My Linguistic Narrative

606 words | 3 page(s)

Growing up in Portugal, Portuguese was the first language I ever spoke. I learned about everything in this language, so changing to another language was initially hard for me. After moving to the United States at the age of 12, I learned to speak English. Not only was the actual language spoken very different, but the way people spoke the language was different as well. Some people I first talked to would make jokes that involved me understanding the language very well. At first, I would just smile but I finally wanted to understand what was so funny, so I did my best to learn the language even better. In this class, I learned why these jokes were difficult for me to comprehend. According to Yule (2014), word play is very common in English jokes, such as “why is 6 afraid of 7?” where a person would have to “identify the homophones” in the answer “because 789” to understand why the joke is funny (p. 121). Homophones have been a great challenge for me in the use of the English language because I am not a native speaker, but I have come to a better understanding of how word play works.

Another challenge I have encountered is the correct pronunciation of certain words. Even though my fellow English speakers seem to understand each other when they don’t pronounce a certain sound, they have a hard time understanding me. Yule (2014) defines this elimination of certain sounds in a word as elision, and says elision is the “ process of not pronouncing a sound segment that might be present in the deliberately careful pronunciation of a word in isolation”(p.48). In words like friendship, for example, I don’t enunciate the sound [d]. I’m glad that I now know what I do when I don’t say certain sounds in my English speech. However, because I am not a native English speaker, I also don’t enunciate a lot of other sounds, which native English speakers would typically sound out.

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Due to my limited abilities in communicating complicated messages to other English speakers, I commonly use my hands to help get my message across. I learned that “gestures that seem to be a reflection of the meaning of what is said [are called] iconics” (199). These gestures add to what is being said by the speaker and I have commonly used these tactics whenever another person is having trouble understanding me. It has really helped me better communicate with others, especially in my karate classes. Because I’m around a lot of Japanese words, I can communicate well enough to teach karate with but this is only because of the use of “iconics.” I don’t have enough knowledge of the Japanese language to be able to hold a conversation with a Japanese speaker without using “iconics.”

Even though English has been difficult to learn, in college I learned to speak Spanish, which was easier to learn and master since Portuguese and Spanish have a lot of similar aspects. Now I can read, write and speak in English, Spanish and Portuguese pretty well. It’s really cool to have knowledge of these languages because most of my family only speaks Portuguese with a few of my cousins in Brazil speaking Japanese. However, my children only speak English but this is okay with me for now since I’d rather them master the language of their country before mastering a foreign language. I do plan on teaching them a little bit of Portuguese here and there to get them familiar with my native language.

  • Yule, George. (2014). The Study of Language. Spain: Cambridge University Press.

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