Language often serves as a barrier of people having to assimilate into the American culture. People of distinct cultures in the United States struggle to find the balance between fitting in with the culture of America yet still keeping their own heritage alive. Maxine Hong Kingston explicitly states that she had difficulty as a child expressing herself through the English language, primarily at school. She claims, “It was when I found out I had to talk that school became a misery, that the silence became a misery” (Kingston 239). While she had a hard time fitting in at “American school”, Kingston felt comfortable and much more in place at the after-school Chinese classes. She says that the once shy and afraid Chinese-American students were “reading together,...
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...e expressing herself in a world she could not truly relate with. In any case, a sense of fear can often overtake one’s true ability to realize the identity that is tied with language, and often, more than one language as well.
Because of the clear struggle between maintaining two languages, our identities are never truly sided with one culture or the other unless complete assimilation occurs. Even then, the inevitable occurrences of how the other side views you may affect how you continue to view yourself. Language therefore shapes your identity, in the sense that there is a realm of culture you can grasp, but struggling with two languages, or two backgrounds in many cases, also inhibits us from maintaining clear aspects of our identity, as assimilation ultimately leads to either a mixed understanding of a certain culture, or the complete disregarding of another one.
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