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Identity, Language, and Culture Essay

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Introduction

Identity is marked out by differences in the surrounding or context within which an individual or thing is found. Differences are what make an individual or a group of people identifiable or definable. The identity of a person and what he uses, his culture and language are closely connected.

Language and culture act as symbols which mark or delineate an individual’s identity characteristics. Difference in identity makes an individual or a group of people see themselves as belonging.

The differences outline the demarcations of in-groups to which individuals belong. The basic differences between in-groups are enshrined in the language and symbolic systems that they use.

Identity definitions make individuals or a group of people to see themselves as being better than others. Hall (1997, p. 8) provides a case of a Serb militia man who claims that Serbs are totally different from Croats even in the cigarettes they smoke. Due to the kind of identity definition they hold, the Croats think themselves to be better than Serbs (Hall, 1997, 8).

The language one speaks is a powerful symbol of identity and through it, others can tell one’s nationality or culture. A person can encourage positive identity practice when he accepts and learns the identity of a particular community.

Inversely, if one rejects or vilifies the cultural identity of others, he or she encourages negative identity practices, which if unchecked are likely to result in full blown conflicts. Through language we are able to present to people who we really are and it’s also a way for others to make their own assumptions of who we are.

We have different languages and this is what marks an individual’s or a group of people’s identity. For example, the common English language the Australians speak is different from the ones Americans speak.

The differences in the English spoken in America and the English spoken in Australia results or is a consequence of difference in accents. Therefore, the difference in accents distinguishes these two groups although they speak the same language; English.

Cultural characteristics are also important symbols, which distinguish an individual or a group of people as belonging to a particular group or culture. Through the differences in cultures we are able to mark one’s identity and know or make assumptions of who they are and from which background they hail.

Identity is relational in the sense that it is distinguished by something it is not or does not have. If a particular culture does not have or do something which another culture has or does, then that is what distinguishes that particular culture, and thus gives it an identity.

Language, identity and cultural differences all have this character. An individual or a group of people may not have something in their language or culture which another individual or group of people have. What one culture lacks that another culture has gives the respective cultures a sense of identity; it distinguishes them from the others.

Language, identity and cultural differences are all marked through symbols. Things an individual or a group of people use are closely related to their identity, these are symbols which identify or define them.

They may be using something which another one doesn’t use or which they think is better than theirs, like in the case of Serbs and Croats it’s the cigarettes which define them. The cigarettes act as the symbols and differentiated or distinguish identities (Hall, 1969, p.10).

Language, identity and culture are connected because it is the differences inherent in language that map a given identity. Language and culture are connected because language often carries symbolic meanings that can only be understood in the context of the given culture.

Both languages and cultures have symbols which also act as identifiers or distinction between individuals or groups of people. Language and Culture like identity are also relational in that they are all distinguished by something they are not.

Different languages, identities and cultures have different things which the other does not have and this is what distinguishes and makes them different.

The differences in culture and language gives respective cultures and languages a sense of identity and this is important because it defines an individual or a group of people. Our identities reflect the common historical experiences and shared cultural values which make us to be a united people with stable reference of meaning.

Identity is important in that it defines who we really are and in the post colonial struggles it played a big role in reshaping our world.

The rediscovery of identity in post colonial societies has been the object of hope which has been helping former colonial subjects and colonizers rehabilitate themselves with regard to self definition and appropriation of how others define themselves (Hall, 1997).

Identity has also played an important role in the development of many important social movements. These include feminist, anti-colonial and anti-racist, environmental activists, lobby groups, human rights activists, among others movements. What brings this people together is a common identity.

They identify themselves because of the different causes they hold dear in society. The difference in cause or concern gives them an identity. Further, these social movements are identifiable with distinctive language use or jargon and their developing of symbols that frame a kind of subculture.

Identity and Diaspora

Language being a powerful symbol of identity is a major difference between different cultural groups in Australia. Even among people who speak English, differences in accent and use of cliché words creates further distinctions, subcultures and thus identities.

I have some experience of having lived in a multicultural setting. The setting composed of people of African origin, African Americans and indigenous locals. From observations, I noticed many differences that distinguished each set of individuals or groups.

The Chinese believe that in order to achieve unity they must take pride in their history and culture; they believe that intellectual unity and consolidated power is what brings them social harmony. This is different from Australians who still deconstruct their culture, consolidate power and through government work to implement their agendas.

People of Chinese origin focus more on self development and personal growth than transforming or challenging traditional structures and set ups. This is unlike the attitude of black Americans or English Australians.

Considering countries, china is very distinctive or different from Australia. Australia is identified from Chinese because they don’t take pride in their history and cultures like the Chinese do.

Another way of distinguishing between Australians and Chinese is by language. The Chinese have their languages and even those who have immigrated to Australia still speak and teach their children to speak Chinese.

National identity in Australia was brought about by earlier Australians identifying selves with being able to withstand hardship. This kind of identity has produced a sporting spirit that has continued to grow.

Other historical factors like the gold rush days, Federation, World Wars and others have been significant symbols which have greatly influenced the development of Australia’s national identity.

The Gold Rush had a great impact on the economy of Australia and development of the nation. Diggers in the goldfields developed a strong relationship which has been important to them on how they and others perceive being Australian.

Since then, the diggers’ rebelliousness and disregard for the authority at that time has remained an important topic of discussion in Australia history and identity.

Diverse cultures, people and images in Australia have been a strong symbol of identity. Many important events and people who were involved in these events have helped the Australians shape the view they have of their nations and how others view them as a nation.

Indigenous communities have kept their cultural heritage strong and alive by passing it to every generation. These include their knowledge, art and performances.

By speaking and teaching their language to their children, protecting their culture, sacred and important places and objects, the Australians have been able to maintain and be proud of their identity.

The Aboriginal people in Australia value their land so much. They believe their land is what sustains people. Reciprocally, people and culture in turn are supposed to sustain the land. National parks are of great significance for the Aboriginal people because of the stories associated to them; stories that have been told from one generation to the other.

The diverse cultures and people unite the Australians and this has made them committed to their country. They have a right to express their diverse cultures and beliefs and to participate freely in Australia’s national development.

Everyone in Australia is expected to respect an individual’s worth, dignity and freedom. Every individual has freedom of speech, religion, association and is expected to support and maintain peace. The pride each individual group takes in its cultural heritage has helped keep Australian cultures live.

The cultural identification helps distinguish people and offers them an identity. National initiatives and mechanisms have been put in place to help Australians towards becoming more tolerant towards difference.

Art in Australia has contributed to the shaping and reflecting of the nation’s image. Art scenes have reflected the diverse indigenous cultural traditions and this as a symbol of identity has helped to define the nation. Modern art in Australia is totally different to that of Chinese.

Because of government funding, Australia’s art is more political compared to that of Chinese. This has caused a great divide between the private and the government funded art’s market. This is a mark of identity because identity is relational as it is distinguished by something it is not.

Art in China is distinguished from that of Australia because it’s less political. The difference in art scenes of these two countries also marks identity because identity is marked by differences, and through these differences Australia is able to define itself.

Education in Australia is different from that of China in that in Australia they are more focused on students while in China they are more focused on teachers.

A teacher in Australia will help students find answers to a question by themselves by providing them with the basic knowledge while in China a teacher will easily give answers to students without letting them do something on their own first.

In Australia students interact a lot and more easily than in China. Students in Australia learn by doing things on their own and interacting with their fellow students and they plan their own learning. These differences in education between China and Australia mark identity because identity is all about differences.

Identity is marked through symbols. As a matter of fact, symbols are very important for marking cultural identity and regeneration.

For example, national flag, food recipe and uniform are such symbols that identify individuals or groups. Australia has a national flag in which they take pride and which has become an expression of identity. It is the nation’s chief symbol and Australians respect it and use it with dignity.

Through symbols, individuals define their culture and are able to feel connected with their past. Moreover, symbols also connect the present with the future as they help to store or safeguard a people’s heritage. This is because the symbols have been there from the past and have been passed from one generation to the other.

For example in Australia, the ruling authority wanted to make the Union Jack as the uniting symbol. Many Australians were against this and they tried to create their own symbols in order to challenge the authorities and express their culture.

Many of these were rejected by the government which has in turn has made Australia remain seeking for symbols. Up to now, symbols still define much of political life in Australia and Australians are still trying to find new symbols. This shows how symbols are important in marking an identity of an individual or a nation.

Chinese boast when it comes to hospitality and this is clearly expressed by their way of life. In China they can easily invite a stranger in their homes and share with him their food and make sure he/she is full before leaving. It’s different in Australia because they are kind of wary of strangers than the Chinese people.

Identity is marked through social and material conditions. When it comes to drinking, alcohol is important for both Australians and Chinese. What makes the difference is the way of consumption. The Chinese get drunk very fast and it is acceptable for them to act in an uncontrolled manner while drunk.

For the Chinese drinking is a way of showing respect. On the other hand Australians drink more slowly while having a conversation and they don’t seem to like it when one starts to act in an uncontrolled manner due to drunkenness.

Sex is considered a taboo topic for discussion in China and in order for a woman to be respected and valued in marriage; she has to be a virgin. In Australia sex topics are not considered taboo and they are openly discussed and for a man to marry he doesn’t have to get a virgin woman.

This has caused many women and men to be sexually experienced before getting married. This for most of older Chinese is very immoral. It doesn’t mean that the Chinese are upright in behavior; they also have a number of practices that Australians find immoral.

Men in China find themselves in sexual unfulfilling marriages, this makes it acceptable for them to visit prostitutes or have mistresses. In Australia this is totally unacceptable. Chinese maintain their morality before getting married but after marriage it gets different while Australians maintain their morality in marriage.

Australia is a multicultural nation in which they have many different races, ethnic groups and cultures. In Australia there are the indigenous and non-indigenous people. The indigenous people are claimed to have been marginalized through colonization.

One of the major debates on the significance of belonging and culture is identity. Multiculturalism in Australia is about cultural diversity and has influenced greatly the identity of the nation. It values its racial and ethnic diversity by giving its people freedom to express their cultural values.

Multiculturalism in Australia has worked well because different cultures have been accepted by the people and the peaceful relationship between diverse cultures and individuals has been maintained.

Diversity in Australia has acted as a positive force in bringing the people of together by accepting each others different culture and this has been a very significant identity which the people of Australia take pride in.

Sports, music and art have provided Australia with an identity. It has been recognized worldwide through its achievements in sports.

They have been able to achieve this through a successful multicultural society and their sporting heroes are recognized and valued worldwide giving Australia an identity.

Connection between language, identity and cultural difference

Hall’s explanation of the connection between language, identity and cultural difference has helped in explaining how these three connect. As Hall put it, identity is marked out by differences.

Different people speak different languages and this difference is what makes an individual identify with a particular group of people. There are different cultures and identity which exists between people and they are all marked by differences.

Identity representation has signifying symbols and processes which produce meanings through which we can know who we are and understand our experiences. This symbolic system makes us understand who we are and what we might be in future.

Representations of identity helps an individual see and know themselves. Culture shapes identity by giving meaning to our experiences in that we are able to define ourselves by relating to our cultural experiences.

Diaspora identities are those which are continuing to develop themselves a new through transformation and difference. Thus cultural identities go through constant transformation as it is about what you become and what you are. Cultural identities are the points of identification which are made throughout history of a culture.

In Australia multiculturalism has made it difficult for the government to approve a national cultural symbol because all cultures are equal and the people enjoy freedom of being individuals.

Social and symbolic markings are both important for the defining and maintaining of identities. Symbolic marking is how we look at and understand our social relations and practices while social differentiation is the way people live with these types of differences in their everyday relations.

Identities are formed and maintained because they mater so much and this is why people would always claim their positions and identify with them. Different people, cultures, ethnic groups and even religious groups claim a common culture as their foundation. Identity depends on difference and in social relations symbolic and social differences develop.

Foods people eat tell a lot about who they are and what culture we are in. Foods indicate religious as well as ethnic background and culture of a people, there are foods which are considered as unclean by other cultures or religious groups but are eaten by others.

Through such foods we are able to make an assumption or know which culture or religion one comes from, for example Muslims are identified for their avoidance of pork and this defines their religion.

This marks the identity of such groups who avoid certain foods and the identities of those who are part of a particular belief system and those who are not. The types of food people eat are materialistic because people eat what they are able to afford and what is available in their society.

Identities are made in relation to other identities, what they are not is what defines them and this brings the difference. Chinese art scenes are not as political as those of Australia and this is what marks the difference.

Cultural identities are histories which people share and thus make them one people or one culture. A Diaspora must discover this identity in order for them to express their cultural experiences.

Conclusion

Around the world people define their cultural identity by stereotyping themselves. The stereotypes model the behavior that people want to copy and make people feel that they are part of a community and that they belong to a particular culture.

In Australia, individuals have appreciated the importance of identity and in order to confirm their identity, they have created stereotypes. The Australians take pride in their national unity and people from different cultures are all one and care for one another.

In conclusion, Hall’s argument that Identity is marked by differences is a valid one. Further, the interconnection he relates about language, culture and identity as illustrated in the foregoing paragraphs is a valid one.

Some differences are taken to be more important than others by different ethnic groups or cultures. One group might see themselves superior to the other and what they use as more important and great than the others.

Identity is also marked through social and material conditions. A group may be separated socially and disadvantaged materially if it is it is symbolically marked as an enemy or taboo.

Symbols mark distinctions which are present in social relations. In social relations people use different things and because an individual or group of people may think of theirs as better than others, it brings the distinction.

If a group is socially separated because it is marked as an enemy they will be materially disadvantaged because no one would want to associate with such group which is claimed to be a taboo or enemy.

Social relations may be organized and divided into opposing groups; one group may see themselves as better than the other and consider the other as nothing because of the different social backgrounds and cultures.

Reference List

Hall, S. (1997). Cultural Identity and Diaspora. London: SAGE Publication

Hall, S. (1969). Commonwealth of Australia. London: Sage Publications

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