Ms. Press, Period 3
AP English Language
December 6, 2014
Flawed Language Society’s ills are often attributed to its inability to educate its population. In the Twenty-First-Century America, many social critics cite the broken educational system as creating a population that cannot effectively communicate. But America’s great diversity also creates tremendous educational challenges: How can it create a nation of effective communicators if a large portion of its population is growing up in non-English-speaking households? This educational reality often results in conflicts at an interpersonal, political, and social level. Although the challenge is extremely daunting, America needs to take active measures in creating and implementing an educational system that gives people of all ages the minimal skills to communicate in an increasingly competitive and complex world.
The novel “The Joy Luck Club,” by Amy Tan, examines the relationship between American-born daughters, and their, traditionally reared, Chinese mothers. The Chinese-born mothers, who speak haltering and imperfect English cause the daughters to feel as though they cannot fully understand – or be understood. In the first section of the book, one of the daughter’s named Jing-Mei Woo states, “These kinds of explanations made me feel my mother and I spoke two different languages, which we did. I talked to her in English, She answered back in Chinese.” (Part 1 pg.84). This exchange references a barrier that serves as a “blockage” in creating an closeness between mother and daughter. As a consequence of her jumbled syntax, the daughter is unable to grasp her mother’s words, leading to confusion of her mother’s intentions of her message when she is speaking. Later on Suyuan Woo, Jing-Mei’s mother starts bragging about her soup and states, “‘it’s not showoff.’” The paragraph continues with Jing-Mei’s thoughts, which include, “She said the two soups were almost the same, chabudwo. Or maybe she said butong, not the same thing at all. It was one of those Chinese expressions that mean the better half of mixed intentions. I can never remember things I didn’t understand in the first place.” (Part 1 pg.6). Rather than using the grammatically correct phrase “I’m not showing off,” Suyuan Woo says, “It’s not showoff,” because she doesn’t know any better. This conversation captures the frustration that not only characterizes the relationship between mother and daughter in the Joy Luck Club, but exemplifies the divide that exists between millions of immigrants and their American-born children. If schools were to offer programs for students to be culturally educated, this problem can be on its way to elimination. For example, sections of Los Angeles where there is a high concentration of first-generation Central and South American families, schools should implement adult education programs that focused on refining language skills. Online education is also an option, and districts could contract out with companies that could provide webisodes, or short lessons, that could be viewed conveniently.
Poor communication skills have undermined the American political process, at those who are less articulate cannot understand the subtleties and implied meanings of political rhetoric. William Lutz, the author of “The World of Doublespeak,” informs his audience about the different ways language can serve to misguide. More specifically, in his paragraph titled “Third Kind of Doublespeak,” he explains the multiple methods used by presidents, governors, and other powerful politicians in order to convince their audiences into doing things that may not be utterly beneficial on their behalf. William Lutz explains, “Basically, such doublespeak is simply a matter of piling on words, of overwhelming the audience with words, the bigger the words and the longer the sentences the better.” This language is designed to deceive, rather than inform. Additionally, this “political speak” obscures