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"Language, Culture, and Society" by Doris Sommer Presentation

The benefits and arguments of multilingualism in monolinguistic cultures.

Dustin Grayson

on 12 October 2011

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Transcript of "Language, Culture, and Society" by Doris Sommer Presentation

SUMMARY Language is a part of national identity. For example, English speak English, French speak French, and Italians Italian.

A person’s first language determines their personal identity and their sense of “home.” was an advocate for monolingualism. He believed that one's native language will determine how people structure their thoughts and perception of the world. Mixing languages corrupts the native language, and thereby corrupts identity. argued that multilingualism enhances one’s perception of the world and self by expanding one’s lexicon. Friction between languages can create surprising, pleasurable prose. argued that no one is truly monolingual, and that mulitlingualism gives one a broader and multifaceted perspective. Bilingual students are better at problem-solving and are typically more creative, despite their IQs being equal to monolinguists. Bilingualism is often a result of conflict and trauma. As a result, bilinguals fear speaking a foreign language, or with a foreign accent, in public. this guy Johann Herder (1744-1803) However... Edward Sapir this other guy (from the Franz Boas school) Another cool point Another Critic Mikhail Bakhtin (this isn't Rasputin) We apologize. So... Did you know...? His ignorance of English forced him to be one step behind everyone else. While bilinguists are free to shift between languages for better understanding and clarity, monolinguists are trapped in their language. Take Jin from LOST Here's how he saw the world. In "The Pink Panther" (2006), Inspector Clouseau must learn an American accent so he will not arouse suspicion while he conducts his investigation. It's easier "said" than done. Sommer notes that bilingualists often will make a game out of their knowledge of a second language to tease or fool monolinguistic speakers. 1884 — 1939 1895 - 1975 The First Critic Last Point What's at stake? Languages are dying out, which means cultures and perspectives are dying out. Foreignness needs to be not just tolerated, but embraced. Foreign languages can supplement and enhance a nation’s democracy of ideas. (This pic was taken from ISU's international studies website) Students within monolingual nations could benefit in a variety of ways from being multilingual, such as improved problem-solving skills and creativity. 1. 2. 3. 4. The Main Argument A person's language is a reflection of their identity and culture. Traditionally, people's native countries were monolinguistic. But because of disasters and conflict, many people have been displaced and forced to become bi or multi - lingual. As language reflects perception and identity, these displaced people have become more dynamic and interesting. this lady She's an Ira Jewell Williams Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures, and Director of Graduate Studies in Spanish at Harvard University. "Language, Culture, and Society"

by Doris Sommer Her article questions whether a culture should embrace multilinguilism or reject it in favor of a unifying single language. an INTERACTIVE Messing up one's native language can also create innovative writing. Take Dustin's writing The engine stalled when Garrett jammed into reverse. He could feel his heart in his temple. The blood was in his brain. He got his car in gear and spun out, shifted into first, and then second.

Then third. from "No Clean Getaways" Breaking paragraph rules and allowing a fragmented sentence creates speed and urgency. For Example: ahhh....
The Problem with Multilingualism When one adopts a second language, their native language becomes simplified. Their true "self" is deformed. (according to Herger) "If you don't use it, you lose it." Simply, CONTROVERSIES Multilingualism goes against the paradigm of "one language/one state," as nationalism is often defined by a national language. Multilingualism is a naive theory, ignoring the complexities of non-verbal mores and beliefs that seperate cultures. ' Knowing the same language does not mean we will understand each other. For Example: Also, "I dare ya to step over this line!" (We beg your pardon.) Not everybody has the capacity for being multilingual. So, how good is her argument? We think it's pretty darn good. Her prose is clear, well-versed, and well researched. But if we were going to complain, we would say... Myriad viewpoints, whether agreeing or conflicting, cloud her argument. Her evidence is non-specific, which makes the reader question the validity of her proof. Read this: "Though Boas agreed with Humboldt and Herder that linguistic categories reflect culturally specific perceptions of reality, he concluded that all languages are equally equipped to describe human experience. Then his student, Edward Sapir, went beyond observations...to revive the argument that language actually shapes them...Sapir's student and collaborator, Benjamin Lee Whorf, put it this way..." (Sommer 6). The article is less about her argument and more about her quoting other peoples' arguments. An article of "hear-say" She doesn't give you anywhere to go. The article ends on a question, not a solution. She brings up the benefits of multilingualism, and the beauty of finding wit through grammical errors, but she does not exercise these principles within her article. The piece is mostly monolinguistic and grammatically correct. Another missed opportunity. And finally We have questions for Dr. Sommer, but you guys are more than welcome to answer them. We feel that the problem of creating a successful multilinguistic culture rests on the shoulders of our schools. Do you agree with us that schools should have more foreign language requirements? Which side are you on? Should there be a national language, or does it even matter? What constructive ways can we bridge cultures?
And, well, we've got some questions just for you, Dr. Sommer. You argue that languages are incomplete, in that they cannot fully express the entirety of human experience on their own, and that different languages can supplement each other.

Do you want everybody learn every language? Is there a combination of languages that best captures all of human thought and perspective? (I wanted to say "encaptured" here, and perhaps I should have). And here's a doozy... How do we encourage dialectical preservation? In becoming bilingual should people focus on learning written or spoken language? Spoken, colloquial, language tends to be more connected with social culture, but traditionally written, formal, language is what people are taught in the classroom. Which teaching method is best? We now turn the conversation over to you all. In her argument, she qoutes proponents from both sides of the issue. In fact, she approaches the subject from nearly every direction. Historical: We get mini-histories of the Creole language, Serbian conflict, and Mexican-United States migration (to name a few. Theoretical: Sommer qoutes J. Derrida, and uses his first hand account of forced displacement and the fear of lossing his first language by learning another. Cultural: Her anecdotes about Lincoln's use of humor and the difficulties of translating religious terminology were insightful. Sommer only qouted one test in regards to the intellectual benefits of bilingualism, and that one test is generalized in its description.
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