Language is a channel of communication that exists to ensure that men and women are able to talk to each other. It allows people to express their thoughts and feelings and to be understood. Without language, whether verbal or non verbal, it may be practically impossible for people to live and work together.
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A characteristic of language is the fact that it bonds individuals who have grown together and live within the same geographical area. In many ways, language is defined by the way of life of a group of people. Whereas some languages are almost universal others are very restricted and will only be spoken in a specific region or community.
English for example, is one language that is used quite extensively in different parts of the world in education as well as in business matters. The importance of language can not be over emphasized and where people are not able to speak a language, they have the option of learning sign languages so as to be able to communicate.
Some languages also have variations that may be spoken by an even smaller group of individuals in a subsection of a community.
This paper examines language as it relates to gender, cultural background and the goal of interaction.
Language and Gender
According to Crawford (1995), we live and are linked to different sexes and the big question is always whether or not men and women across the globe use language differently.
Although scientists have done enough studies to try and explain the differences, it is quite obvious that the way men communicate greatly differs from the way women convey their ideas and feelings (Crawford, 1995).
Unlike men, women are much deeper in their talks and most of the time it is never easy for men to easily understand them. Generally, it has been observed that quite a number of women are polite and somehow cautious in their talks than men are.
This has led some people to classify women as being weak. Men on the other hand are the complete opposite and usually they are more aggressive in their communications (Crawford, 1995).
To try and explain this phenomenon, Crawford argues that a majority of women are not good communicators mainly because they are often controlled by beliefs that do not allow them to effectively express themselves (Crawford, 1995).
The differences that exist between men and women are seen as being deeply rooted within individuals and to a large extent they dictate thought and action.
Some researchers have gone to an extent considering the talk between men and women as being very similar to cross cultural communication but this view is regarded as being incomplete by other scholars who strongly believe that there is so much that must be put in perspective whenever one attempts to study gender and how far it affects culture and by extension, language (Crawford, 1995).
Sex Differences in Language
Crawford (1995) argues that the differences in sex are very critical in understanding the relationship that exists between gender and language usage. There are numerous studies that have been carried out by different scholars to try and establish the associations between language and sex.
This is, however, complicated by the fact that it is never that easy for one to comprehend these differences. Apparently, they have been noted to fluctuate from time to and in most of the time, they are never neutral when looked at from a social perspective.
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The meanings given to sex difference are to a large extent negotiated from existing systems that are already biased and hence not quite reflective of the actual situation (Crawford, 1995).
Crawford also explains that the whole idea about men and women being different becomes clearer when one reads books touching on gender topics also, when we get to watch talk shows facilitated by communication experts through televisions (Crawford, 1995).
According to studies that have been done, gender related processes can greatly sway an individual’s behaviour, thought process and feelings (Crawford, 1995).
Taking a community in Africa for example, and this also applies to other continents, one notes that children begin to learn the differences between members of the opposite sex from a very tender age mainly through the roles assigned to them and teachings they are subjected to.
In a typical African set up, the boy child will be allocated certain tasks that are considered masculine in nature while the girl child automatically gets tasks that are more feminine.
Boys and girls are also taught how to behave towards the opposite sex and in most cases girls and women in general are seen by most communities as second rate citizens. Shocking as it may be, some cultures will require women to always remain subordinate to men regardless of the status they hold in the society.
Things they will do include kneeling or bending when addressing or serving men, remaining silent in various social functions where men are present, and carefully listening to men and following what they are told without questioning. Amazingly, most women seem to have given in and will therefore humbly obey the demands placed on them by the society.
In some communities, it is not uncommon to find boys being treated in a more special way than the girls; whilst boys are required by all to attend school, this is regarded as a privilege and not a right when it comes to girls.
Most girls will be required to remain at home and assist their mothers with different chores as they wait to be married off to partners normally chosen for them. The saddest thing about this kind of unfair treatment for the girl child is that they end up growing in a very timid way and end up not being bold enough to express themselves.
Clearly, as these girls move on to maturity, the way they will use language will completely differ from how boys will when they eventually become of age.
Crawford (1995) pointed out that it is not right for anyone to presuppose that all women are the same just because they are women.
There are obviously some exceptions that may be noted. This being the case therefore, some women will grow up with strong virtues but unfortunately a majority will be characterized by poor communication skills and in most cases, they will settle for less than what they are worth.
Language and Culture
Generally, culture is concerned with the way people live and is mostly responsible for strengthening the relationships that are noticeable among men and women in a community or a certain region. Among many other things, culture also governs people’s way of thinking, how they live, eat, dress or even relate to one another.
Those who are controlled by the same culture will usually act based on some principles regarded as being acceptable within the community. The effect of language and culture may be seen in various areas of life. Here, I will look at how language and culture affect operations at the work place.
Culture and Language at Workplaces
For any organization to move forward there has to be unity among all employees. The vision and mission that guides the organization must be clearly communicated to everyone. Without effectively communicating to everyone and ensuring that all are on the same page, the desired growth of the organization may be hindered.
A language that does not make this communication possible will simply put the organization at risk and most of the time the communication may not be sent out and received the way it should.
Given that culture determines to a very large extent how language is used in talks, it follows that communication may suffer greatly because of cultures that do not help to create language that make communication easy.
A study done by Howes (2011) showed that in so many ways, controls the behaviour of individuals; how people work and relate with one another is a product of their cultural background. Some cultures are so strong and the languages associated with them are equally very strict and this tends to complicate the entire process of communication (Howes, 2011).
There are times that people turn to the use of a foreign language simply because it is not possible to get words they can use to effectively express themselves in their own language. English is one language that has offered solutions for many who are challenged in this manner.
Howes (2011) cites Thai as an example of a language that is based on a very strong culture to the extent that it makes it quite difficult for people to relate with one another in various circumstances.
A language that is so full of formalities and often without a means of communicating important matters to employees may only lead to a complicated work environment where ineffective communication could be blamed for poor performance (Howes, 2011).
Considering that the demands of running businesses in the present world are so high, many people are forced to adjust to new cultures so as to cope with demands at work. This may subject different people to varying stress levels based on their cultural backgrounds as they seek to discover the best way to communicate with colleagues (Howes, 2011).
English is considered to be a very flexible language and seems to be offering a way for people to act in line with modern business requirements. Unlike many other languages spoken across the world, English does not have so many formalities and makes it possible for people to communicate in a more direct manner.
Language and Goal of Interaction
Life has so many demands and more often than not people get to interact with the intention of achieving certain goals. Reasons for interaction may include things like learning, teaching, politics etc.
According to Francis and Hester (2004), the society is characterized by numerous activities that define that in one way or another make life possible.
At the centre all these is language which plays the important role of promoting healthy social interactions that eventually enable men and women to meet their social goals (Francis & Hester, 2004). In this section, I will look at language as used in the education system and in activism.
Language and Education
Unlike in the olden days when education was seen as a privilege, today it is a standard requirement for everyone. To stay abreast with the changes taking place globally, one should at least attend school as a basic requirement.
It has become practically impossible for people to live and interact in the present world without some level of education. As people pursue education, they will often be compelled to learn certain languages so as to benefit from the education system.
Even though some countries have tried to reinforce the use of local languages in some areas of their education systems, English has remained the favorite language and hence widely used in most schools as a medium of communication.
Language and Activism
There are times that people have had to come out strongly to champion a course and to be heard by the relevant authorities. Many times when this happens, it is done to get the government to respond to a problem that may be affecting the public or a group of people.
The leaders of these activities are usually faced with a big task of rallying a huge group of aggrieved people who also want to be heard. To attract followers, the leaders must use language in a persuasive way so as to lure people to action. In this case, language is basically used to ensure that one has a group of followers wishing to be heard.
It is very clear that language extensively determines a number of things in our lives. The success of our social interactions is very much dependent on how effectively we are able to make use of language. It is, however, important to note that the way we learn and use language is controlled to a greater extent by our cultural backgrounds and gender.
Based on culture and gender, individuals are bound to think and act in a certain way when interacting with others. Gender is further understood well by analyzing sex and the processes that are associated with it not only impact the way we relate but also contribute in deciding how social institutions are organized (Crawford, 1995).
Finally, language is also a very useful tool when it comes to accomplishing different things and in most cases, people will use language with specific goals in mind.
Crawford, M. E. (1995). Talking difference: on gender and language. London: Sage Publications Ltd.
Francis, D. & Hester, S. (2004). An Invitation to Ethnomethodology: Language, Society, and Social Interaction. London: Sage Publications Ltd.
Howes, P. (2011). The Impact of Culture on Language. China: Soft is Hard. Web.