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I have learnt quite a lot from the project on language and identity. Not only has it fortified my knowledge about language and identity, but also it has helped me learned quite a lot on things i had no clue about and witnesses unknowingly. The wealth of this experience i have acquired also reflects the country from which i come from, my work situation, the subject i study as well as my experience as an international student. This will be discussed in detail in the paragraphs that follow.
Identity and the cognate terms in other languages have a long history as technical terms in Western philosophy from the ancient Greeks through contemporary analytical philosophy. They have been used to address the perennial philosophical problems of permanence amidst manifest change, and of unity amidst diversity. Wide spread vernacular and social-analytical use of identity and its cognates, however, is of much more recent vintage and more localized provenance.
Language on the other hand expresses beyond what its words signifies. As Sterling 2000 puts it, language reveals "the way individuals situate themselves in relationship to others, the way they group themselves, the powers they claim for themselves and the powers they stipulate to others". In this light therefore, I have come to learn that people express the groups in which their social ties are and also those in which they do not see themselves a part of it. This relates to me in the sense that the language I speak helps me situate my self with others. being an international student for example at Karlstad University, despite the fact that the people with whom I interact come from different cultural backgrounds our ability to speak one common language (English language) binds us together. Personally am able to group my self more with others from the same country as myself because we are able to communicate in other common languages we share from our home countries thus a wealth of experience.
Also through this project I have learnt that different individuals could be monolingual or multilingual. The language one speaks varies from friends, school, home, country and so on. This again reflects my experience as an international student as within our student cycles I do notice these variations in communication languages. Immigration also influences the language on speaks. Being a Cameroonian, I know how to speak English, French, Pidgin English and a few other traditional languages. However the fact that am in Sweden now goes a long way to influence the language I speak. I find my self learning Swedish and speaking it so as to easily integrate myself into the country in which I presently find myself.
The above further goes to fortify another lesson I learnt from this project that we learn languages from many different places. It could be our mother tongue, we could learn from institutions i.e. language institutions, self study, informal learning institutions, spoken language or local languages in our area of resident. There is no one way through which a language is learnt. My experience as an international student exposes me to learning as many languages as possible based on my involvements and interactions with people from different countries and different cultural backgrounds. This relates to the country in which I come from in the sense that while in my country at work I got to learn a number of languages and slangs at work because my job exposed me a lot to a wide variety of public with different backgrounds and languages and experiences. Through these exposure still, I was opportune to learn other languages tying to the lesson I got from the project on language and identity that language could be learned anywhere.
Further I have learnt that there is relationship between language use and group membership. Because of this relationship, language can inspire deep group loyalties and serve as a symbol of unification on several levels. This lesson is so important to me and it relates to the country in which I come from. Cameroon which is my country of origin has as many as above two hundred languages. With such a situation how do people of the different regions communicate and understand one another freely? Only a language can play this unifying role. This explains why English and French used in Cameroon as the official languages come in. These languages are the unifying force in Cameroon which inspire deep group loyalties and serve as a symbol of unification between Cameroonians at different levels.
Also, I have learnt that socializing through language allows a community, society and or culture to have in line its internal norms and to pass on its history and culture. As a child learns a language, he also learns the social patterns ascribed to that culture, learning the appropriate linguistic form for each occasion and for each kind of person. This again relates to my country of origin where by despite the presence of many different languages, children still get to learn their norms and cultures not forgetting the social pattern ascribed to their culture due to the availability of a language through which they socialize. Thus, speech patterns are used as tools that speakers manipulate to group themselves and categorize others with whom they are interacting.
Also in carrying out the research project on language and identity I got to learn a couple of things on language in the course of my findings and readings. For example in one of UNESCO's documents I read: " language vitality and endangerment", I gathered that "there does seem to have been a recent increase in the number of languages being lost and about 90% of the language may be replaced by more dominant languages by the end of the 21st century". This relates to the country from which I come because despite the fact that the country is blessed with more than 200 languages, the predominant languages use are English and French which are the two official languages. Also Pidgin English and Francanglais (a blend of the English and French languages) are used. With such trends these 200 languages are fast been lost coupled with the fact that the medium of instructions at schools remain English and French. What then is the future of these over 200 languages? I would say their future is very bleak because not only are they not though in schools, it is rare to hear youngsters communicate in these languages. The few who dare are attacked by their friends with funny slangs such as "do not invite rainfall", "let us have some peace". With such slangs therefore many who might have loved to communicate in these languages shy away from it so as not to be laughed at by their friends. These languages are considered by some as suitable only for traditional celebrations and village cycles. Also the fact that the government pays little attention to the survival of these languages helps in exterminating them. Thus if parents do not take the initiative of teaching their kids these vernacular languages back at home it will most certainly die off slowly but surely such that generations to come will be blank in these languages. This ties to the ace by the UNESCO document on rapid lost of languages in recent days.
Further I have learnt that there is a direct link between multilingualism and globalization. The two are interrelated. Also I have learnt there are different types of multilingualism. At the national or societal level, we can distinguish between "official" multilingualism and "de facto" multilingualism (Clyne 2002). Official multilingualism exists in countries with more than one official language meanwhile "de facto" multilingualism occurs due to territorial principles. The official multilingualism exists in the country from which I come from (Cameroon) where two official languages are used: English and French. This again relates to my past work life where at work the main language of communication was English and French.
Also I have learnt about the concept of code switching i.e. using more than one language in a conversation. This again relates to the country from which I come where it is common for individuals to find themselves using French, English and Pidgin English in a conversation. This is a common phenomenon especially amongst youngsters in Cameroon when involved in a conversation with their friends especially. Others get to incorporate some words from the vernacular in to their discussion.
Turning to identity, Norton (1997) defines identity as, "how people understand their relationship to the outside world, how that relationship is constructed across time and space, and how people understand their possibilities for the future" (p. 410). I have learnt the different types of identity.
If we think about our personal characteristics, personal traits this is our individual identity. If we think about our family and our religion, the concept of cultural identity comes into our mind. And if we think about the language the geographic identity comes to our mind. Summing up all, identity plays an important role in human life, and people like to be known by their own identity. This is true in the case of Cameroon where despite English and French being used as the official languages there are still some few staunch Cameroonians who are not ready to give in to this. They see the complete embrace of English and French as a threat on their cultural identity. For this reasons, in Cameroon it is common to find individuals with no English names. Rather such parents name their children basically with traditional names because in their opinion that is the one way they have to use to keep and stay glued to their cultural heritage thus identity.
Also I have learnt that no matter how one might move from one country to another, some people still do the best they can to maintain their cultural roots. In Cameroon my country of origin for example, it is very common to see Cameroonians in the Diaspora visiting Cameroon at the end of the year most specifically in November and December to attend end of year cultural and traditional celebrations, all in a bit to maintain their roots and to be identified as natives of the different villages from which they come from. In such gatherings different traditional and cultural activities are carried out.
Furthermore I have also learnt that identity is dynamic, not stable and it is in constant flux. This is true as a person's identity changes every time as you interact with one set of people or another. Ones identity is in constant flux just as people are always on the move due to migration caused by one reason or another. In my case for example the identity I share with my fellow Cameroonians and back in Cameroon is very much different from the identity I possess being an international student here at Karlstad university. This identity keeps changing as you interact with individuals from different countries and who possess different cultural backgrounds and identities. I also learnt that working and collaborating with people of different backgrounds also goes to affect one's identity. Thus now I think of identity as a production which is never complete, always in process and always constituted within not outside, and not as an already accomplished historical fact. In this light therefore I see cultural identity as a historically located set of experiences that need to be recovered in order to fulfill the desire to become one nation or one people. Hence, applies to language as well.
This tie to the ideas of (Bucholtz & Hall, 2004) that "language is central to the production of identity". Identity differs and it may not be clear that people in one group can be though to have the same identity. This again relates to my experience as an international student. Though I interact, study and cooperate with different groups of students from different countries and cultural background, I can not say that we all have the same identity. No matter what might bind us together at one point in time or another, our identity still varies and stays within each and every one of us.
This relates particularly to the subject am studying (marketing) in that aspiring to be a marketer be it a marketing consultant, a sales agent or an advertising agent and so on, I need to be able to manage my identity since my job will require me to interact with a wide range of individuals and different publics. This will also affect my identity because at certain moments in need to feign a particular identity if need be to win and woo over a particular client or customer to buy my idea. This I believe I will be able to tackle thanks to the knowledge I have acquired from the seminar and project on language and identity. This has thus, affected my professional view point on language and identity.
The project on language and identity has been very helpful to me as I have learnt quite a number of things as mentioned above not forgetting knowledge in issues such as:
Multilingualism and identity
Different types of identity (national, cultural and ethnic)
The link between identity and language
The variations in ones identity and acquisition of other languages due to migration amongst other reasons
Different types of multilingualism
Code switching etc.
Moreover, this project has brought to light the effect of colonialism on the language and identity of certain countries. This relates to me in the sense that Cameroon which is the country from which I come from equally has suffered and is still suffering from this effect. This is because despite the hundreds of languages in Cameroon, the official languages in Cameroon are English and French which are borrowed from their formal involvement with colonial masters i.e. Britain and France respectively. These languages are widely spoken and used in Cameroon in major areas of administration and media at the detriment of the indigenous languages. French and English are used and are considered the unifying languages that bind Cameroonians together, despite the fact that they are not equitably used and are not accepted by all Cameroonians. This goes to show the effect of colonialism and colonial languages on the indigenous languages in Cameroon. It was interesting to learn from the project that Cameroon is not the only ex colonial country suffering from such influences as other countries such as Pakistan, Uganda and morocco amongst others feel this impact. Also I got to learn that such trends are not only felt by ex colonies but equally by ex colonial masters for example Britain and France.
Further this project further made me to be more aware of the fact that these ex colonial involvements go a long way to affect ones identity. Relating to Cameroon, most Cameroonians nowadays experience some changes and variations in their identity due to these formal colonial involvements and also as a result of globalization which is on a rapid increase recently. It is common to see people eating more European dishes, dressing in a more European way than African. This again affects their identity, portraying identity as an ever changing phenomenon which is not stable but very dynamic, constantly fluctuating. There has been a drastic change in the way of life, eating habits, dressing habits and lifestyle of Cameroonians due to such past colonial involvements.
It was very fascinating how this project made me understand the similarities between my country of origin and other countries with respect to the theme language and identity. And this gives me the foresight of being able to identify the Cameroonian problems on these themes in other countries thus bringing to light the universality of the problems and issues on language and identity the world over.
All the above mentioned points have gone a long way to influence my perception of language and identity as elaborated. Also considering the many research i did while carrying out this research project I was able to discover and learn so much about my country with respect to language and identity, things which I either experienced unknowingly or had a limited knowledge on it.
Apart from learning about language and identity I have also learnt a couple of things about scientific and research methods which have subsequently impacted my personal view on research and scientific methods as would be explained in the following paragraphs.
Scientific method is the means through which researchers make conclusive statements on their studies with a minimum of bias. For example the result from a study done by an individual may be laden by bias. This is method I have come to learn and will be very beneficial to me in the future as I do research projects for knowledge of this comes to counteract formal knowledge I had on scientific methods. I have also realized the conventional nature of scientific methods which serves as a framework of the generation of objective knowledge. A scientific method consists of the collection of data through observation and experimentation, formulation and hypothesis testing.
Also I have learnt how the scientific method works that is from inductive reasoning to deductive reasoning to hypothesis testing. This has affected my personal viewpoint on scientific methods in that now I get to realize how much I have been misapplying scientific methods in trying to carry out a study. For example previously some of the studies I carried out lacked testing and was based on observations and common sense, yet I considered my study to be a scientific one. After the study of scientific methods I have come to realize that what I did was far from being a scientific study. Also knowledge I have gathered from studying scientific methods comes to cancel my personal view point on scientific methods that I could easily do away with any data I considered not necessary since it did not support my hypothesis. Now am aware of the importance to promote multiple and independent experiments.
As far as research methods are concerned I have also learnt a couple of things to add to the knowledge I previously had on this topic.
A research method is simply a technique for collecting data. It can involve a specific instrument, such as a self completion questionnaire or a structured interview schedule, or a participant observation whereby the researcher listens to and watches others (bryman n bell pg.40).
The concepts of reliability, replication and validity added knowledge to my ideas about research methods. Reliability is concerned with the question of whether the results of a study r repeatable. The term is commonly used in relation to the question of whether or not the measures that are devised for concepts in business n mgt sc as team working, employees' motivation are consistent. Replication is very close to reliability. That is when researchers choose to replicate research findings of others. This could because the original results do not match other evident hat is relevant to the domain in question.
Validity has to do with the integrity of the conclusions that are generated from a piece of research. The different types of validity are:
I have also learnt about quantitative and qualitative research methods, the different types of these methods and the processes involved in this research methods. This has impacted the formal knowledge I had on these topics because now am more aware of the shortcomings of each an every research method unlike before. Now, I can more confidently chose and decide which research method suits what particular research method so as to minimize shortcomings as much as possible, getting a plausible and credible research result (s).
Turning to presenting and evaluating reports, I have also learnt a couple of things. In presenting a report, I have learnt that it is important that before any presentation I have to ensure that I know my topic well. This is because if I do not know my topic, I will not be able to prepare it as good as I have to and to answer the different questions from the audience aptly and to the point. In order for me to be able to do this and to do it successfully I have to know my topic well. This lesson of knowing my topic well I would say is very necessary. In the research project presentation, I noticed that I was able to deliver the message well, clearly and to the point because I knew the topic I was handling fairly well. The fact that I was talking about my country gave me an edge to be able to get a ready response on the eminent questions from the audience.
Also I have learnt that in doing any research presentation I have to identify who my audience is and to know them well. Are they peers, researchers, professors and so on. It is always very important to have this in mind because unless one knows this can he or she be able to play along well with this audience and deliver what they expect of you with precision. For example in the research project on language and identity I identified my audience to be my peers this in a way affected the kind of presentation I bought forward in class. I sort to present in a way to meet the characteristics, demands and likes of my audience. This one can not do aptly unless you know your audience, be credible and have confidence.
Further I have come to understand that a presentation is not a written report so it is important to avoid reading your paper and to avoid being too technical. This I came to understand is very possible because once an individual knows his topic well, and masters his audience it becomes relatively easy to present your paper without reading your paper before your audience. That way you prove to have a mastery of the topic under discussion and can confidently transmit the knowledge across. In a sense you need not read a talk. Also one needs to avoid being to technical, try to make the presentation as simple as it can be and do not assume that your audience might know the meaning of some words you are using in your presentation.
I have also learnt the three Vs in presenting a research i.e. verbal, vocal and vision. That is paying attention to the verbal, vocal and visual aspects of oral presentation. Verbal has to do with what is said, vocal the expression, resonance, tempo and inflections and lastly the visual which has to do with the look and the body language. All these are very important considerations in doing an oral presentation. All these factors have to be taken care of and considered highly in the preparing and undertaking an oral presentation.
Also I have learnt that in preparing a presentation audience contact is important. It is paramount to maintain a good contact with your audience and to get them involved in your presentation. Read them and react accordingly. Be objective and plan for available time for your audience to ask questions. Be relaxed and try to be yourself and manage stage fright as much as you can.
Further, it is important to answer questions positively. Do not take criticism personally and try not to argue when comments are made by the audience. Always be ready to admit your ignorance and to suggestion to have possible lunch breaks and coffee breaks over which unsorted out comments can be discussed.
Moreover, I have also learnt how to make objective opposition while being unbiased. Read the report over and over at least twice until you have a proper understanding of the theme (s) under discussion and the objective of the report. This way, it becomes relatively easy to come up with an opposition to the research report.
I have also learnt about the red thread in a research project. That is the flow of information and ideas in a research project. This also helps to get a proper flow of the ideas presented in the presentation and the report.
Also I have gathered that in doing an opposition one has to be nice and try not to be so personal. Suggestions should be given on how the work can be improved in your opinion. Do not try to challenge the other person's work but be kind as you make your objective opposition. The details should be incorporated in your opposition report and not in the presentation.
To draw the curtains therefore, in a whole I would say this project on language and identity not forgetting the lectures on scientific and research methods have been of great help. Not only have I learnt all I explained above I have also acquired a broad knowledge in methodology, skills in scientific and research methods, skills in using quantitative and qualitative types of research as well as the complexities on the themes language and identity from the perspective of different countries. I believe and feel more confident in these areas and think that if I was to carry out any research in these areas I will feel very prepared both psychological and otherwise to pick up the challenge accompanying the research work at hand.