a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 with 4 Giga-bytes of video RAM.” They both stood there, looking quizzical, waiting for an explanation.
“…Fine, it’s really fast and good at doing things.”
“OH, that sounds cool, yeah, lets have a look!”
In the essay “Borderlands” by Giona Anzaldia, there is a section in which she talks about how certain things have became tied to her identity. For her, these things are food, the smell of something from her childhood that brings her back in time. I share that similarity with her, although my tied identity-pieces aren’t food or smells. The things that bring me home and have built up who I have become and will become are the languages that we use in the house. My family’s inconsistent code-switching and cornucopia of languages will keep spontaneity and creativity a part of who I am. I’m ready to take on newer languages and learn their ins and outs, and I’m eager to further my knowledge on the vocabulary of each new language. Outside of our house we keep a mostly constant language. I, myself, tend to speak Nerd to my friends, as we do all go to SLA. My mom speaks Doctor to her Med-school friends and co-workers. My dad speaks Lawyer in his law office, and my brothers speak some sports with their friends. But in our family, ask any one of the five of us what species Crookshanks is, and we’ll tell you half Kneazle, half cat. Which person in all of Hogwarts has both a first and last name that are colors? Lavender Brown. What is the name of Padma Patil’s twin sister? Parvati. As any witch, wizard or muggle in our house can tell you, the Lingua Franca is Potter.
“ Oh hey Ann” my mom replied and like every other conversation they have had for the past three years I tune out. I’ve heard them talk so many times to each other that I have their basic conversation memorized.
“ Whats been up with you?” my mom asks.
“ He’s fine he didn’t want to come over so I told him I would pick up something to eat while I’m out.”
“Hey Branden. How have you been?” the conversation goes like this for a while until my mom and my aunt talk about what has happened to them lately. The two sisters who grew up together and see each other at least twice a week but anyone could see the difference between the two sisters. My mothers voice sounds more natural and relaxed all the time to me while my Aunts voice sounds more rigid and stiff.
As a kid I could tell the difference between my moms English and my aunts English. My mom and I spoke in the same way and so did my mom’s brothers but when my aunt came over I could tell that there was a difference in her speech. She spoke more clearly and properly and she used bigger words than other people in the room.
At the time I didn’t understand why she and my mom talked differently, they had been raised in the same house, by the same two parents and had done a lot of the same things in life. They had the same level of education but still my aunt and my mother talked completely different. I thought that my Aunt Ann talked funny because I had only been used to my mothers way of speaking. My aunt way of speaking was odd to me. I can now see that my aunt changed her way of speaking on purpose something that the rest of my family didn’t do.
I’ve never heard my aunt say a slang word to me directly, but I have heard her use less formal English like “hey” instead of “hello” but not much more than that. Her tone never changes and when I talk to her sometimes I feel like I’m in an important job interview. To me my aunt is always in work mode even if she’s not at work. During the day my aunt is a director of a human service agency. My aunt has adjusted her language to seem more administrative and professional in the workplace– and to gain more power at her job. She like so many other people has changed apart of herself to seem more educated, more wealthy, and to make people believe that she has more power. The only problem now is that she always talks like she is at work in her “job mode”.
If a person did not know my aunt they would think that she is a rigid, wealthy lady who owns a finance company, because my aunt has trained her voice to sound professional all the time. Although my aunt has trained her voice to sound more professional my mother is the opposite. My mother is a therapist and her voice sound more relaxing and smooth. The difference between my aunts language and my mothers language to me is like night and day.
I only heard my aunt use slang twice and on both occasions they were only for five seconds but in those seconds I heard her step out of her old professional tone of voice and step back into a rarely used but strong female voice. I was in the car with my aunt driving to target when a guy made a wrong turn and nearly crashed into my aunt.
“Ahhhh! What is he doin -- nearly crashed into my car!!!!” my aunt yelled. I was stunned this was the first time I had heard my aunt yell and it was the first time that I had heard her voice change into something that resembled my mothers. Another time when I heard my aunt’s voice was when my older cousin had done something wrong. Her voice sounded more natural more relaxed yet still angry.
“ Why isn’t it done!!” my aunt yelled as my cousin looked down at her feet. I was listening carefully from the next room trying to hear every thing while trying to still look nonchalant and casual.
“I didn’t feel like it” my cousin said.
“Well do it now! And when I come back it better be clean!” my aunt said as she walked out her house.
My aunt could change her voice in order to get what she wanted. She had learned that people assume things according to the way a person talks. She trained herself to speak properly and politely to people in her job making them think that she was more educated than the person she was talking to. With this skill a person could dominate any room that they walk into by making you think that your level of education is less than theirs. It is understandable why people may want to change something’s about themselves in order to seem more powerful but they are also taking away apart of themselves.
In conclusion, a person can change the way they speak then they can possibly change the way certain people veiw them. My aunt has gotten so use to her job that she uses her work voice for everything. Even though people can train themselves to talk a certain way, someone in the world will always find the way you speak odd. To me my aunt sounds odd but too her boss and her employees she sounds proper and normal. There is no point in trying to change one’s voice because there is no “right way to speak”. A person shouldn’t try to change their language to seem more educated and powerful they should rely on their education and education alone to gain power.
“Yo I wanna go somewhere like!!”
“Where you wanna go?” I said
“Idk where can we go?”
“Uh….Ight lets see. You can go bowlin’, skatin’, play double dutch, go shoppin’, watch a movie, take a breeze, or go find outha people to hang wit.” I said thinking.
“Man, you know I can’t bowl r skate. And you know well enough I don’t jump no rope dats too girly foe me. I don’t want to go shoppin’ or watch a movie. I don’t want to take a walk. So let’s go find Keem and B Ran and see if dey can come out.”
“Ard.” I said
I grew up in North Philly, where you heard cops sirens everyday and people arguing. Where you never heard anyone talk proper and if you did you would get jump. The area where all the boys was on the corner trying to make money for a living. Since living here I could never talk “proper”, everything that came out my mouth was slang. All day and night that’s what you heard. I did it so much that I couldn’t even get out of it. My parents even told me I needed to learn to speak right because they couldn’t figure out what I was saying. They told me that I would need to fix the way I speak before I went to high school interviews.
“Why do you feel as though you’ll be a good influence into coming into Franklin Learning Center?”
“I would be a good influence into coming into Franklin Learning Center because I am supportive, helpful, and I’m excellent when it comes to doing my work and paying attention.” I said proudly.
“And what would you bring to this school?”
“I would bring my intelligence, my artistic skills, and my manners everyday no matter what. And I would never bring my problems to the school property.” I responded.
“Okay, very nice it was good speaking to you.”
“You too.” I said
It took me a while to learn how to speak proper but I finally did. I would only speak that way if I was interviewing somewhere or being nice or even talking to my the adults in my family. This became a problem to me one day because I was so used to speaking proper that I started using it around my friends. When they heard me talk they kept asking me why was I talking the way I was. I didn’t know what they were talking about at first because I didn’t realize how I was talking to them. After finally noticing, I told them what was up and about what my parents said. They told me that I had changed, that I was talking white and that it was creeping them out. They also told me that I was trying to be better than them now that I’m going to high school. I didn’t know what to do because how would I remember to keep switching up the way I talk when I’m around them. And after thinking about it I was kind of mad that they said I talked white and that I had changed, just because I talked different from them now in a more proper tone, I’m considered different. I’m the same person that they knew before but just talk a little bit better. So now every time I see them they would say “Do you still talk like a white girl?” I don’t respond to them when they say stuff like that so they would think that I still do.
After thinking about it some more I came to realize something. Were they right? Did I change? Was I not that North Philly girl who talked nothing but slang? Was talking proper make me better than them? I started to frown upon the thoughts. I went to my mom to see what she thought.
“Mom do I talk white?”
“What do you mean do you talk white?”
“Like do I sound white…proper white?”
“No you just sound proper. There’s no such thing of proper white. Why you ask?”
“Because my friends said I sound white when I talk. And that I’m trying to be better than them since I changed the way I talk. So now I’m trying to switch up the way I talk every time I’m ‘round dem cuz dey gonna keep makin fun of me. And I don’t know what to do. I’m just tryin to be me and I can’t help it if I talk dis way now. I’m not tryin to be betta den ‘em I’m not. Man, IDK!!” I said sadly.
“Well it look like it to me that you got your language back again. But don’t worry about what they say. They are just jealous that you are going somewhere and they not. And heck you just may be better than them if you keep up the work that you’re doing. They’re mad because they have to work on the corners to get money since they can’t keep a job when you’re going to be the owner of a job. So forget what they say just be you and do what you think is comfortable for you.”
Ever since then I kept the words in my mind of what my mom had said. My friends got mad after telling them what my mom said and that I agreed with it but I didn’t care they wasn’t true friends anyway. I don’t worry about what people think or say about the way I talk or sound. If they don’t like, tough luck because I do. Yeah I may switch up the way I talk sometimes on purpose and sometimes by accident, but it doesn’t bother me. Language can either bring you to the top of the world or it can tear you down depending on what and whom you are dealing with. Like me, the way I speak at interviews are going to take me places since I sound professional but that same voice was going to ruin my relationships with certain people.
In the essay called “I Just Wanna Be Average” by Mike Rose it says, “I just want to be average.’ That woke me up. Average? Who wants to be average?” This quote from the story spoke to me a lot because people don’t think about what they really want when they say certain stuff. They always think that being on top is always good and the best but it’s not. You don’t always have to be greedy and be on top, you can just be in the middle and have a piece of everything. I knew so many people like this and I used to be one of them. All I ever wanted to be was on top, I didn’t want to be average; I wanted to be better and more popular than everyone. But now I just want to be and do me. Being average is the best way to go for me. You’re not in the higher class where everyone knows who you are and every step you make, but you’re also not in the lower last class where you would die for attention and to be popular. To me being average is the key to my life; I can fit into any group whether it’s with people who talk slang or with people who talk professional. And being average brought me so far and I don’t plan into letting it go.
I have been speaking Spanish my whole life; it is, in fact, my first language. Many people are actually surprised when they hear the Spanish come out of my mouth. I don’t blame them; I don’t look Latino, I at all actually look white. But I am indeed Latino, I have an Ecuadorian passport and My race is registered Latino in the US, so as far as the US, Ecuador, and my heritage are concerned I’m Latino. A big shocker, I know, believe me, I’ve seen the expressions of some people’s faces before. The first words to come out of my mouth were “teta,” or “baby bottle,” as it’s known in Ecuador. But in most other Spanish-speaking nations teta is “breast,” so don’t go around saying you know how to say bottle because you’ll find yourself in some awkward situations.
Now, being a first-born Latino American who looks white and has the ability to speak Spanish has its advantages and disadvantages. With my ability to speak Spanish I can talk about people right in front of their faces without them actually knowing, without actually saying their name of course. An example of this is when I had my friend Anthony over and my mom was making fun of him. We were all in the living room and Anthony and I were headed out somewhere and I was putting on my shoes in front of the door. Anthony was sitting on the couch and my parents were standing up and my five-year-old sister seemed to be very flirtatious towards Anthony.
Mom: “Mirale a ese ignorante, no sabe nada de español, no sabe nada de lo que estamos diciendo” (Look at him being all ignorant, not knowing any Spanish or anything we’re saying about him)
Jhonas: Hahaha!!! Si ignora el ignorate! (Hahaha!!! Yes ignore the ignorant)
Mama: “Mira le coqueteando con mi hija de cinco años el no tiene nada de morales” (Look at him flirting with my five year old daughter, he has no morals)
Anthony: “I know you guys are talking about me.”
Jhonas: “Hahaha!!! No tiene, pero ya tenemos que hirnos” (Hahaha!!! No he doesn’t, but we have to go now)
(My mom whispers in my dad’s ear)
Mama: “Voy a decirle que lleva estas chocolates a su novia solo para molestarle” (I’m going to tell him to take these chocolates to his girlfriend just to piss him off)
Mama: “Jhonas estas olvidando tus chocolates para tu..” (Jhonas you’re forgetting your chocolates for your…)
Jhonas: “Te escuche decirle a papi que solo estas tratando de molestarme” (I heard yo whisper to dad that you’re just trying to piss me off)
Mama: “Hahaha!!! Adios hijo Buena suerte y dile lo mismo al ignorante” (Hahaha!!! Bye son, good luck and tell the ignorant person I said the same)
Jhonas “Okay, adios” (Okay, bye)
Anthony: “I still know you guys are talking about me, you keep looking in my general direction”
I will admit that talking about someone in there face in a different language has its flaws. But for the most part it works; Anthony seemed to have no idea what we were talking about and it was in front of his face, it was a funny moment. For the record my mom did not mean any of that, she was just being funny.
Like I said before, being a white Latino American who knows Spanish has its disadvantages, but one disadvantage is also an advantage. When I go to neighborhoods that are Latino dominant I see people give me looks because of the fact that I look white. I feel like a mixed African American from the 50’s because at that time neither the African Americans or the whites would accept that person because they were mixed. I feel discriminated in a way; it just hurts sometimes not being accepted by your own people. But there is an advantage to this disadvantage; they speak about me in Spanish in front of my face. They have no idea about the fact that I speak Spanish. So all I do is go up to them and say “Yo se de lo que estan hablando, tambien soy Latino entonces no hablan mal de mi en frente de mi cara porque te entiendo todo de lo que estan diciendo” (I know what you guys are talking about, I’m also Latino so don’t speak about me in front of my face because I know what you guys are saying). The expressions on their faces are priceless, jaws dropped and everything, I smile and walk away and think to myself “I got them good” and I giggle to myself.
This is just a glimpse at what goes on in my life in regards to being a white Latino who speaks Spanish. It’s actually very fun, I enjoy being able to talk in Spanish and I love Spanish, more than English as a matter of fact. But it is, indeed, a great feeling to just being able to talk to someone from another country in their native tongue and it just sounds very sexy coming out which is a plus. This essay is mierly an appitizer compared to my whole life as a Latino, which is the whole platter.
“How are mom and dad?”
“Look at the quality of an apartment before you by it.”
“Never live with more than one person.”
“Just remind yourself, only three more years till you can leave.”
These are all things my brother Axel says whenever I see him: General advice, greetings, and bland lifeless questions. The questions are things that you would never ask someone you know well, and the comments sound like something my parents would say. The best word I can think of to describe it is disconnect. It isn’t his fault, I have nothing to say either. Any similarity that really existed before is almost gone.
I’m not the only one I’ve noticed that has started treating him differently. My parents act the same way that he does to me. They don’t really talk to him like he’s their son, it’s almost as if he’s just someone they know. This of course hasn’t always been the case. When living at home there was more of a comfortable feeling of being around. He’s my brother, my parents’ son, and lives in the house I lived in. After the move he was a stranger living in a strange home.
Axel isn’t the first brother that I have felt disconnected to. I have two other older brothers, both in their thirties (Rich and Court). Since I was little I remember them being like strangers. The first memory of Court (my second oldest brother) was my mom and I picking him up from an airport after living in California. I was about five and I remember not talking to him the whole car ride. There was no communication between us then, just as there’s almost none right now. My brothers don’t even seem related to me. It was almost as if they were only people my parents knew. If I had never been told otherwise I might have guessed that they were my uncles. I had rarely seen them, so how were they my brothers? Does the fact that we share similar genes even relate to whether or not two people are siblings? It doesn’t feel that way.
A lot of the disconnect I feel from my brothers can be found simply in the way we talk, and in the subtle difference in accents. My two oldest brothers Rich and Court have a New Jersey accent that made me feel a little bit different from them. My other older brother Axel even started developing a more of a Philly accent after he moved out. One of the major reasons that people feel connected to their immediate family is because they speak the same way that their family does. This difference in accent makes me feel less connected to my brothers, because the accent doesn’t just symbolize where they live or where they grew up, but it suggests that they’re different from me.
The language disconnect that I feel from my brothers makes me realize that the difference in language happens to everyone at some point. After a certain amount of time brothers and/or sisters need to change, and with change comes a new dialect or accent. The accent of a relative can deeply reflect the closeness that a person feels to someone. For instance, distant relatives like aunts and uncles often live in places, and have different accents, but close family like brothers, sisters and their parents usually have the same accents and mannerisms. This is one of the main reasons there’s disconnect between my brothers and myself. In Maxine Hong Kingston’s article “Tongue Tied,” she addressed the difference that grew between her and her sister in her early years of school. Maxine’s sister was less of an English speaker than her, which made them less close to each other. Although her situation isn’t identical to mine, I understand what happened with her sister and her.
I’ve seen these language differences develop between my parents and their brothers and sisters, and I’ve come to realize that this is a natural stage in life. The separation between my brothers and me will probably amplify when I leave Philadelphia, and my accent will change. When my dad left Boston he returned years later with a different life and a different accent. When my mom left New Jersey, she developed a new accent. In a few years, I’ll leave Philadelphia, and when I return, I’ll see the way people talk here in a whole new way.
“Well is not lik I chos tah get in tah trhuble ovar this!” I say talking quickly as I got more, and more aggravated with the situation. I had just gotten into an argument with my parents over a few things that were missed in school. It was bugging me a lot they were making too big a deal out of it. They never seemed to understand much when it came to their youngest daughter.
“Ok ok. I understand.” My friend tells me as my out bursts become more, and more hard to understand as my Irish accent comes out of hiding.
“It juhst not fairh! I dow mah best tah make them happy an….grrr!” I was too upset with my parents at the time to realize I was talking too fast to be completely understood. When I calmed down enough to speak normal it was more of a south philly slang then an Irish accent. It had been unintentional, and hard to understand. I could tell by the look on her face that she had no clue what I had been saying. It didn’t take me long to realize what I must of sounded like, and it wasn’t exactly a good thing. “Sorry, I just can believe they’re actin like this.”
“Yeah I know what you mean.”
No, my argument with my parents didn’t exactly matter in this scene we don’t see eye to eye enough for it to matter. No, what I want you to see is that accent placed so oddly in my voice. That slight higher pitch, that quickened pace, the rolling r’s, all signs I had gotten too upset to keep my crazy Irish accent out of my speech. Was I born in Ireland? Answer no. I’m third generation in this country on my father’s side. Was I introduced to it a lot as a kid? Same as before no. My father only spoke it to show how his Grandmum spoke when she was alive. I taught my self by practicing every time I thought of it when I was younger.
I hadn’t realized that with an already fast South Philly accent I could easily get myself into unconsciously to start speak with an Irish accent when upset. I never intended to do such a thing as this. I admit at one point I did use the Irish accent on purpose to impress others, but after a few years of doing so it became a force of habit. I regret doing so though more then likely I speak with the South Philly accent I was born into. I hate to do things unintended, because it got me picked on sometimes. When in elementary I got picked on a lot, but I was laughed at because when I would get upset the South Philly in me showed in how I spoke.
“Mon’ that ant cool! Could ya do me this one favore, an leav me the hell alone?” I would yell at the girls sitting there making fun of anything they could pick at to kill my already dying self-esteem.
“Stop tryin ta be gensta, when ya know ya ant!” they would counter.
“I ant tryin nothin you’re the one’s startin something wit me! Comon can’t ya just leav me alone already!” it was one thing to have my looks and personality looked at, and completely demolished by those who were my fellow school mates, but my speech was something I couldn’t hide for too long. When I would get angry not only would I speak like a south Philly girl, but I would yell, and make my voice shrill with rage. That always got a laugh every time. I began to hate talking at all not only was my emotion in it made fun of, but I got shut down by my classmates for even talking.
It’s like James Baldwin says “Language is also a political instrument means, and proof of power”. What he said made sense to me who never seemed able to find power in my speech even when emotional. If language is power then it seems obvious that even when angry I had none. My voice was too shrill, the Philly slang coming out of a person so small, and proper under most circumstances was bound to be unthreatening. The fact that everyone laughed when I put my powerful emotions in to my voice shows that they had stripped me of that power. It also shows that I don’t have a complete understanding on how to use my voice, even when emotional, as a tool to be heard. It goes with out saying now that I have no real power in the voice I have.
After being laughed at for so many years I learned better then to open my mouth. I became soft spoken, I would try not to answer questions I knew the answer to and would keep as quiet as possible when not with friends. As I got older I started to use my voice as a whip. I would spit out cruel words, and retorts when angry also without the yelling. I had gotten good at hurtful phrases with a tone of voice that could cut, and burn the ears of the people who had once used them to hurt me. After all my years of being the one stung, and cut I was now turning their hurtful weapons against them. The scars, and my rage coming together to turn the tables on the battleground that was my self-esteem, and theirs’. I held on to those taunts, and words waiting for just the right moment to turn them against the people who needed some revenge induced karma as I call it.
Maxine Hong Kingston said something that works very well with what I was doing in my head. She says in her story “Tongue-Tied” that, “The hearer can carry it tucked away without it taking up much room.” The ‘it’ being something a person says, like telling a person a story. What I did was similar, I took every horrible and painful thing they said to me, and tucked it away. I held on to them for years, and years they never got in the way. I waited until I finally had just about enough of their taking advantage of my quiet, and pacifist personality to unleash on them what they had said, and called me all those years ago. “Bitch” was the first word in my arsenal, and it came out as a shocker to every person in the class who heard me say it. “Did that just happen?” they seemed to be collectively thinking. Did the small person who was almost always invisible till someone wanted someone to hurt another just snap back with a cuss word? They were shocked. I on the other hand wasn’t, I had been holding on to that, and many other words for years just waiting for the right time to put anger, and memory to work.
In reality it had taken me much too long to learn how to put power in my voice the right way. It wasn’t so much how I spoke or how loud I was when emotional. If you didn’t learn the right words, and tone to use when trying to get the results you wanted you got laughed at, and hurt. I to this day can’t decide if that’s the right idea or not. Looking back at how much time I spent studying the right way to be heard by others I couldn’t tell you if I was wrong, or right. It had taken 6 years to even get a clue on what words to use, or how my voice should sound. In the end I think I learned how to use words as a weapon rather then a means of getting my point across, so I still get ignored at times, and it does still bother me, but I at lest try to be heard now, and again.
“Yo my manz come on, lets bounce so we can go and get something to eat and drink cause im starving”
“Ard hold up, let me pop my sneaks on so we can roll out. What should I rock the jordans or the Nike Airs?” I said
“The jordans go the best with what you wearing … but is there anywhere around here to catch a grub?”
“Yea down the block there a spot we can go … plus my manz work there so we can get a discount”
“Ard hurry up”
Settings can change the mindset on how people communicate because of the person they are talking to. A person can also be used to speaking to them in a certain way. As a person, I adapt to many ways of speaking because not each environment are the same. In school most people speak slang or “Ghetto Talk”. I grew up into this because the environment was basically the same. It was filled with people my age. At home when I return to my parents I have to speak Spanish. Not because I want to but because my dad is only fluent in Spanish. I have gotten used to speaking his language so he and I can accurately understand each other and communicate well day to day.
“Bendición pop como esta? “Blessing dad how are you?” ” I said
“Dio te bendiga hijo, estoy de lo mas bien gracias a dio. “God bless you son im doing fine thank god” ”
“Viste el juego de basketball anoche? “ Did you see the basketball game last night?” ”
“No cual juego? “No what game are you talking about?” ”
“El juego de lo Los Lakers de Los Ángeles contra Miami Heat. “The game between the Los Angelas Lakers and the Miami Heat” ”
“No tuve la oportunidad de ver lo, quien gano? “No i didn’t get the chance to see it but please tell me who won” ”
“Como siempre lo Miami Heat 106-100. “Like always the Miami Heat” ”
These are not the only two times I might change the way I speak. If I went out for an interview and someone is speaking to me in a “proper” way, my mindset changes. Then I know how to speak “correctly” to the person that is speaking to me. I wonder why this doesn’t happen when I am with my friends? Is it because I don’t want to? Or maybe its because my brain adapts me to the way they are talking for now I am just going to tag along on how they speak. In our generation no one speaks perfect English, especially if someone from the hood or ghetto.
Others have many other languages that they speak. In other occasions some people are born with a birth defect that has them speaking a certain way. At the end of the day, no one speaks “perfect” English, no matter how native someone is to the United States. In my mind I think no one will be able to speak “perfect” English. Everyone has a type of mix up or mistake here and there. In the story “How to tame a wild tongue” by Gloria Anzaldúa they use a quote that can also relate to what I am trying to say in the story. The quote that they use is said, “My fingers move sly against your palm like a woman everywhere, we speak in code!” Since women in this story use codes to say what they want to say, in my life I can do the same but I am not the only one. They both are related because the Spanish and women in the story use codes to get things through and say what they are trying to say. I used this quote because it was the one that popped out to me the most and caught my eyes.
It also tells the same thing I am trying to say in my story, that because I talk two languages I can speak so other people won’t be able to understand me and the words that I am saying out of my mouth.
I walked into the room giving a quick look and releasing my breathe in sign of relief. I took my seat and quickly started a conversation with one of the students.
“We had homework last night?”
“No, but we do have a quiz on chapter 9”
“Oh my god, really? I still don’t have all the words memorized!”
“Tough luck, here she comes now”
“Buenos días señores y señoras, ¿como están?”
Everyone at the same time “Bien”
“Y tu, yacca. ¿Como estas?
“Bien, me siente un poco desprimida”
“Deprimida*, bueno comencemos la clase de hoy.”
I’m starting to get use to getting corrected all the time in a language I thought I knew so well. My mom would always brag about how well I know the language and that would always make me feel confident when Spanish comes up. Well it used to always make me feel confident, up until the day I stepped foot into room 204 Spanish 202. It was a small classroom. One wall of the room was full of books while a long table took up the rest of the space in the room with chairs around it. It was a similar set-up where meeting are usually held. Aside from that it was just 12 other students and I for the next 2 hours and 30 minutes.
The first time I went to Spanish class I felt very confident, it was going to be an easy A. I was thinking that I had already learned to read, write, and speak the language and that there was nothing else to learn. I was wrong. The more classes I had the more I realized how little I knew the language and how much I needed the class. At home I would have normal conversations with my parents in Spanish. We would talk about my day, and everything in general and very little times did my parents ever correct me when I said something wrong.
After having passed midterms in Spanish I started to over think the way I talk. I started to realize how I was struggling in class trying to process everything the teacher was saying to me. I started to lose confidence in myself, began to believe I didn’t know Spanish the way I thought I did. It got to the point where I started to forget the name of things in Spanish, I would even have trouble finishing a sentence. I began to get quieter during class, scared that if I participated I would get it wrong. It’s never wrong to fail; failing just gives you another chance to make it better. In my case I was scared that being the only Hispanic in the class everyone expected me to know it all and if I were to be incorrect the other students would think less of me. Although, there were those moments where she called on me and I ran out of luck.
“Yacca, ¿puedes repasar numero dos?”
“Si claro, uhm. ¿Presente perfecto de subjuntivo?”
“No, es el pluscuamperfecto de subjuntivo. Lo usamos para expresar una de las categorías enlistadas por encima con referencia al momento anterior u otra acción pasada”
I would stare at the professor as if she were speaking to me in another language. I knew the words she was using but they didn’t seem to come together in my head when she would explain it to me. The more frequent encounters of being corrected left me believing I didn’t know the language. Therefore this left me to the point where I had multiple errors while talking, which usually wouldn’t occur with me.
The more often I thought about it more often I realized that it wasn’t my fault as to why I spoke Spanish the way I spoke it. With unpronounced letters here, and different words over there, for different items it all was unclear. The way the teacher was teaching the rest of the students to speak Spanish was completely different as to how I spoke it. The way my family speaks it in the environment I grew up in. Since I only was ever around people who spoke Spanish the way I did I was prone to believe that was the only way to speak Spanish. Since the professor would always correct the way I spoke and wrote Spanish that made me feel as if I were talking wrong all these years. When really it was just different ways of speaking the language. You have the slang Dominican Spanish I speak and the proper Spanish I was learning.
Until I made this realization I was losing pride in my language. Started to think less of the way my aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, and parents spoke. I then had more pride in whom I really was, and I’m glad I talk the way I do and am the way I am. As the Spanish author Gloria Anzaldua said in Oye Como Ladra: el lenguaje de la frontera “So, if you want to really hurt me, talk badly about my language”. From now on I’ll take more pride in my language, Instead of thinking less of myself and losing confidence I will defend my own.
“The Asian That Could”
“Ey yo, ching diggity!”
“Do... you... under...stand?”
“Whateva get outta here Jackie Chan, your not worth my time.”
I was crushed. Do I look like a slow child or something? Why did he speak to me like that. Like I couldn’t comprehend what he was saying. I just walked away defeated and powerless. When I got far enough, I turned around to see my harasser. He was a tall kid, rag bag clothes, and had a School District of Philadelphia ID around his neck. The back drop of the surrounding area just made it worse. Destroyed houses, wild grass, and broken side walks all matched the mood. The worse part is, it made me think of ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages).
“Welcome to ESOL everyone, now i’m sure you barely understand me, but hopefully by the end of your time here, you should be able to have conversations with one another in English. Lets start by introducing our names. You seem quiet, how about you go first.”
“Ja, ja ,amesss”
“Hen... bry. Henbry”
It was just first grade, I was barely into school, and already I knew this wasn’t going to be a good year. New school, new people, and english was still slipping my mind. The only class I was doing good in was math. Why? because, math is a universal language that everyone can speak, and since I couldn’t understand english, why not math? That probably explains why most asians are good at math. Although it was still a struggle throughout most of elementary school. I had the most difficultly in first through third grade. Why? Well because the quest to learn and dominate the english language is long, difficult and almost impossible as I learned over the years.
“Henry would you like to read todays announcements?”
“Are you sure?”
“Just know that this is part of your participation grade.”
So I started, slow, shaky, and scared.
“Come and.. jo... oin us at your fist frmerly di..nner.”
Laughter and humiliation bellowed from the heart of the room, crushing my morale. From that day forth, I vowed to never participate willingly again, regardless of the situation. But that didn’t last very long because the urge to voice my opinion overcame my vow, and eventually overcame my fear as well. It was frustrating to not understand what someone is saying, and to not be able to voice what I want to say because no one would understand me. Little did I know, it was a good push for me to learn.
“Welcome back to school everyone!, who wants to tell me about their winter break first? How about you Henry?”
“Well it was pretty fun, but I am not sure of what I did on those days of break.”
Fourth grade is when it all started coming together. Confidence, accent, it was like a new me was born. The confidence just kept building and building, and it felt great. By 5th grade, my accent was gone and I spoke mostly proper english by my consideration. My spirit was through the roof, and I was proud to say that I had learned a third language. To this very day, I am still learning tips and tricks to further “enhance” the english experience.
“Yo ching chong wiggity wong!, going back to your sweat shop?”
“If by house, then yes.”
“Oh you can speak now, congradumacalations. Someone took long enough to learn engeresh, homeboi skilly bizdaddy.”
“Please, say it with me, Eng... Lish. For someone that likes to pick on other people, you sure don’t know anything.”
“I gotchu, asian boi got some skills, and is all confident now huh?”
“I had enough of this.”
The look on his face was priceless after I walked away with the biggest smile. When I got far enough, I looked back towards his direction. Same old rag bag clothes, and same old backdrop after all these years. It makes me wonder sometimes.
Ever since that day, I assumed people who spoke like that were bad, not necessarily because they are bad people, but because of bad experiences. Kind of like getting hit by a basketball in the head a couple times and then developing a phobia to it. In “If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?” by James Baldwin, there is a quote that I strongly stand by. “To open your mouth in England is (if I may use black English) to “Put your business in the street””. This can be interpreted as “Letting people know who you are”. This quote explains how people subconsciously judge each other by how they speak. That’s what I do, and i’m pretty sure that’s what everyone else does too. It’s almost like reading a biography on that person, and each biography teaches a lesson.
Language is something that is apart of who you are as person. As a young foolish teen once made up, “A well educated person will speak proper, but there ain’t nothin’ wrong wit showin da real you.” You can go to a job interview and dress to impress but you speech is weak, chances are you won’t get accepted. As for what I learned so far, language shows a couple of things about a person. Education, background, and history. If I were to say water in New York, they would be able to tell that I was from Philly just because of the way I pronounced it. If you are dedicated enough, you can bend your language and make convey what you want to.
Science Fiction story
The Fifth Day
Earth, long has it been the planet where the existence of life been found. Light shed into its atmosphere from the origin, ninety-three million miles away. The first streak of light peered over the horizon in Sydney, Australia. Drew stood on the deck, sipping his morning coffee as the ocean glistens in front of him. Watching sunrise, the preferred manner to pleasantly start off the day.
‘Early morning news in the background’
News Anchor: Rise and shine, early viewers this is your 5AM news, we have some astonishing news to bring to you. Astronomers at the Keck Telescope Observatory in Hawaii have announced that they discovered a satellite within our solar system. It appeared yesterday, and since, has baffled scientist as it is planet-less but revolves in a 28 hour formation. Quite similar to earth, this is a major discovery. Stay tuned to us as we are following up on this story.
*Phone rings in the background*Daniel: “Drew you saw the news just then?”
Drew: “Yea... yeah I saw”
Daniel: “That’s pretty odd. They’re definitely not telling all of what they know”
Drew: “Of course, when do they ever. Look if you wanna look further into this, you can go do so, but I’m not.”
Daniel: “Oh c’mon... you’re one of the Hansen family? An entire family of astronomers, why let a brilliant chance like this slip!?”
Drew: “Dan, things happen for a reason. I’ll call you back later”
It’s not like anything special ever happens. We’re just a family of astronomers, we’ve been spending most of our lives gazing upon planets and stars. It’s no legacy, we’re just like everyone else. And today, is just like every other day since day one of August on a daily routine, out for a couple hours of observatory and enjoying my time off.
*Phone rings again*Drew *mumbling*: My god, Dan I told you I was gonna call you back...
*Picks up his phone*
Drew: Dan! This doesn’t concer-
Ken: Drew... it’s Ken.
Drew: Oh. I’m sorry, thought it was... someone else. Uhh, aren’t you in Cali?
Ken: Well yeah but I got called up last night about some unusual activities with this planet-less satellite. Arrived at the Keck just then. Don’t tell me you haven’t heard of it yet!
Drew: No, haven’t heard much. I’m going out very soon, we’ll talk another time.
Ken: You really haven’t changed, I’d expect your vacation to have changed something.
Frustratingly, Drew knocks over a tin box off the shelf spilling out documents.
Crouching down to pick it up, “The Empty Trajectory - 2015” caught his eyes. Unveiling the two century old document, his great grandfather wrote.
“Gravitational pull, setting things in motion, pulling objects towards the source. I can’t imagine how our moon would revolute without a planet. It’s an amazing discovery, some two hundred light years away however. The public must know about this...”
*Returning back to the phone call*
Ken: Drew stop mumbling... what’s going on?
Drew: Yea... hold on I’m gonna return the call.
*Calling Daniel back*
Drew: Dan! Meet me at Sydney International in two hours. Pack everything necessary, we’re going now!
Dan: Whoa, whoa. Wait what!? What’s going on? Where are we going?
Drew: We don’t have much time, I’ll tell you when we meet there. We’re heading straight to Hawaii.
Dan: Huh? I thought you weren’t...
Drew: Dan don’t let me down on this.
My great grandfather documented about the existence of a planet-less satellite, and got the news out to the public in a race against another astronomer. However it mysteriously disappeared before the public could confirm it themselves, and his work, lost and forgotten. I had something to prove soon as I arrived at Keck. The following days, were a series of incidents no one would have seen coming.
Day one the asteroid belt was shifting direction. Day two, its planet revealed and structures were visible. Might it be our sister planet? Day Three, it was imminent something awfully strange was happening and it was posing a threat towards us.
The Fourth Day, NEO (Near Earth Objects) department announced that August 8th, 2218 might be the last day humanity’s presence be on Earth. Thousands of asteroids, some the size of Cruise Ships, just hurling its way towards us at speeds five times faster than a space shuttle.
The Fifth day, our government planned this way before hand but it would never fully work. The plan was clear, we were going up and weren’t coming back down. Cities burned, death toll impacting a quarter of a billion even before “Doomsday” arrived. Where were we going? No clue, there was no plan B, thousands of these launched but we would perish in space just as those that stayed behind.
“You ain’t gon do shhhit!”
“What does that mean?”
“You’re not going to do anything.”
“Bitch I air you out.”
“And what does that mean?”
“She’s going to curse her out.”
I took a walk around the neighborhood with my best friend and saw two girls arguing. We stopped and gathered the crowd around them to see what the argument was about. In my mind I already knew I’d have to be the one translating for Chrissy. The two girls were both black and looked older than us, about sixteen or seventeen. With us being thirteen, and Chrissy not getting out much, she had never heard that kind of language before.
“If that’s what they mean, than why don’t they just say that?”
“You ask to many questions, shut up and listen!”
The sound of an angry parent lurked the air and immediately everyone splits. After about 5 minutes of running, Chrissy and I decide to both go home. Walking into the house I started to think about what Chrissy said. If the girls really meant what I explained to Chrissy than why didn’t they just say that.
Most who look down on blacks refer to the way they speak as “slang” or “nigga talk” but for me it comes natural because it’s the way of English I speak most often. My language does change a lot depending on my environment. With friends and family my age, I use “slang” because we adapted to that language as we grew up. When with them, I replace the “th” in they, that, them, their, there, and they’re, with a “d” creating “dey, dat, dem, deir, dere, and dey’re”. When in a professional environment I annunciate my words more, creating the more standard way of speaking English. “Yes, I agree with you completely.” rather than saying, “Yeah, you right you right!” Speaking more formal gives me power because it gives others a chance to hear my voice for more respect.
That wasn’t always the case for me, I use talk “white” growing up in private school but, some of them use to say I talked funny.
“Can you pass me a napkin please and thank you.”
“Why you talk like that?”
“So white, what you half white or something?”
“No my mom taught me to always speak as if I’m educated.”
Being much younger then, about the age of nine, I didn’t fully understand why other kids my age didn’t pronounce of their words.
It all depends on their environment because that’s what shapes you. You can’t choose your first language, its kind of chosen for you at birth. Whatever native tongue your parents or guardians speak is the language you learn first. After you learn to fully speak a language you make it your own in a way, by choosing the way you want to speak it. Speaking with confidence in mind, shows power and giving off that demand for respect.
If Black English isn’t a language; Then tell me what is? By James Baldwin, he says “The argument has nothing to do with language itself but with the role language.”. This quote shows that a language is a language but differs by the way it’s spoken or who it’s spoken by. Saying “Who you talking to?” in “slang” shows people in today’s society that you have little to no respect or are uneducated because you leave out the “are”. By saying “Who are you talking too?”, it shows you have higher class and a decent amount of education.
Language shows your character and creates an identity for us individually. It also varies in our environment depending on the people around us, forming our personality. Language makes us who we are today and shapes us as we use it.
Chris and Kori found a new place that was never revealed in their Regional Blue-Ford High School. What was this? They did not know. As what was known, that their high school was not a high school before. The school was hiding this secret room for ages. Or did they not know? All Chris Row and Kori Santiago knew was that this was another adventure they were going on.
"You do it", says Kori demandingly to Chris, "I am not going to pull it."
Chris turns to Kori, "The school must been hiding this old library for years! No one even knew we had a library."
"What school do you know that doesn't have a library genius? Obviously something wasn't right in this school", says Kori.
"How about we both pull the book from the shelf together Kori?"
"Okay on the count of three."
Chris and Kori Count to three simultaneously, "One, Two, Three!"
Chris and Kori had never seen anything like it. The doors slide open and there it was. A secret room behind the unknown library shelves. The doors slid open, with the dust blowing in their faces. It wasn’t something Chris and Kori wanted to find, but knew that they would find something out of the ordinary. Chris thought that his was out of this world. They both slowly walk into the revealed room anxiously.
"It looks like a science lab?" says Kori as she idles her way into the secret room. Chris was astonished by what he saw. He knew that school was hiding something, but didn't know it was hiding more then just a library. It was hiding a whole science lab.
"This is not an ordinary science lab Kori, this looks like a science-engineer lab!"
Kori looks at Chris as if had something on his face. "What is the difference? A lab is a lab Chris, I think we should get out of here like now."
Chris looks around at the machines that are in the mysterious room. He glances at many machine parts in the room. "You don't know anything Kori, do you pay any attention in Engineer class? I think you don't." Kori rolls her eyes at Chris and acts like he say what he said out his mouth.
"I'm not going to argue with you right now but we need to ge-." Chris interrupts Kori's raving.
"This can't be! It just can't be!" Chris looking at the weird machines almost the size of an elephant. "Do you know what this means Kori? "Kori looks at Chris as if he was an insane maniac. Chris was always getting into trouble. When ever Chris is getting himself into trouble Kori is always right along with him. She knew that she was going to be stuck in this dilemma and there was no way out.
"Chris what is this thing?" ask Kori as she walks into the machine. "It looks like some type of time portal."
Kori quickly gets out of the machine after Chris told her what it was. "Time portal? Do they even exist?" Chris looks at Kori as if she said something foolish. Kori was a bright girl, but Chris always says something to her that doesn’t sound right.
“Obviously not in this time Kori, but this means that our school was once a home for science engineers. I know this because I heard Ms. Lacebark talk about it last year to her senior class. “No one ever believed any thing Ms. Lacebark said, not even her own husband. Everyone thought she was a crazy old lady that lived at home with 6 cats. She always came to science engineering class smelling like cats. “
Kori stops and looks at Chris, “Why would you believe anything that lunatic says? She doesn’t even remember what assignments she gives us from the previous day! How can she remember that scientist used to work here?”
Chris keeps observing the machine and sees something lighting up. “Kori come here look a button, and it looks like it is still lighting up.” Kori stands behind Chris with her hands on his shoulders seeking as if she wanted comfort.
“What is that Chris? Don’t yo-“. Chris presses the blue button and something miraculously happened. Both kids jumped back and were afraid of what was going on. “Chris what is it Chris I am scared.” Kori was afraid and got closer to Chris. “Kori I was right, it is a time portal or some sort.” Kori and Chris stood up slowly and walked toward the machine. It was something they never seen before. The light was bright glowing brighter then the sign. The machine was huge, with a flat bottom and a circular body. The glow kept sparkling. It seem the sparks was getting bigger.
“Chris do not go near it! You don’t really know what that thing is.” Kori held Chris back, but Kris was determined to check it out. “Kori I’m not going to touc-.” Chris and Kori both stopped. There was this sound, a sound as if they were not alone in the room. Someone else was in the room. “Do you here that Kori?” Chris holds on to Kori like the way she was holding on to him. “Chris someone else is in here, or “something.” They both stopped and listen to the sound. It didn’t sound like a person but more of an animal of some sort. It looks like it was coming from behind the science table with all the humungous machine parts.
“Kori don’t move the sound is coming closer!” she holds her hand so she won’t move. Kori looks at Chris. “We have to get the hell out of here like now Chr-.” Chris pulls Kori and runs. “Kori watch out!”
Chris pulls Kori and runs with her. What beast was chasing after them? It was big, hairy, and breath was dripping drool. When Chris and Kori look in front of them, they ran in side the portal. Before they knew it, they were in another world unknown to man. Let alone them selves. What place did this teleportation device take them?
Due-January 13th, 2011 Figuring It Out Katherine Hunt
“I know! I want them jawns in blue.”
“I want them too.”
“I prolly cop me some of them. You know, in multiple colors. The green ones are my favorite you guys.”
“They are pretty cute.”
“Yo, what you think and why you so quiet, Katherine?” and everyone slowly turns their attention towards me.
As everyone continues to converse, I sit around and observe, I observe everyone’s moves and the words that people use and the things that people say. I’m not one to say much because most of the time I don’t know what to say, nor do I know what I feel. I don’t have everything figured out like the people around me. My voice isn’t heard enough, I lack sharing my self-expression. To think about it, once upon a time, self-expression was once key to everything, when I used to feel like I was a part of everything. That was when keeping a conversation with someone was practical.
“Can you answer my question?”
“Okay, I guess.”
I keep quiet
“Can you say something?”
“What do you want me to say?”
I stay silent and make a confused face.
“Gosh, I feel like I’m speaking to a brick wall!”
I don’t reply, and I sits with a blank look, thinking.
Everything used to seem so right before. Once everything was so simple and there was nothing for me to really worry about. The only thing that remains now is broken trust within myself, because the moves I make always seem to be held back. It not only frustrates others, but it frustrates me. The words don’t come out. The sounds are baffling and sound like:
“It is. I mean… I. Don’t. Uhmm, know. I can’t express it.”
“It wouldn’t hurt to try! The words that are left unspoken are the ones that hurt the most”
Science Fiction Story
January 13, 2012
English - Earth
Have you ever stood on the edge of a tall building, looked down, and known exactly what you wanted? All the doubt I had in my mind was washed away with one glance at the sidewalk. Of course, I was afraid, my hands trembled within each other but I knew what I had to do. I looked over my shoulder, saw the suited men stumble out of stairway and run towards me. The last time I looked down at the sidewalk it was nothing special. Ants of cars were driving by and specs of people hurried past each other. It was a normal day for them, it started like any other and would end like any other, but I thought that too when I woke up.
The alarm ripped me from my dreams of golden, hot sand under my feet, a perfectly burning sun over my head, and blue, crashing, waves on my horizon. Without even opening my eyes, my hand swung over to smack the clock until it was quiet and with a groan, I got out of bed. It wasn’t until I sat up that I realized how much I drank the night before. The night hadn’t yet materialized in my mind but I decided not to worry about it. I crept past my roommate’s door, hoping not to wake her up. I didn’t want to disturb her slumber after her night of vicious drinking. After nights like those, it usually became my responsibility to regale her with the events of the evening in excruciating detail but since the details weren’t even forming for me, I did my best to be silent as I made coffee and went out for the day.
I walked around the city streets, peering into restaurant and boutique windows, searching for any signs of employment opportunities. This had become a daily ritual since I was ‘let go’ from my previous job. The manager of the store was convinced that some of the odd occurrences around the shop had been my fault. A particular incident involving the unexplainable movement of merchandise was the main reason I was fired. Of course, this episode was preceded by other minor incidents of floating trinkets or shaking shelves. I never meant to scare anyone; I was only having a little fun.
I slowed my stroll after no success for about 10 blocks. I stopped on the corner and just took in my surroundings. Everything was normal for this section of New York on a Tuesday morning. Men and women, all dressed in suits for work brushed past me mumbling their hurried, “Excuse me”’s and “Oh, sorry..”’s along the way. They all looked the same to me, which is why it’s odd that a few men caught my eye. They were dressed like everyone else, looking sleek and polished, but they were all staring at me. One on each of the other corners of the intersection. The men would be looking at me, look at each other, then back to me. Without thinking, I turned and quickly made my way back to my apartment.
My roommate was sitting on the couch, facing away from me when I walked in. She must not have heard me come in because when I asked how she was feeling, she jumped. She let out a little yelp and sprung up from the couch, turning to face me. She was shaking as she took tentative steps back. “Da-don’t come na-near me!”
I was very confused. When I took a few steps towards her, she shrieked and pressed herself against the wall. As I slowly walked towards her, I had my hands stretched towards her, trying to clam her down. “What’s wrong? Are you okay?”
“Stay away from me!” She was trembling violently. Tears covered her entire face. I had never seen anyone so afraid.
I stopped about five feet away from her. She shrunk down and curled into a fetal position. I still didn’t understand why she was acting this way. “Did I do something?”
She looked up at me, obviously still terrified, but confused at the same time. I casually lifted my arm to head and she flinched again. She was staring at my hand; whenever it moved her shaking intensified. Her eyes were still stuck to my hand when she muttered, “You.. Yu-you went crazy lah-last night.” She glanced at my face and realized that I had no idea what she was talking about. “Weh-We were ah-out and you were loaded. I don’t know what happened bu-but you just got s-so angry. Shit started f-flying around. I-I tried to calm y-you down but then e-even more stuff started flying around. Drinks exploded. The windows started cracking. I went to grab you, but shit was like circling around you. Half the people were screaming and running away the other half just kinda watched you and then you just passed out cold. I was freaking out but I kind of just dragged you home...” She was much calmer by the time she finished telling me the story but she was still crouched in a ball against the wall.
I didn’t remember any of this happening. All I remembered was going out ad then waking up. But then I looked at my hands. It all clicked for me.
I’d known I was different for a long time but never understood how different. I’d alway been able to move little things with out touching them. Just things like pushing a pen off the table or pulling a cup from across the counter into my hands. As I got older, I discovered I could do different things. I could move heavy things with just a twitch of my hand. I could crush things with thoughts that I couldn’t put a dent in if I used my hand. It had always just a fun thing to do. Push things off a teacher’s desk, or flick the lights on and off. No one ever knew it was me; they always figured to was a fluke. For a moment I was reminiscing about the pranks I used to pull when there was a pounding on the door.
The pounding wasn’t of someone with a heavy hand knocking on the door but of someone trying to take it down. Without warning the hinges snapped and the door flew to the floor. The three men in suits walked in and surveyed the room. When their eyes fell on me I panicked, completely forgetting my roommate, still fearfully tucked away, I ran around the couch but two men blocked me while the other hopped over the couch and blocked the other exit. On instinct, I thrusted my hands forward, into the chests of the men. I could feel the force rolling down my arms and into their bodies, even though it happened in less than an instant. They didn’t fly across the room like I had expected but they all fell back. Before they could get back on their feet I jumped over and rushed out the door.
All the way down the stairs and outside, the men were almost caught up. I had no idea why they were after me but I didn’t want to find out. I wasn’t running fast enough to evade them for long, even though I could hear the wind buzz past my ears. I had never used my ability other than to move other things. It had never occurred to me to use it on myself. As one of the men reached out to grab me, I pushed down on the sidewalk with everything I could and bolted forward. This speed was super human, I could feel it the pressure pulling on my skin, my cheeks felt as though were seconds from flying off. I couldn’t run like this forever. Thats when I saw the building.
I pushed through the doors and continued running towards the elevator. Just as the doors were closing, I saw the men bursting through the door. They saw me and figured where I was heading. I was going to the top floor. The elevator opened again, I ran down the hallway, trying to find the roof access. I forced the door open without touching it and ran straight to the edge. While looking forward, I still had a plan, I still knew what I was going to do. But once I looked down, not a sliver of the plan I was so sure of stuck to my mind. This is where I am now.
I’m looking down at the ant cars, and the specs of people. The men are coming towards me. I wish I had more time to think about this or practice what I was about to do. This is all instinct. The last thing that went through my mind was how these people days were about to change, as quickly as mine did. So, the men reached out to pull me back, but I had already taken my last step. I pulled myself away from the building and to my greatest relief, I still haven’t hit the ground.
“Well son do ya know how mucha dats gonna will cost ya ?”
My dad responded with a sarcastic remark “ Well out of all de people not to know how much somehtin cost you shoulda.”
“I wasn’t talking to you I was talking to this young man right hereya” the clerk said
“Well sir, I can’t talk about business like that because its not my money” I said
“Well looky there this boy don learned how to talk “smart”! the clerk man said with a surprised voiced
As I looked back on that day I recall some things I had not noticed back then. A man about the age of thirty maybe, asking a twelve-year-old how much a cost was and that he went straight to me and not my dad. It didn’t come to mind that the few words I said to him gave that much of an impression about me. I didn’t mean to sound the way I did but it just came out that way. For example if they say “hey man, where you gonna be hangin your hat at later?” , I would say “Hey where are you going to be late on?”. It was because I pronounced every letter to the dot and didn’t stutter any words was because he probably though these things. I was a kid visiting his dad in Louisiana because his parents had spilt when he was just a baby. Any how during most of the year I stayed with my mother in Philadelphia, where I learned many habits I have now. One habit that I didn’t even notice I was getting was my “smart” way of talking.
This was not the only incident like itself. As time went on I slowly understood what my southern neighbors were talking about. It was at one of my cousin’s house where I was visiting them. I was down there for the summer and they go to school earlier than me so while I was sitting playing the Wii , they were at the table doing homework.
“Michael you always be sounded smart , help your cousins with they homework”.
“Yea Michael come and help me wit dis stuff” my cousin said with a puzzled look on his face.
Now there’s nothing wrong with asking for help from someone but basing that help on how someone sounds isn’t the way to go. I ended up helping him but looking back I should have made him explain what he meant. I mean to think that to base a person on there intelligence means basing them on there manner of speaking just interest me. Even though just like before an much older and wiser person was around they still assumed that since I sounded smart I was smarter. When I looked at the homework it was still difficult for me even though I always “sound smart”.
I’m not saying that all adults are smarter than kids because I can’t say that and I’m not saying that there haven’t been times where the “sound smart” effect hasn’t been true. I was helping my uncle fix a TV but, the problem wasn’t the hardware , it was the menu on the TV. My uncle had taken the machine apart and put it back together. Then he flipped the screens and checked it for any damages. Once he had his fill of handy work I finally came from my room and read that you have to turn it on. I took the remote and did a simple motion over the button and the TV turned on. This doesn’t prove that my uncle is a idiot but in that moment I had more power because I understood that more. It had nothing to do with the way I talked but simply because I comprehended it better.
For people from the south, they way they talk means their slower and dumber but, that’s not the only language stereotype. For New Yorkers it’s that they are rude when in truth I have met some very nice New Yorkers who could prove that old theory wrong. Its also said that New Yorkers are mean and have a short temper, this little myth could affect a New Yorkers life style. People might treat them nicer thinking that if they didn’t it could raise their temper up. This wouldn’t be giving the person any power over their life.
A quote from the article Borderlands by Glona Anzaldina , the quote says “you’re speaking the oppressors language by speaking English , you’re ruining the Spanish language”. What the quote means to me is that a language can either give or take away power. In this quote the power is being taken away because the person talking is talking the oppressors language. Oppressors are usually people who hold people down with authority so if the person is talking the language of the oppressors it means that he or she’s power is being taking away.
Another quote from the article hunger of Memory by Richard Rodriguez, the quote “Conveyed through those sounds was the pleasuring, soothing, consoling reminder of being at home”. In this quote language gives the power of security and if language can give this power then it can also make a person feel like they do not belong in a place. Not just through words but how a person speaks can do it.
People’s own way of talking not only gives some of their identity away but it also gives away some power by exposing that person’s way to communicate with the world. If taken correctly it could give a person a major boost in life but if that way is taken as a weakness then more than likely that person will be held back from some of their life’s goals. If talking the way you were taught is a pretention problem then people holding back from society is better than talking and being accused of “talking smart” or “speakin stupid”.