In the movie, “Dances with Wolves”, there are several ways that language was a barrier and a bridge. There were cultural differences and occupational roles that posed as barriers in communication. Empathy and basic body language helped build a bridge for John and the Sioux to communicate.
Throughout his life, John Dunbar was told that Indians were savages and “nothing more than beggars and thieves” (Dances With Wolves, Costner, 1990) The Sioux Indian’s also stereotyped white people believing they were all “without values and souls” (Dances With Wolves, Costner, 1990) They also felt that white men were selfish and took what was not theirs and abused it. Due to their beliefs and cultural differences, the first few interactions between John and the Sioux were filled with fear and hostility. They both felt they were targets. However, when John found Stands with a Fist injured and took her back to the village, a major bridge in communication was built. Although he was met with apprehension and hostility, he proved to no longer be a threat to the Sioux. John’s gentleness and body language was how he communicated to the Indians even though they could not understand his language. Also, when John and Kicking Bird met the first several times at the soldier fort they had difficulty speaking but John was able to use hand gestures and body language to communicate what he was saying. Probably the most significant progress was made when Stands with a Fist began translating for John and Kicking Bird. She was able to bridge the language gap for both sides and allow them to further learn about the other.
Throughout the entire movie, John and Sioux were challenged to see past their beliefs and prejudices. Once they were able to bridge the language gap by using Stands with a Fist they were able to see each other for who they truly were. John began to see the Indians as “polite, eager to laugh and devoted to family.” (Dances With Wolves,
Cited: Costner, K. (Director). (1990). Dances With Wolves [Motion Picture].