The United States is one of the most multicultural societies of the world. This means that there are some challenges that result out of communicating through English to all members of the population. The paper shall look at how diversity affects English and what can be done to improve communication.
Effects of culture on language in the US
All linguists, psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists and other related experts agree that there is a definite association between language, cultural activity and communication in everyday life. In order for human beings to carry out their cultural activities, they must be able to place social and cultural demands in context by interpreting them yet this is facilitated primarily through language. In fact, the latter experts also assert that language plays both a cognitive and a social role. It is important to understand the latter view within the United States context because it reveals how people adapt to different cultures and languages within this country. (Samje, 2003)
It is also essential to point out that English is considered as the primary language of the United States. However, with an immigrant population of somewhere between eight to ten million, one cannot ignore the role that non English speaking cultures play in the mode of communication. For instance, one is likely to find certain border cities accommodated by Hispanic speaking population taking up eighty percent of such areas. The latter culture is the largest non English speaking community. Other communities that form part of the diverse US language collection include; Russians, Chinese, Koreans and Indians. (Wilmoth, 2004)
As seen above, there are numerous individuals who were born in other parts of the world that may not have spoken English at a primary language. Consequently, such groups tend to interact with Anglo-Saxon Americans who are the majority group. These interactions involve the English language thus bringing out the importance of culture as an influence on effective communication. Many linguists believe that possessing a common language goes a long way in promoting unity within society. When certain members of the US lack effective English speaking skills, then this could impede their ability to develop academically, professionally or even economically. Statistics indicate, that there are substantial portions of the American population that may not be able to communicate effectively through such a language. It is therefore imperative to identify why such communities may not be embracing this common mode of communication and what can be done.
Research indicates that there may be communicative problems within the US as a result of a failure to acknowledge the importance of social contexts. Individuals may not be able to communicate effectively because there is a strong correlation between culture, language and society yet these cultural needs have not been catered for adequately. For instance, it is essential to assess what the personal and social needs of different families are (depending on their cultures) so that the values that they hold dearly on life can be incorporate into their English speaking needs. For example, when a person would like to request for medical assistance, they must draw from their beliefs on authority. Also, they must in a position to describe the illness or its symptoms comprehensively. To do this in English effectively would necessitate one to adapt to the way things are done within certain settings so that the language demands required in those situations can be easily met.
Overly, it can be said that the use of the English languages must be able to acknowledge the importance of gender roles, family, intergenerational closeness, older people’s status in society and many others. Effective communication of the English language can be able to reinforce both group identification and interaction. However, when certain cultures view the English language negatively, then chances are they may resist speaking it effectively so as to protect themselves from assimilation. Such attitudes need to be addressed in order to foster an economically and socially progressive society in the United States. (Heath, 1998)
How to communicate effectively through the English language in the US’S multicultural society
In order to enhance effective communication among cultural diverse societies of the country, the first thing that needs to be done is to establish an effective communicative strategy. To do this well, one must first identify the purpose of communicating with another person (especially one that comes from another culture). In this regard, one might be communicating as part of a work related project to his/ her co-workers, one might be in a classroom setting learning with members of another culture or be in a less formal surrounding such as a shopping mall or store. (Scribner, 1999)
The second step is to identify what kind of audience one will be communicating with. Here a number of factors need to be incorporated and they include; the audience’s age, place of origin, first language, level of education and other demographic traits that may be relevant to effective English communication. Thirdly, one needs to identify the purpose of communicating with that audience. For example, one might be doing it for the sake of informing (as is the case with a doctor talking to a patient)., in another situation, the purpose of communicating would be to give directions( as is the case with a manager telling his employees what their tasks should entail, it may be to warn someone (for example a campaign against the use of an unsafe item would fall in this category) and in other scenarios, communication may be done in order to persuade people; for instance in advertising or others.
After identifying one’s audience, the communicator needs to analyze possible language impediments and then establish effective ways of preventing them. For instance, some cultures prefer using more dramatizations than others and the communicator would be better of using this. In other scenarios, some people may consider it a taboo to talk about certain things. For effective communication, speakers must avoid such sensitive topics or handle them tactfully when discussing them. Besides this, some people may not be well informed about certain aspects of language compared to others. It is therefore necessary to look into ways of handling all this information as it appears to an individual. Also, some groups may prefer using visual media or other non text information compared to others. (Office for Civil Rights, 2003)This is usually the case when literacy levels are below par. Such audiences would gain more utility from the English language if a speaker used posters, cartoons or audio recordings for communicating.
Lastly, as one communities to another individual, it always helps to pay attention; the body language of the audience is an important indicator of whether the recipient (s) is actually understanding what he/ she is being told. (Saravia, 2005) The English language does not work in isolation, as soon as a speaker understands the cultural context of one’s audience through the latter aspects, then he/she will have communicated effectively. When all members of society adopt such a strategy, then different cultures will be better understood thus promoting togetherness in the country.
The major impediment to effective communication in the US is the lack of incorporation of other people’s culture. This problem can be addressed by establishing a communication strategy that will place the needs of the recipient at the heart of the communication. If this strategy is adopted countrywide, then the US can become a very united nation.
Heath, B. (1998). Ways with words. NY: Cambridge Pressю
Office for Civil Rights. (2003). Policy Guidance on English proficiency, Web.
Samje, C. (2003). “Intermarriage, nativity and challenges in mother tongue.” The American Sociological Review, 50(4), 94-83.
Saravia, M. (2005). Essentials of effective communication in multiethnic classes. New York: Garland Publishersю
Scribner, T. (1999). Ways of speaking and modes of thinking. Norwood; Ablex Publishers.
Wilmoth, J. (2004). “Language barriers among the Latinos.” Aging Studies Journal,10 (8), 57-59.