The role that language plays in one’s life is probably more important than any other. The window that allows another person to look inside you is opened the moment you communicate. Your feelings, thoughts, attitudes or world views are revealed by either using language directly or an attitude that is a posture/ position that expresses your emotions.
“Two assumptions from communication theory (both classical and contemporary theories) help situate my overview on gender and communication. First, communication is epistemic. That is, communication is the medium by which we come to know things (Protogoras argued that absolute truth was inaccessible to humans; hence, truth had to be established by human standards [doxa]. Similarly, contemporary rhetorical theorists argue that truth is socially constructed through language and other symbol systems.”
“My second assumption about communication is that it is axiological. That is, communication is value-laden. Virtually all communication theorists agree that language is subjective. All communication makes claims and takes stances. And some theorists, such as Weaver, Eubanks, and Winterowd would argue that no language is neutral.(3) Indeed, any use of communication exhibits an attitude, and an attitude implies an act, and all human actions have moral consequences. Hence, communication entails moral responsibility.”
Being Afrikaans speaking would probably reflect in the way I see language and the use of examples. The community that I live in is very diverse and consist of Whites, Blacks, Indians and Coloreds. My reference to skin color is merely to distinguish between the different ethnic groups that I will discuss in the following examples.
One of my work colleagues refer to herself as a “Capey”. That implies, to be a colored person from Cape Town. She refuses to speak in Afrikaans to me, while I speak to her in Afrikaans, even though she was raised by Afrikaans speaking parents in an Afrikaans speaking community. Her reason for refusing to speak in Afrikaans to me, and at the workplace, is a social issue. The need for her to sound more sophisticated and professional is more than her need to speak in her native tongue.
According to her she sounds “common and flat” when she uses “kombuis taal”.
However, the moment she communicates with family and friends, she reverts back to the language she knows best, Afrikaans. This window allows me to see that she not only uses language as a stepping stone in the workplace but also a medium to express her feelings and attitude towards language and the world around her. She exhibits an attitude of wanting more and going forward no matter what.
Another one of my colleagues at work has a different attitude to language. He was born in Namibia, has a Zulu speaking mother and a German speaking father. I always tease that he is the most international person in our company, because he is fluent in Zulu, German, French and Afrikaans.
He struggles to express himself in English. I encourage him to speak in the language that he feels comfortable with, but he insists on using English, because his attitude towards his father’s language is one of contempt. His father left his mother and the three children to fend for themselves, when he was only eight years old. They were very poor and could not afford the education that he craved for. His father’s German speaking family do not even acknowledge that they exist.
When he feels sad and longs for his family, he tells me, in Afrikaans, about them and how his mother used to tell them stories when they were lying in bed. The stories were of his father and how wonderful he was, that they should remember him, and not be angry with him.
This example exhibits an attitude of contempt for his father. His mother used language to try and change their attitude towards their father. He uses language to express his feelings of sadness and loneliness. Language provides a window into his feelings.
In my personal life I have found that language plays a major role to exhibit attitudes. My partner and I have a language that nobody would understand. We know each other so well, that by saying something in a certain way immediately receives a response from the other. We use euphemisms if we refer to things that provide pleasure and joy. The use of nicknames and even indescribable words are part of our language that consists of a mixture of English and Afrikaans.
We can be part of a group and no one will even realise that we told each other that we are ready to leave. Language is not always just words that are spoken but can be the means to communicate in a different way. Your attitude towards a loved one can be determined by the way you say something, not always what you say.
We tend to “gagga” and “google” when there is a baby. Baby talk is not an official language but it is commonly used and understood by millions of people all over the world. Mothers have the ability to understand the sounds that a baby makes, it might not be a language for us, but it certainly is for a mother and child. The attitude towards that baby is exhibited by using soft friendly words.
My neighbours are black. The husband, which I thought was very rude and unfriendly, had a very interesting attitude towards me. He only spoke to the males in my family. He greeted me but never engaged in any conversation. I spoke to his wife and heard, to my amazement, that he had the same view of me. She explained to me that he was very shy, and that the husband had a different role than in my culture. I am very independent and could easily be called a feminist, although I am not. He saw me as a woman who was to much like a man because I fix my flat tyre and mow the lawn.
My attitude towards him changed once I learned more about his culture, and his language. The window in this example was fully opened to exhibit a change of attitude towards others who are not well known and that strange does not mean rude or unfriendly. My neighbours are now much appreciated as he offered to fix my next flat tyre and I offered to teach him how to use the computer.
My surroundings at school and the interaction with my classmates were a steppingstone and a learning curve that enabled me to adapt to different circumstances and to use language to communicate.
All the different personalities that you encounter at school tend to leave an impression on you. My close friends consisted of boys and girls. I soon realised that the boys were not only different in a physical way but also in the way that they communicated. Their perception of a situation tended to be more unemotional. They used language in a different way as well.