Language Autobiography

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{ Language Autobiography Philip Keller
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Greensboro College Language Autobiography assignment.

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Language Autobiography

Language Autobiography Philip Keller{In kindergarten, I went to a Swiss International school in Accra, Ghana. My teacher was a German-Ghanaian who had grown up in Berlin. After a while in her class, my parents once made this remark to me: Youre speaking German like a Berliner!

Already from a young age, I learned that even within the same language group, people speak different styles of their language and certain accents and phrases index a persons background.

As a child in English speaking Ghana, my parents told me: You dont need to talk like a Ghanaian meaning that I had adopted some of the phrases and dialects of the Ghanaians I was around. Clearly, our social settings influence our style of speech. For me as cross-cultural child, there was a process of learning what style of English fit my own social setting and family.

Thats really high German was my dads comment once when asking him about a certain German word I had learned. He was making the distinction between the German spoken in much of Germany, and his variety of Swiss German.

Question: Where are you from? Answer: Waxhaw, North Carolina! My father has lived in English speaking countries for over 30 years, and now has lived in Waxhaw, North Carolina for more than a decade. He can get irked when people immediately ask where he is from, sometimes without even letting him finish his sentence. This experience has cautioned me against making assumption about where people are from based on accent, and to not other someone based on speech. It has also taught me how our speech community and background never really escapes us.

I think at least they should at least use correct grammar.Its Kevin and I, not Kevin and me!

My family and social group communicated to me growing up that there was a correct and incorrect way to speak English, and some people, including teachers, should make sure they speak in the correct way in professional settings. In my case, it was the way my educated, white, Californian mother spoke. This experience illustrated the biases that people often feel towards that dialect and style of speech with which they are comfortable. I have now realized how difficult determining what Standard English really entails.

When I studied abroad in Tbingen, Germany, I undertook an oral assessment to place me in the correct German class. The teacher quickly determined that I would be in the highest level course. On the first day, she was surprised that I had trouble with a rudimentary grammar chart. But I could communicate so well!

My Germany experience illustrated the difference between classroom language learning and socially acquiring a language. Strengths and weaknesses exist for both realities and I believe both need to be enacted in order to really learn a language. In Germany, I had to focus on the grammatical aspects and writing, while many of my classmates who had learned German in the classroom setting had to turn their focus to accent and oral communication. The second lesson from this experience is that oral language skills and literacy are very different phenomenon and are not necessarily mutually constitutive.

Working in an almost entirely African-American environment has confirmed the reality of cultural differences in communication styles and dialect. As the linguistics studying African American speech have confirmed repeatedly, this dialect is grammatically consistent and logical. Lisa Delpit confirmed that effective communication to European-American students is not necessarily effective with African Americans students. A simple example is the tendency for my African-American colleagues to use clear directives such as Sit down right now! rather than what many European-American are accustomed to, such as Would you have a seat?Like learning another language, I have had to be in the environment to truly understand this culture and communication. I feel like I am a student of culture and dialect.

Berlin: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Berlin_-_Siegessaeule_Aussicht_10-13_img4_Tiergarten_(cropped).jpg

Ghana: lifeinkumasi.com

German dialects: German.About.com

Waxhaw Map: www.bestplaces.net

Tuebingen: Personal photo and www.uni-tuebingen.de

Guilford Preparatory Academy: Guilfordprep.org

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