On Language

The word “bombdiggity” is such an American word, isn’t it?

Well I like it.

So I talk with an English accent, more Southern than Northern. I was born in London, in the same hospital my mother was born in. She has had the monopoly of the influence on my speech patterns as I grew up, so I speak more like her than my father.

My father taught himself English; he is a studious man. When people hear him speak, they think he must be a newscaster or something of that ilk. He is very meticulous and such a perfectionist when it comes to his speech and his work. In both Arabic and English, he will correct my grammar and sentences, even in speech! He maintains it is for my own benefit, since I am studying Language at university. I think he just likes to have people speak well.

He isn’t a newscaster, though. He is a professor of Linguistics and Phonetics, has published many books and is a renowned translator in his career circles. He was born in the mountains of North Morocco, and grew up on olive oil, mint tea, pomegranates and oranges, as he keeps telling us. As a child he was poor, and spent whatever money he earned on books. His clothing suffered as a result, but who wants a nice new shirt when you can have books? My father was always knowledge hungry. He would go to bed with a massive book on Biology one week and the next he would have a small booklet about the politics of language. His bookshelves contained a wild plethora of books on all subjects. I attribute much of my childhood learning to my father’s books. His love of books has translated on to his children, and we are all avid book collectors.

I did most of my growing up in a desert city on the Arabian peninsula. It was hot and humid, and in some places hot and dry. I knew only sunshine, dust and curly heat waves. And books, of course. I devoured books because there was precious little else to do, other than shop, and what child likes to shop? My parents tried their best to make our lives more eventful. We had seven bookshelves in our house, all crammed with books. The books we couldn’t fit onto the shelves were tucked away under beds and on top of wardrobes and in stacked on bedside tables. We had swimming lessons, we went to many events, my mother created a club in which a group of people like us did activities together, cooking, sewing, swimming (lots of swimming in the heat), day trips to the desert, renting out villas where lots of families would just hang out and swim and barbecue, day trips to the beach). We had quite the community of friends, and thus we did have a great time.

However, my linguistic experience was mostly pushed forward by my love of words. Growing up, I mispronounced a lot of words. I tended to use words I came across in books, and when I pronounced them, I would misjudge where the stress on the word would lie, and so it would sound funny. My parents would laugh at us, and other people would look at us funny. I do it to this day, folks. So do most of my siblings.

I don’t really know why. So I think I talk funny. I pronounce all my letters, except sometimes for the ‘t’ in water. I sometimes make the word ‘food’ sound like ‘feud’. I talk very fast so sometimes my words run into each other. I think that is the influence of speaking Arabic with my father. Being bilingual is fantastic, but sometimes if I forget a word in either language I will substitute it with a word from the other language.

For example, the Arabic word for ‘stick’ is ‘lasaq’ (in some dialects), and I might say, “It’s not lassiq-ing!” if the word ‘stick’ doesn’t come into my head fast enough. Similarly, I might say to my father “Al-miftah laysa fee al–cabinet!” (The key isn’t in the cabinet)

How do you speak? And how has your language been influenced as you have grown up?

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Is Your National Identity Becoming a Global Identity?

Hello internet.

What do you think about national identity?

National Identity is defined as “a sense of a nation as a cohesive whole, as represented by distinctive traditions, culture, and language.”

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Which is interesting to me because if a sense of unity within a ‘nation’ is established by a distinctive language, tradition or culture, what then does that make the two dominant western nations, i.e. America and the UK?

The English language is a global language. This was a process begun, of course, by imperialism and invasion, not always seen a moral process. Nevertheless, it has resulted in a new dawn for culture and language. English is the predominant language of the Internet, because while webpages can be viewed in other languages, their addresses are in English. Computer codes are in English. A large number of countries around the world use English alongside their indigenous languages for administrative and governmental uses. English is often associated with economic affluence, education and prestige in many societies around the world. This could be because high end jobs require a knowledge of the English language, in this modern, advanced technological, interconnected world.

The result of globalisation, of course, is the globalisation of English, and with it the Western culture. ‘McDonaldisation’, ‘coca-colonisation’, and ‘Disneyisation’ are just a few terms thrown out there by sociolinguists who claim this creation of a monoculture has resulted in the killing (linguicide) of other languages, and cultures.

I personally think that it is a grave misconception to assume the western culture is the globalised culture, because while that may be predominantly true, indigenous cultures will always exist, alone or alongside the global monoculture. There are also thousands, even millions of cultures and civilisations around the world which remain untouched by the modern online community. That is a beautiful thought, to know that in some places, beauty and nature coincide to create wondrous populations of life and tradition that we know nothing about and have never heard of but can be related to through sheer humanity.

So what do you think? Is this true? Does this also mean that traditional cultures in the UK and US are also being killed, replaced by the globalised idea that western culture is multicultural cuisine (e.g. falafel, curries), universal fashion and a nomenclature of ideals which co-exist?

What do you think about national identity? Do you think your country has a distinct national identity, or is it so intermixed with the global monoculture that you feel as though your nationality is not much different from much of the world today? Or, alternatively (or , do you think the world is a diverse place and there is so much more out there?