When someone hears the word “American” what kind of face comes to mind? Exactly. Identifying as an “American” does not constitute a certain race, religion or culture, hence the “melting pot” metaphor usually affiliated with the United States. My parents came to America, the land of the free, in hopes of a better life of prosperity and opportunity, others come here to escape the persecution their native countries may force upon them. As a result, America has become a “melting pot” of different cultures. People with backgrounds on opposite sides of the spectrum come to this country allowing an extremely diverse population.
Does this diversity encourage one to embrace their unique backgrounds? Or does this do the exact opposite? I think it’s quite safe to say that diversity is not the direction we’re headed in.In Vanishing Voices by Russ Rymer, the author gives readers an in depth overview of the significant loss in the number of languages over the years. “One language dies every 14 days. By the next century nearly half of the roughly 7,000 languages spoken on Earth will likely disappear, as communities abandon native tongues in favor of English, Mandarin, or Spanish. What is lost when a language goes silent?” he asks. A major argument Rymer includes in his essay is that languages are seeming to “compete” with one another.
Parents children who speak tribal languages encourage their children to break away and learn to speak major languages such as English, Spanish, or Mandarin. In their opinion, knowing how to speak these languages will “permit greater education and success”. This idea that knowing how to speak such common languages will lead to greater educational opportunities is not surprising, according to Rymer. With factors in our world such as TV, internet, and major media, it is becoming increasingly difficult for those who speak such unpopular languages to engage with the rest of the world. A linguist once declared that “language is a dialect with an army” and like armies, some are better equipped to fight than others. Many of these tribal language speakers are at disadvantages due to their lack of exposure in TV and media, and because of this it makes it extremely difficult to be able to communicate and interact with neighboring peoples.
As more children who speak these tribal tongues are encouraged to break away from their languages, their children and children’s children will lose their language as a part of their culture, ultimately leading to the complete erase of this language as the generations pass.Rymer continues to explore factors that allow some languages to succeed, while others to diminish. One of the Earth’s most least hospitable and reachable places, Arunachal Pradesh, is home to one of the world’s oldest and most protected language. This preservation of dialect is attributed to this area’s extreme isolation, making worldly influences impossible to reach its people. This inability to become exposed to outside cultures and ideas allows the people in this area to stay within their culture, preventing any change or transformation in language.
If extreme isolation seems to be one of the only methods of effective language preservation, the outlook is not looking so good for the future of diverse languages. Communication between people is so easily accessible, and is becoming easier by the minute. It seems as if the goal for technology these past couple decades has been directed towards easier communication as the the emergence of technologies such as phones, computers and media now allows people to become connected with whomever they please, no matter how far across the globe they are with one another.An extremely interesting point that Rymer made in his essay was that people of different languages think completely differently. For example, in the Tuvan language, to express that you are looking forward to do something, it is said as “I’m looking forward to the day before yesterday”. To a Tuvan mind, this statement makes perfect sense. Yet to someone like myself who is confined to my own language and ways of thinking cannot comprehend this statement or understand how it makes sense.
This applies to every language. Every language has its own methods of expression, ranging from metaphors to certain vocabulary words for objects or feelings that may not even exist in any other language.This leads me to believe that this dilemma of diminishing languages may even lead to a diminishing of ideas, methods of thinking, and ways of expressing oneself. As an individual’s ability to efficiently express one’s thoughts gets stripped away from them, so does their ability to share their beliefs and opinions.
This buffer between what we think/feel and what we say creates a situation that prevents the flow of communication amongst people. Communication is they key to thriving civilization, as it keeps networks between people that allows society to function. The conclusion is clear: as languages become lost in the void, so does the unique way of thinking and expression that the language consists of. Without this communication, what will become of these communities?A survey conducted with 47 countries determined that out of these 47 countries, 46 are faced with concerns regarding the loss of tradition from their original ways of life. A major reason for this concern sprouts from how welcoming America is to people of different ethnicities than other countries (Washington Times).
This allows for this famous “melting pot” metaphor that is commonly associated with American culture. When analyzing this metaphor and interpreting it literally, we come to have a deeper understanding of what a melting pot really is. When you mix different ingredients and melt them down to one product, each ingredient loses its individuality. Its own unique flavor does not stand out, but melds in with the other flavors to create one final product. Is that not what is happening in American culture? In order to thrive, we must know the language, we must understand the mannerisms, we must become an American.The Migration Policy conducted a study that proved that by third generation immigrants, bilingualism is almost completely lost due to the assimilation of living in America.
The American language is accepted immediately for these immigrants and because being able to understand and speak this language allows for an easier life in the country, the children and grandchildren of these first generation immigrants are encouraged to learn the language and become accustomed to the cultures of American society. This trend makes sense. Why should one feel the need to learn their family’s native language when the English language is the language that is predominantly used in everyday life? Not only has the immigration of people to America contributed to this loss of diversity, but how does this influx of non-native people affect the lives of those already residing in the country, and how do these people interact? Well in some instances, they get married. Since interracial marriages have become legal since 1967, the rates of biracial marriages increased significantly, marking ? of newly weds in 2015 as interracial marriages. When a child is born into a family with parents of different races, the child will often be faced with an identity crisis. In a personal essay posted by the Huffington Post, Natasha Sim describes how growing up as a biracial child often led to frustration and confusion as to what race she identified as, as she never fully felt part of either culture.
In an American household with 2 very different cultures involved, usually the main method of communication is through the only common culture they know, the American culture. As a result, the children of these parents would become less exposed to the cultures of either parent, leaving American culture to be the only culture the child knows.Assimilation into American culture is inevitable for those coming into the U.S. When one makes the brave choice to move into America, they are agreeing to leave their native country, home of their native language and culture. Moving away from this culture and stepping into America is agreeing to say farewell to the strong connection you once had to those customs and traditions that were once so easily accessible. Frida Kahlo’s Self Portrait on the Border between Mexico and the United States of America represents the torn feeling Kahlo felt when she was faced with having to move to America.
On the left side of the portrait, we see a depiction of her life in Mexico, flourishing in color, culture, and all things symbolizing her life in Mexico. On the right, we see a very industrial and gray depiction of America. There is an extreme lack of any sort of culture or life at all on the American side, showing how in Frida’s perspective, America lacks vibrant culture like Mexico has. Frida, stands in the middle right on the border.
This demonstrates her confliction. She represents her loss of culture as she transitions into this drab, lifeless depiction of America.Humans are undoubtedly a product of nature. We evolved like other species do, and it is inarguable that we will continue to do so as well. Who’s to say that this assimilation in American culture is not part of a much bigger picture? A study conducted by Biomedical Central proved through fossils that the number of American Bison species existing today is significantly smaller fraction that during the Pleistocene era.
Its proven in natural history that species have trends in which their diversity decreases. In the April 2014 issue of National Geographic, a series of images were released to predict the face of an average American in 2050. Due to interracial marriages and clashing ethnicities, all of these faces have similar features, and are not very distinguishable in terms of race. As these Americans live in this country, meeting similar people and living in these similar environments, they have acquired similar characteristics. In nature, this phenomena is called convergent evolution, where species who live in similar environments over time develop similar features to increase their likelihood of survival. This assimilation observed in American culture could be part of a larger scheme of cultural, and even biological human evolution.As it becomes easier and easier for ideas to become exchanged among people, as communication becomes easily accessible, and people are becoming less confined to the borders of where they reside, I think it is painfully obvious that uniformity among people is inevitable both culturally and genetically.
It’s not unprecedented in nature either as great fluctuations in biodiversity is evident through research of fossils. Us humans are part of nature, and maybe it’s natures will that over time, people assimilate into one major race. Decline in diversity cannot be arguable. It is happening to organisms, agriculture, and slowly but surely, humans will face this dilemma as well. It now becomes a matter of how we will react and prepare for this “melting pot” of people.
Should it be embraced? Does uniformity trump diversity, or should our unique differences be the source of our strength?The statistics do not lie. It now becomes a matter of how we deal with this merging of cultures. As the human race, as the most intelligent and most capable beings on this planet, we are the ones responsible for what course of action happens next. Species evolve, diverge, and merge over time. But how do we know this? The fossils tell a story. The uniformity among us humans may be inevitable, however what is avoidable is letting these unique cultures get lost in history.
Through history, it is our job to ensure the preservation of these cultures not by how popular they are and how much they are used, but how we remember them and their significance.