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A Narrative Account Of A Multilingual Informant

Essay Topic:

Introduction

The analysis of how an individual correlates with a specific environment and how the person responds to an interview on specific issues has been known to be one of the main tools of analysing the impact of language in communication (Anthias, 2001). This paper analyses interview response of a multilingual informant as an approach of investigating how an individual’s group membership can be correlated to the way they speak. It will also create an in-depth-scrutiny of the language and practices of a multilingual speaker in the context of their local community and the effect of globalisation on language and communication.

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The informant in this study is a 52-year-old multilingual woman who speaks five different languages: Hungarian, English, French, German, and Russian. Hungarian is the informant’s mother tongue. She originates from Hungary and communicates to family members in Hungarian. Although she has travelled and lived in different parts of Europe, she learned the different languages for different reasons.

Monolingual ideologies are prevalent in most cities of Europe. This has forced people who have a different mother tongue to learn the dominant language in these cities (Thorne et al., 2009). Thome et al argues that this majorly because the state’s language is selected based on the dominant community. This is further illustrated in the interview where the respondent was compelled to learn five different languages in order to be able to communicate in different parts of Europe. According to the participant, Hungarian language is the easier language of the other four languages she has learnt. The participant was able to grasp the concepts of Hungarian language at a very young age, which made it easy and comfortable to communicate in this language. Young children develop communication and language skills easily because they are more observant and anxious to learning new things (Louise, 2010). In contrast, adults have low levels of interest in learning other languages unless environmental conditions compel them to (Housen & Kuiken, 2009). This is the main reason that results to cross cultural communication and miscommunication effects. This is a common phenomenon in cases where their mother tongue is not the medium of communication in the new environment they occupy. The process of changing the communication language of an individual affects the effectiveness of communication due to complexities that arise during translation. This has been clear in the approach taken by the interview participant in communication. Most of her statements have effects of direct translation from Hungarian language limiting the effectiveness of the communication. As much as she is able to communicate, she is not very versatile due to her use of a second language in communication. Studies have shown that most humans develop their communication pattern based on their primary language of communication. Other languages are normally affected by translation, which in most cases may affect the process of communication resulting to misinterpretation.

Furthermore, translation affects the ability of Diaspora communities to develop the ability to communicate effectively in the destination countries. Although English is the major language of communication of the participant, she has portrayed major translational issues. Some of her statements are translated direct from another language, which affects her communication and meaning. This means that she learnt English not out of passion as in the case of French, but because it was a necessity. This is very clear because her statements reveal someone who is new to English language yet she has resided in England since 1981. According to Thome et al (2009), this is a very long period that is enough for an individual to learn and perfect a language. Her difficulty in communication shows that she was not interested in the language. The participant also mentions taking French classes. This initiative shows that the participant regarded French language highly. However, People reside in civilizations that have a sturdy influence on their beliefs, opinions, and their way of living opinions and beliefs. The fact that she has lived in UK for a very long time has greatly influenced her perception of life. This is because of different perspectives adopted for different communications in different languages. As much as she is a Hungarian, her approach to communication has been greatly influenced by English language limiting the impact of her primary language in communication. This is evident in the participant’s way of living as she has reduced her language to use at home only and the use of English in most of her communication. Therefore, as much as living in Britain requires an individual to learn English, it is not a necessity to ascribe to its cultural aspects as the participant communicates in English, and she still values the cultural aspect of Hungarian language.

The process of globalization and increased access to different languages affects the association of different languages. The effects are depended on how the new language was introduced to an individual. Some languages may have very little impact on an individual’s communication and attitude while others may heavily influence the approach to communication and attitude of an individual (Montaruli et al, 2011). The informant was able to learn Russian language mainly because of the setting of her upbringing. As much as the participant learnt the Russian language as a child, it is not among her favourites due to the circumstances that forced her to learn the language. Therefore, developing close ties to a certain language depends on the reasons that forced an individual learn that language (Housen & Kuiken, 2009). This is demonstrated in the respondent’s approach to French language. The participant had a special person in France who motivated her to learn French. Although she no longer lives in France, she still cherishes French language. As much as French is not the fast language to the participant, she regards it as the best. The impact of French language in terms of globalization on the participant’s primary language is very evident. She prefers to relate with French as her favourite language specifically from a social point of view. This means that the ability of the participant to learn French language made her appreciate the social and cultural approach adopted by the speakers of that language and therefore, circumstances that lead one to learn a new language determines how that person rates that language (Anthias, 2001). An environment that is welcoming and that present a comforting approach to communication makes an individual grasp the concepts of a language and develop close ties with the language (Wolf 2000). The vice versa is also true. The respondent says that she was forced to learn Russian as a child. This has made the respondent develop a negative attitude towards Russian although she learnt it at a very young age (Thorne et al., 2009). The same case is evident in the approach taken by the participant on the German language. Although she does not say much about the German language, it is evident that she does not like the language

The approach to language and communication in the current global world is majorly determined by the availability of the speakers of language near an immigrant in the Diaspora (Housen & Kuiken, 2009). The associations between Diaspora communities determine the levels to which their original language and cultural aspects are incorporated into their new environment. The informant’s Diaspora community, which comprises mostly of close relatives, enhanced the role of the Hungarian language in the participants’ communication. The fact that the participant moved to the UK with family members allowed her to communicate with the family members frequently. Particularly, the participant has identified very few instances where she has access to her language resulting to it having minimal impacts on English, her new language. The participant is also in touch with her home country increasing the chances of utilising Hungarian language in communication. This has resulted to two effects in her language. The first effect is as a result of limited utilisation of English. The participant does not regard it highly. She views it as a requirement necessary to work and live in the UK. Furthermore, the Hungarians in Diaspora have made enabled the participant to communicate in Hungarian often. This has enabled her to perfect and preserve her native language, which has made her develop close ties with the language. The ability to speak Hungarian language has helped the participant to maintain her identity as a Hungarian national living in the UK (Montaruli et al, 2011). More so, it is clear that the circumstances in the Diaspora forced her to learn the other languages. For instance, she opted to learn English language to make her life in UK easy and comfortable. She learned Russian as it was a necessity of the dictatorship leadership that existed during those times. She learnt French so that she could communicate effectively with her special one. Generally, the ability of the participant to develop allegiance to more than one language due to movement from one place to another has resulted to her being caught between two worlds and unable to meet her needs effectively as far as communication is concerned and the effect of different languages and approach to cultural practices. This has made her regard her situation insatiable as she tries to handle approach to culture from different languages point of view.

Various authors have viewed attitude as a great determiner of languages that are easily accepted by Diaspora communities (Housen & Kuiken, 2009; Wolff, 2000). The participant’s attitude played a major role in determining which languages in the Diaspora were favoured by the participant (Housen & Kuiken, 2009). For instance, the participant had a negative attitude towards Russian and Germany languages as they were introduced to her as necessities of the communist dictatorship regimes. This is clear based on the response the participant provided when she was asked if her county was a communist. She quickly denied and did not even go into details as in the case of the other responses where she was provided explanations. This represents a situation where the participant was not happy with the approach of communism leadership. Generally, the participant is of Hungarian origin, but was forced to learn other languages as a necessity to overcoming her life challenges. As a child, the participant had to learn Russian to meet the obligations of the dictatorship regime. As an immigrant in France, she had to learn French as it was the only avenue of socialisation.

In the UK, she was forced to learn English as most workstations employed people who spoke English. Her ability to preserve the cultural aspect of her Hungarian language indicates the strong ties that exist between an individual and his/her primary language. She had limited time to access and use Hungarian language, but the level of her association with the language indicates how close she was attached to her primary language. It is evident that the participant is a Hungarian who is proud of her language although its significance is dwindling due to globalisation of some languages such as English. Language is presented as a main form of identity for Diaspora inhabitants and a main approach to association (Montaruli et al, 2011). As much as she is in a country that is the home of English, she still manages to emphasise the importance of Hungarian language to her. This is significant as she states that it is one of the favourite languages to her. She goes further and emphasises the relevance of the Hungarian language to her by illustrating how she prefers communicating in Hungarian rather than other languages even when far away from home. Based on the responses gathered from the respondent, it is evident that the respondent could have avoided learning the other languages, provided environmental factors allowed her. The case could have been different for an individual of Hungarian origin born and raised in the UK. Such an individual is highly likely to develop more two primary languages which will limit the level of attachment to any of the two languages (Anthias, F., 2001)

Therefore, the process of learning a new language is highly affected by the environment. None of the languages the respondent learnt is as a result of educational training or just for the purpose of expanding knowledge. All the languages that are not indigenous to the participant were learnt because the environment compelled her. Her survival and success depended on these languages (Montaruli et al, 2011). For example, she could not work and live comfortably in the UK without learning English. This is illustrated where the respondent says that English is hard and that she never speaks it with her relatives. Rather, she uses Hungarian to communicate with her relatives because it is simple.

The approach to communication by the participant displays a high level of application of persuasive technique (Thorne et al., 2009). The questions that are posed to the participants are mostly very straightforward that require very short responses. However, her response to the questions indicates a high level of persuasion. This is depicted in her application of repetition and detailed accounts of situations when responding to the interview questions. The participant is depicted as an indigenous Hungarian who is proud of her language is depicted by the nature of her approach to communication.

In conclusion, language plays a big role in determining an individual’s approach to communication. From the above analysis of the participant’s responses, it is obvious that her indigenous language has greatly influenced the way she communicates. To begin with, when providing a response, the respondent goes beyond what is asked and gives a detailed account of the situation. This case was only different when she was asked whether Hungary is a communist state. She provided a short answer, which presented a unique situation. In this case, she must have doubted her answer otherwise; she could have provided a detailed account of her answer.

Therefore, in their indigenous language, individuals are descriptive when providing a response to a certain concern. As much as her responses were in English, the fact that she prolonged her answers and had numerous statements affected by direct translation implies that her indigenous language guides her thoughts. In general, it is evident that language plays a major role in empowering Diaspora communities because they are able to communicate effectively in the new environment and hence become productive. However, language is also seen to further their division, segregation, and exclusion. This is evident in the participant’s contribution on the reasons she had to learn Russian and Germany languages. This presents both positive and negative aspect of language as viewed from a Diaspora point of view.

There is increased demand for multilingualism, owing to the increasing global movement and interactions of people from different social backgrounds. Increased globalisation has also increased demand to know many languages. Apart from the mother tongue, other languages may require some formal education for effective comprehension and communication. Developing an understanding on the meaning of different communication as perceived by speakers of a certain language is central to internalising a language as a second language in communication. The experience gained while learning new languages may affect the opinion of the learners (Dewaele, 2012). Despite the differing opinions given by many multilingual individuals, multilingualism should be promoted in order to enhance effective communication in the international community as the participant clearly depicted the various relevancies of her learning several languages. It has been clear that her ability to communicate in different languages has enabled her to overcome various social difficulties she faced during her past and present. This will help in reducing the problem of the language barrier in foreign countries.

References

Anthias, F., 2001. The concept of Social Division and Theorising Social Stratification: Looking at Ethnicity and Class, Sociology, 35(4), 835-854.

Dewaele, J. 2012. Multilingualism, empathy, and multicompetence. International Journal of Multilingualism: 1–15.

Housen, A., & Kuiken, F., 2009. Complexity, Accuracy, and Fluency in Second Language Acquisition, Applied Linguistics, 30 (4), 461-473.

Louise, P. P., 2010. A sociolinguistic study of language use and identity amongst Galician young adults, University of Birmingham, M.Phil. Thesis.

Montaruli, E., Bourhis, R. Y. & Azurmendi, M. J., 2011. Identity, language, and ethnic relations in the Bilingual Autonomous Communities of Spain. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 15, 94–121.

Thorne, S. L., Black, R. W. & Sykes, J. M., 2009. Second Language Use, Socialization, and Learning in Internet Interest Communities and Online Gaming. The Modern Language Journal, 93, 802–821.

Wolff, Ekkehard 2000. Language and Society. In: Bernd Heine and Derek Nurse (Eds.) African Languages – An Introduction, 317. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press.

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