Language is a system of communication of thoughts and feelings through subjective representation, such as gestures, written symbols, or vocal sounds. Language plays a very important role in our lives. As human beings we communicate, and represent our different cultures through language. Language is a key component that shapes our entity as a whole. Many authors argue about the importance of language, how it completes an individual, and how it influences our lives in the society; however this essay mainly focuses on authors Malcolm X; who struggled to find self-expression in the power of words, and Christine Marin; who gradually aroused to the power of her cultural language. Both authors experienced the power of language and it definitely influenced their lives. Language as tool and key element to communication opens doors for opportunities in life and also controls the amount of power one can have in society.
“Self-expression in the Power of words” is what Malcolm X struggled with in “Homemade Education.” (95) Malcolm X, originally known as Malcolm Little was born on 1925. Malcolm X was one of the most eloquent, fiery, and powerful leaders of black America (95). Although being confident was an advantage, Malcolm X however lacked his “social identity;” which is the English Language. This therefore made it very difficult for him to express his thoughts. Malcolm first experienced difficulties in communicating with his hustler friends who could not read and also with mayors, governors, politicians, through writing. Being an illiterate then, Malcolm only knew to write using street language. People found it difficult to understand his points of view due to the language difference. It was mainly because of his letters that he became aware of the power of words and language.
Arrested for robbery Malcolm was sent to prison and this is when he encountered with Bimbi, a fellow inmate who always took charge in any conversation. Yearning to be able to communicate, Bimbi inspired Malcolm X who emulated him. At this point, Malcolm was both motivated and determined to voice out his thoughts. No matter his situation of being locked up in prison, he still focused on attaining his goals and mind set which was acquiring English. He got hold of a dictionary, which was the only means to study and learn some new words. Malcolm X gradually started off by copying words from the first page of the dictionary into a tablet and read it back to himself aloud. Eventually, he completed the whole dictionary and this was how he self-educated himself in prison. Also, after so much practice, his hand writings speed picked up and his word-base broadened. Malcolm X successfully freed himself of his disability of being unable to voice out his opinions and thoughts by obtaining his social identity; English.
Not until Malcolm X found his identity, he struggled to find self-expression in the power of words. Before his awareness to study and understand English better, Malcolm X was a “Common floor member” in the outside world. His contributions to helping to make the world a better place, values, and in general, voice was not heard due to him lacking the proper communicating ways. Before Malcolm X gained his identity, he was definitely challenged when it came to self-expression to the rest of the world because all he knew was street language, and this leads to my second author, Marin Christine.
Marin Christine, author of “Spanish Lessons” discusses her experiences with valuing her cultural language and the effect it had on her life. Unlike Malcolm X, Christine Marin’s mother tongue was English, Marin is a Mexican-American who struggled with being unable to communicate with her fellow Mexicans in a critical point in her life where she had to support herself by making an income. Not only did she realize the importance of her cultural background then, but also because of an event that happened during a school trip which drew her closer to her culture and her identity. Her first experience of being proud of her culture happened in 1958 during a school band trip, when Marin and her fellow Mexican- American peers started singing “La Bamba” which is a Spanish song. She remembers singing intuitively in a Spanish tone and that made her feel really good about herself because she had then found her true identity. But also as Marin and her friends were singing, an Anglo girl bluntly disrespected them by passing racist comments towards them, and because she had finally found her identity her basic instinct was to react back violently but fortunately she did not. Marin felt superior over and envied by the Anglo girl because she understood two languages therefore being a double threat. As Marin moved to Phoenix and into the real world she learnt the importance of Spanish.