There are few things that are as important as language. This is a truth that every human being has realized, at some point or other. Language can both be the barrier and the key, depending on how it is wielded and the intent behind its wielding. What we tend to focus on, is the barrier of language, however. We allow the inability to effectively communicate to inhibit us from connecting to those who are foreign to us. Now language does pose quite a real barrier, but this is where the importance of learning language or cultures different from our own, comes into play. Through our own effort to find commonality between ourselves and others, through either learning other languages or learning about other cultures, our positionality in the society of the world’s stage is more aimed toward deeper connection and understanding.
This class has brought a few things to the forefront of our minds, in relation to language and culture. Through my own study, I began looking at the country of Haiti which, for one, has more people living there than I expected. In studying Haiti, the focus was more so on how the history of language influences culture as well as the power language has in orienting people within their own societies and cultures; or even within other societies and cultures. To take that one step further, it seemed a beneficial thought experiment to focus on the idea of “othering” and how that also orient’s individuals within societies.
There are two sides of this thought exercise that I aimed to address, in relation to “othering”:
are we as individuals, or even as a society, responsible for “othering” or do people “other” themselves; does feeling “othered” preclude people from fully, or rather from successfully, experiencing the society they are in? My conclusion is that the phenomenon of “othering” both comes from the naiveté that individuals have when they approach those who are foreign to them—which can lead to stereotypes that create preconceptions about others—as well as the perception, of those who are foreign to a place, that the society sees them as less-than. My belief is that the best remedy for both of these phenomena, is more active participation by all parties involved, in both a willingness to learn to understand, on the one hand, and a willingness to have patience, on the other. Active participation can be in learning a language that is foreign to one’s own, or in merely changing one’s mindsets toward other people and cultures. This is how language can be a key and how it can open the door, through barriers, into understanding and connection.

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