How powerful can the knowledge of a language be? I used to work at a diner that was owned by a Greek family. The suppliers would drop off the goods in the back and then come to the register to collect payment. I would hand them the correct amount, they would say thank-you and leave. When my bosses made the payments, however, things were very different. As soon as the supplier was spoken to in Greek, they would light up-the prices were all rounded down, and although the suppliers were not rude to me, they were especially nice to any of my bosses who spoke to them in their native language. Also, when the owners were spoken to by the customers, in Greek, their bills were either greatly reduced, or the meals were free. Frantz Fanon wrote a book called Black Skin, White Masks, and within the writing stated, "Mastery of language affords remarkable power" (18). Something as simple as different treatment due to a common language demonstrates how truly influential language can be. (Examples like these show how language can help to break down barriers.)
Amy Tan's "Mother Tongue" is an autobiography of a girl who struggles with the many types of English used in America. Her writing portrays this when Tan recalled (after doctors misplaced her mother's CAT scan, then called to talk to Amy Tan), "We had assurances the CAT scan would be found, promises that a conference call on Monday would be held, and apologies for any suffering my mother had gone through for a most regrettable mistake" (173). All the staff of the hospital needed was to talk to a person who spoke a type of English that was familiar to them. After that, many apologies were made and everything that had been wrong was fixed. People are used to hearing languages spoken in certain ways. When someone speaks English in a manner that is not necessarily common, it is almost as if the listener rejects or denies it. Bich Minh Nguyen's "The Good Immigrant Student" is about her childhood; how she came from another...
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