English Language, Community and Individual Identity

Language is not only a tool for communicating information and ideas. The words we use, the style of expression and the emphasis we give to what we say conveys messages about ideology and culture. These activities will start to make this unconscious interpretation, which we do all the time, conscious.

Introduction to the topic: Ted Talk about cultural difference and identity

Language and CommunityEdit

  • Language defines the social values of community
  • Language reinforces identity of the social group
  • Language emphasises thoughts and opinions

Reading - Folk tales

Study Questions:

  1. How do these two versions compare? What differences in tone, character, structure and style do you notice?
  2. What difference do you notice that are due to the time in which the texts were written?
  3. What moral, cultural, and social ideologies do these stories seem to value or promote?

Assignment: Choose a folk tale that you know well. Translate this from your own language if you need to and tell it to someone in the class. Re-write this story as two versions with two clear audiences in mind. Each story should be a maximum of 300 words. You should use language and style that really suit the genre.

Additional Reading:

Language and the individualEdit

  • Language controls the way we think
  • Language influences our identity

Reading - Language and Thought

Study Questions:

  1. How much influence over what you think does language have?
  2. Can language actually change our minds?
  3. Does being bilingual make you more open-minded?
  4. Does the speech community we belong to limit our world view?

Assignment: Read 'A Handful of Dates' and complete the study questions at the end of the story. We will discuss in class how the story creates atmosphere and uses language to represent the culture from which the story comes. This is the first stage of a commentary analysis.

Language and IdeologyEdit

  • Language carries a belief structure and ideology that influences how we think
  • English language dominance perpetuates English language culture
  • Anglophilia versus Anglophobia
  • Language and prejudice

Reading - English Language Dominance

Study Questions:

  1. Does being a global citizen require English language competence?
  2. What reasons do people have for learning English and what beliefs do they have about it?
  3. Should we worry about English taking over?

Assignment: Read this essay on Language, Linguistic Bias and Prejudice. Write 300 words on one aspect of the essay that you find interesting. You can include further reading and examples if you wish. Your writing should be in the style of a formal essay. Take time to compose what you want to say accurately.

Additional Reading: English as a Vehicular Language: a Case of Globalization or Linguistic Imperialism?