Language and Culture in an Immigrant Society

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The professor of my linguistics anthropology course this year, stepped up to the podium on the first day of class, and surprised us all with his feelings regarding language. He began by telling us that he specializes in human misery, perhaps insinuating language is a source of misery. Dr. Song is a Korean immigrant and the sounds of his own language repulses him. Growing up in modern society America has made him cringe at the sound of his native tongue. It is this same native language of Korean that my professor falls back into when he is made nervous by an English speaking person leaning in closer to him and squinting up his face expecting not to understand what will come out of his mouth before he even opens it. It is as if the frustration and impatience he has confronted in people has fostered a hatred for the part of him that is foreign.

Michael Agar, a leading theorist on modern linguistics, has proposed a reason for this regression. In looking at the elusive idea of "culture" we see that the content is ever changing. It is a continual process one that Agar says "is not something those people have; it's something that happens to you." My professor used an example of two types of drivers to demonstrate the different reactions to the complications that arise with culture. These two drivers will be called the first and second driver. The first driver embodies the number one type and the second, the good driver. He uses the situation of traffic congestion to put these types into perspective. Imagine a driver during traffic congestion. The number one type will say to himself, "The system is causing this inconvenience, because it is always like this." To a number one type, it is this "immutable truth" that is the cause of any obstacles. This truth can be applied to almost anything in a society where we are surrounded by reproducible images and experiences, which grants permission to use stereotypes. The problem (the traffic congestion) is caused by a "thing" out there and is objectified.

But there is a second driver, the good driver. This driver does not objectify the situation and use the accepted truth.
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