Lauren Hall Final Portfolio

  1. FYW Reflection Letter
  2. Reflection posts (unrevised)
    1. In She Tries Her Tongue, Her Silence Softly Breaks by Nourbese Philip, one poem that stood out to me was “Discourse on the Logic of Language”. In the poem she is referring to the displacement and the oppression of the colonized (non-whites). Philip is saying that even though she does not know her ‘mother tongue’ (her native/home language), she is forced to speak English (which is really a foreign tongue to her and her mother and father). This is how the colonizers were able to literally silence the colonized. To me, poems are able to convey more meaning and emotions through its structure and use of words/spacing. Philip most likely composed these poems to try to express the pain and anguish people felt, although no form of words will ever allow the audience to know exactly what they experienced. We are only able to feel remorse and sympathy and not the feeling of the whip hitting our back repeatedly. This theme of keeping the colonized people ignorant and/or suppressing their native language is seen in several poems throughout the book. 
    2. I think it is important to note that the United States  just celebrated Christopher Columbus Day as national holiday – as if he is some sort of hero. Christopher Columbus is actually just the most famous immigrant and also the most violent, privileged and destructive immigrant America has known. However, he is viewed as an icon.. Why? Is it because he is white that it was okay for him to come and steal land and lives from the Natives that already occupied this land he supposedly discovered? Yet when the colored people (whether is be Hispanics, like in Living Undocumented or African Americans) attempt to migrate to the United States, having almost no way to do so legally, they are seen as criminals and not welcome here. It is honestly saddening and was so hard for me to watch knowing there is absolutely nothing I can do to help them in this moment. These people are trying to escape violence that causes them to fear for their life and just when they enter America and feel a sense a relief, they are met with another fear for their life of being deported. The majority of these people were not criminals and are not criminals.. They became criminals for fleeing violence and wanting better for their future. Make it make sense. These people are bettering our society and economy if anything. Violence is seen when telling hispanics who have been here for years to “go back home”. Their home is here. They do not have another home. Their family and friends are here. Putting these laws in place to prevent immigrants from entering the United States, will not change anything except cause more people to die trying to flee from the death waiting on them in their home country anyways. If you are choosing between definitely dying where you are or possibly having a better future in America but there is a risk of maybe dying, you are going to choose the option with the risk and not the definite. These people are willing to do what it takes to provide themselves with more opportunities for themselves and for their families, and who is to judge or blame them? I can definitely say the people that ARE judging, have never been in the situation, most likely never will be, and would do the same thing if they were. 
    3. The hardest part about writing an essay for me is coming up with a clear and concise thesis statement. I always feel like my thesis is not worded right or not strong enough so I am constantly editing it and then I have to go through and edit the whole paper to make sure it still makes sense with however I changed my thesis. The whole paper goes back to your thesis so I feel like it is the most important part and why I am never fully satisfied with my approach to it. When reading James Baldwin’s letter “My Dungeon Shook”, and watching Beyonce’s film “Black is King”, it was obvious to me that both were centralized around the future of equality being left in the hands of the descendants of slaves, and African-Americans in general. Both made me realize that there is really no one to rely on to change our current situation with racism and equality for the colored – except the people enduring the consequences themselves. 

A quote that stood out to me the most in Beyonce’s “Black is King” was when it said “When it’s all said and done, I don’t even know my own native tongue. And if I can’t speak myself, I can’t think myself, and if I can’t think myself, I can’t be myself. But if I can’t be myself, I will never know me. So, Uncle Sam, tell me this, if I will never know me, how can you?” – I paused the film here and pondered for awhile. If African-American people are never able to know their true identity because they do not know where their ancestors came from or what language they spoke or what their culture was like, how is it fair to assume the government knows these people well enough to make laws for them? I guess the only reason is because they are now U.S citizens so therefore they must abide by the laws the government puts in place.. But you must realize, they were not originally here by choice but rather by force. 

“History is your future. One day, you will meet yourself back where you started, but stronger.”

“Life is a set of choices. Lead or be led astray. Follow your light or lose it.”

These two quotes were also important to me because it shows that she is trying to empower young African-Americans to realize the brainwashing that has been going on for years. She is telling them it is in their hands to do something about it and that they are in fact powerful enough to do so.

I also noticed that literally every single person in Beyonce’s film was of color. I really appreciated this. It was obvious they were not just used as props (like in most white-directed films) – I like this because all of these people were paid for their creative work and maybe were even able to start their careers here. She is empowering people. She is practicing what she preaches. 

3. Podcast Summary/Reflection

To begin, I want to say that perception is a matter of the mind and not an absolute truth that can be defined in one way or the other.

Using the definition from the Oxford Dictionary – The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis is a hypothesis that was, “first advanced by Edward Sapir in 1929 and subsequently developed by Benjamin Whorf, that the structure of a language determines a native speaker’s perception and categorization of experience”

The question of whether language affects the way people perceive the world has been ongoing for many years. I ultimately believe language is the only thing that creates our perception of the world, and the forementioned hypothesis supports this claim. 

Merriam-Webster defines a slave as “one that is completely subservient to a dominating influence” 

Now why am I talking about slaves in relevance to language and perception? 

I want to argue that we, as humans, are all slaves (as the previous definition states) to the language we speak because it is ultimately the ruler of the universe we have allowed ourselves to know, and it is quite the challenge to emancipate ourselves from this form of mental slavery. 

Think about a time when there was something you were experiencing in your mind that you just could not find a word for. I know this has happened to me on several occasions. This is because every language does not have a word for everything we want to say. So what do we do when this happens? Well for me, after searching for words to describe what Im thinking, and failing, I just move on and forget about it.. This is exactly what I mean by mental slaves to language – if we didn’t have words to describe our thoughts, then we would get no where in communicating with others. As soon as we can’t think of what we are trying to say, our thoughts are literally lost somewhere in our brain. Language is the only thing here that is preventing our mind from doing what it is trying to do – communicate. 

Furthermore, I have several friends who are bilingual. Specifically my two best friends who’s native language is French. I have heard them stumbling to find a word to translate another word they know in French – and sometimes it simply does not exist. Some words have a strictly unique meaning and the can nature of them is unknown to other languages. Translation from languages is not an easy process because it is not just about changing a word to another word, but rather expressing the entire sense of the meaning to another. Even if they took their time to try to describe the word to me, I most likely will not understand the concept until I experience their culture myself. 

I have taken Spanish for 5 years now and I know by doing so I am allowing my mind to be more flexible to new concepts. This does not mean bilingual people are perfect or experience some form of higher thinking, but rather we are quicker to develop new perceptions of the world. 

I know there are things about the world that are unknown to me. And when I really started thinking about this topic of interest, was when we were learning about the ‘nothing’ in one of our modules. It was bizarre to me that I couldn’t think about the ‘nothing’, no image came to my mind. Although most people on the planet cannot picture what the nothing is, I know there are so many concepts that other people easily can perceive in their minds and that I just won’t be able to think about because it has not yet been introduced in my language. 

I also know when watching Lera Boroditsky’s TedTalk “How Language Shapes the Way We Think” that she was talking about languages that do not have exact words for numbers or ways to quantify things simply. This is one thing my brain is not able to perceive because I believe I learned my numbers before I even learned the alphabet. Conversely, the speakers of these languages without numbers have no possible way to think about numbers or quantities. It is just the way we have trained our mind to work based on our language and culture. Again, here language is controlling what we are capable of thinking about. 

In closing, if you agree that language controls thought, this means we, as humans, are completely submissive to its dominating control of our mind. As languages evolve, the control system allowing our mind’s to program meanings is evolving as well. Even in the instance of bilingual people, the bilingual person is still only able to think about the concepts her mind is allowing through language. There will always be an unknown – something you just cannot describe. Your mind is powerful enough to think about it, but your language is not. After all, Barry Mandela once said, “Words are the most dangerous weapons of all”.

REFLECTION – In my podcast, I analyze the control that language holds over our thoughts and perceptions of the world.  Because each language is so drastically different, each person’s knowledge of the universe varies based on their reality. Because there are different ways that people view the world around them based on their language and culture, this ultimately leads me to believe each language is its own universe. This reveals how flexible our minds are. In fact, I would have never had these thoughts, or did this podcast unless I took this class. The language of this class had the ability to control my thoughts, in a good way. I am thankful I took this class as I have enjoyed it the most out of all my classes this semester. It really allowed me to consider several challenges people all around the world encounter through language. I never even thought about language before this class really because it is something that comes so natural to us as speakers, we aren’t thinking about the control it has on us as a child when we are just learning to communicate. It’s too late to change much about it once we realize the manipulation that is occurring – be it benign or sinister..

4. In-Class Peer Review Form

5. First Draft of Diagnostic Essay

6. Second Draft of Diagnostic Essay

7. Paper Proposal (revised)

Can language shape the way we think? 

How does language shape the way we think? 

Language is able to shape the way humans think first because it is impossible to untangle language from thought because language produces new information, and secondly because it is impossible to remove language from a society and culture. (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.) (original proposal at this point)



The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers

Bob Marley’s redemption song

Whorf, Benjamin Lee. Language, Thought, and Reality.

The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis is a hypothesis that was, “first advanced by Edward Sapir in 1929 and subsequently developed by Benjamin Whorf, that the structure of a language determines a native speaker’s perception and categorization of experience” (Oxford Dictionary)

Therefore because language has such a powerful influence on the mind, it can be said that all humans are experiencing a form mental slavery because of what their language is allowing them to know. Merriam-Webster defines a slave as “one that is completely subservient to a dominating influence” (Merriam-Webster dictionary editors).

8. First draft of Final Paper

9. Second draft of Final Paper

– chose to not do this..

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