For this unit’s Writer’s Journal entry, please practice the “Self-Interview” strategy described in the “Writing Processes” mini-lecture.
First re-read this unit’s major writing assignment instructions. Then, answer the following questions either in hand-written notes or in a typed document. (If you choose to hand-write this assignment, make sure that you can scan or photograph your handwritten notes, so that you can turn in a file and receive credit for this assignment.)
This process might seem a little silly at first, but eventually, you will find that “interviewing yourself” will help you to better understand and prepare for your upcoming writing assignment.
First, ask yourself this question:
What communities do I belong to?
On a sheet of paper or in a typed document, list as many communities as you can think of. Define “community” as broadly and as narrowly as you want. Answer any of the following questions that apply:
Where do I attend school?
Where do I work?
Where do I live?
Do I live in a dorm? An apartment complex? A shared house? My own house?
What is my major?
What is my intended career field?
What clubs do I belong to?
What sports teams do I play on?
Where do I worship or attend church?
Do I identify as a part of the military? If so, what branch?
What activities do I participate in regularly?
At what locations do I frequently find myself? (i.e., grocery store, library, farmers’ market, the gym, etc.)
What “class” am I in school? (i.e., freshman, sophomore, etc.)
What is the largest group I am are a part of?
What is the smallest group I am are a part of?
After you have listed all the communities you can think of, select one community. Then, dig deeper into this community by answering all of the following questions:
What makes someone a member of this community?
How do I know if someone is a part of my community?
What makes someone not a member of my community?
When did I first join this community?
How is the community organized?
Who are the formal leaders of my community? Who are the informal leaders?
What sub-groups exist within my community?
What are my community’s common interests and concerns?
Finally, reflect in writing on the language used by your community. Answer the following questions:
What kinds of language do members of this community use?
What words, phrases, terms, or slang that are unique to this community?
When did I first learn these words, phrases, terms, or slang?
How does the language this community uses help to bring the community together?
What does the language used by this community imply about what the community values?
What happens when a member of the community makes a linguistic mistake?
What misconceptions do outsiders have about the language this community uses?
Major Writing Assignment:
completing this assignment, you will:
develop a controlling idea/thesis for an essay
use description, examples, and explanations to support, develop, clarify, or extend the focus of your essay
practice using common formats and conventions (e.g., structure, tone, mechanics) for academic writing
explain connections about language, community, and identity
The famous philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote, “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.” What did he mean by this statement?
As you learned in this unit’s readings and discussion, language awareness is central to successfully navigating life. When we are locked into one pattern of speaking, writing, thinking, we limit the boundaries of our existence. Experienced writers know that they belong to many language communities and know how to switch between varieties of language to address specific audiences, subjects, genres, and/or social contexts.
To complete this unit’s major writing assignment, write an essay in which you explore one particular “language community” that you belong to. Include discussions of the language habits used by members of the community, and consider discussing how this language community has shaped your own identity. In your essay, assume that your readers are your classmates. Your major source of information should be your own observations and recollections of your language community, and your goal should be to introduce your classmates to your language community.
It will be up to you to determine what particular focus your essay will take and what message you wish to convey to your classmates. You may use one of the prompts below, or expand on your notes from your Writer’s Journal assignment or your contributions to this unit’s discussion.
How has this language community shaped your sense of identity? How is your sense of self tied in with the language you use? How do you navigate between different language communities — for instance, how do you move between the language spoken at your job and the language spoken by your family at home?
What are some common misunderstandings of your language community? Why or how is your community so misunderstood? Describe your community — its membership, practices, dialects, and values — in order to “set the record straight” and clear up misconceptions and stereotypes.
Write about a time when you (or someone you observed) made a significant linguistic mis-step. What happened? What are some of the things that cause communication breakdowns within or between language communities? How can this be helped?
Given your experiences so far, what do you know about the language community of college? Is college one big language community, or a collection of multiple, smaller ones? Compare and contrast two of the disciplines from which you are taking courses this year (for example, a history class and your biology class). How are those disciplines similar in their expectations of writers? How are they different? What does this mean in terms of the values of the disciplines?
Through observation and interaction, learn about a language community that is brand-new to you. This could be a language community formed around ethnicity, hobby/interest, religion, college major/minor, lifestyle, etc. Like an anthropologist, write an essay that describes, in detail, that new community. Then, reflect on what the experience means to you, what it taught you, perhaps, about keeping an open- mind in the face of difference.
Compare the language used by your community with the languages discussed in this unit’s readings. What is similar among your experience and the experiences of Amy Tan, Daniel Felsenfeld, and the other writers you read and discussed this unit?
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