Looking at “literacy, culture, membership” in the generative words list, there is one sentence flashing into my mind: “Language Is Power.” It is the slogan of the most influential language training school in China, where I was a student, and then a teacher.
Language is a big part of literacy both in daily life and working communities. As mentioned in Belfiore’s work, it is important to use the right language at the right situation for the right purpose. To some extent, being able to do this is a symbol of power, the power one needs to maintain and even promote his position in a certain community. Having the power of language, one will be recognized as a member of the group by others as well as himself. In the contrary, the lack of the power will hurt the sense of belonging.
As a non-native speaker of English in the United States, the English proficiency is my power to survive in this foreign land . The language enables me to find an apartment, communicate with my neighbors and do grocery shopping by myself. I go to an American church, talk with others, make new friends and feel belonged to the group. Without the language, I would have to rely on someone else to fulfill these basic tasks. Therefore, the language also contributes to my self-confidence and sense of independence. It helps satisfies my basic needs as a human being and allows me to pursue higher goals.
As language is always an embodiment of the culture behind it, the English competence serves as a path leading to the marvelous western culture. Being able to read in English, I enjoy the access privilege to great thoughts and entertainment that are originally generated in English. One may argue that those who do not speak English may also appreciate them via translation. However, there are so many cultural elements that are untranslatable. They just lose the meaning when striped from the original language and cultural background. That is why the greatest poems of Tang Dynasty make no sense when translated in English. Also, translations bear the personal bias of the translator inevitably. The real meaning of the original work, both the denotation and connotation, will be modified by the translator’s personal ideas with or without intention. Therefore, when one reads translated version, he is highly vulnerable of receiving wrong messages, and being misled and manipulated. Being able to read the original version protects me from these risks and entitles me with the uncolored cultural perspective and a boarder freedom of mind.
Besides English in general, the specific vocabularies and phrases I learned at the Writing Center stand as vivid examples of how literacy in work enhances the sense of belonging and membership of the group. Before working at the Writing Center, I had little professional training in academic English writing. I didn’t have the language to talk about writing and I didn’t consider myself as someone who could help others with their writing. During the time working there, I learned the language in this field, such as global revision, local revision, claim, evidence, reasoning, structure, organization, reader-based approach, writer-based approach, unpacking ideas, etc.. Therefore, when talking about writing, I can, at lease, sound professional and knowledgeable, which boosts me confidence and help me explain the writing process much clearer. Now I identify myself as a member of the writing consultants, which is particularly special among Chinese students here, and feel much more comfortable sharing my ideas and advise about others’ writing pieces.
To sum up, language is powerful in various layers. It is decisive in one’s personal and professional life. Sharing a language means sharing the culture it embedded in and the membership of the speakers’ community.