Adapting language to culture: Do or don’t

When my husband and I moved from Nebraska to the South (Arkansas) about four years ago, I took a job at a newspaper. I found that sources trusted me more — and more intuitively — if I spoke like the native Arkansans (well, that would be Arkansawyers if we’re talking about true natives, at least depending on who you ask).

I was careful to pronounce the place names correctly (which is not necessarily how phonics would have taught us), I developed a Southern drawl, and I intentionally used “y’all.” I was forced to speak more slowly, so people would simply understand me. It came easily, too.

I don’t think I was manipulating them; I still speak that way, even though I don’t have a job that requires it.

On the other hand, a friend moved to the UK last year, and she said she refrains from “speaking English” to get what she wants, because she’s an American and always will be.

A couple distinctions between the two scenarios: I moved here to stay, and my friend made a three-year commitment. I’m still in the same country, so while it was a shift of cultures, it was not a move that required a passport and a visa.

I haven’t had the chance to discuss this topic with her yet. I hope I will, though.

Just because I have adapted my speech to fit my current culture does not mean that I’ve lost my identity. And in reality, a person’s identity is in constant flux, isn’t it?

What do you think?


3 responses to “Adapting language to culture: Do or don’t

  1. Pingback: Arkansan? Arkie? Or Arkansawyer? « Word Lily

  2. Arkansawyer, but the general trend is Arkansan. Blame our forefathers for ending the name of the state with an “s” and confusing everyone.

    While NW Arkansas is a very different part of the state, perhaps leaning towards the Midwest, it actually just reflects the traditional difference in almost all Southern states between those from the Lower South and the mountainous regions of the South. But it’s still the South.

  3. Actually, at least one other state name does end with S without creating this split (that I’m aware of, anyway) in opinion. Kansas comes to mind. The difference with Arkansas is that the final S is silent.

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